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Back to School and Head Lice — Answers to Your Questions

  • 8 min read

While there is no real season for head lice, back to school does feel like it’s back to lice season. In fact, returning to school in the fall is often equated with a surge in lice outbreaks across the nation. After all, there are approximately 12 million cases of head lice in the United States every year, and children between three and eleven are the most at risk.

If you are a parent, then between back to school shopping, prepping backpacks, and getting your routine and schedule in order, the last thing you want to add to your plate is lice. That’s why we’re here! We’re here to help you and your child stay lice free. We’ll also cover what the most reliable resources, like the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, say about head lice and school policies.

Ready to learn all there is to know about head lice in the classroom? Let’s get started.

In This Article:



What Are Lice?

Welcome to your first lesson in lice school! Let’s start right at square one and cover some of the top questions that might be buzzing around your head about lice. First things first— what are lice? Head lice are tiny, blood-sucking parasites that feed exclusively on human blood, drawn through the scalp. What do lice look like? Lice look like tiny sesame seeds with six legs and no wings. Do lice jump? No, lice do not have the kind of joints they would need in their legs to make jumping or hopping possible. Do lice prefer clean hair? No, lice have no preference over clean hair, dirty hair, dyed hair, colored hair, straight hair, curly hair, etc. Lice are equal opportunists when it comes to hair!

Lice also lay eggs in hair. Lice eggs are called nits. Nits range in color from clear to yellowish or whitish to brownish and are smaller than the size of a pinhead. They are “glued” to the hair shaft, exceptionally close to the scalp, to draw the warmth they need from the human head to incubate. We say “glued” because lice use a protein to attach nits to the hair shaft that serves as a very strong adhesive— this means that nits are very hard to remove! In case you were wondering how long does it take for nits to hatch, the incubation period is seven to ten days.

What does lice look like

How To Prevent A Head Lice Infestation?

Before your children head back to school again, it's a good idea to talk with them about lice. As the CDC states, "to help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school, or camp, children can be taught to avoid activities that may spread head lice.” Head lice are most often spread by direct head-to-head contact during sports or school activities. Also, advise your children not to share hats, combs, brushes, or towels with their friends.

Overall, how to prevent lice from spreading is based on having a good talk with your children about what lice are and how lice spread. Discussing the symptoms of lice— itching and possible small bumps from lice bites on the head and neck— is also a good idea so that your children can be on the lookout for signs and symptoms too.

In terms of what you can do, Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System recommends “checking your child's hair once a week. It's inconvenient, but it's far easier to deal with lice early on than after the bugs have been there for a month.” She also reminds parents that “it's not enough to do a quick visual by parting your child's hair. Lice move very quickly and evade your best efforts.” 

To best prevent the spread of lice in school and your home, a 15-minute check once a week can prevent a lot of worry and stress and help to get ahead of a head lice outbreak. As the American Academy of Pediatrics states, "regular surveillance by parents is one way to detect and treat early infestations, thereby preventing the spread to others.” 

Consider purchasing a fine-toothed nit and lice comb, like our Nit Terminator comb, to ensure your lice check is thorough and you don’t miss any lice eggs. If you’re looking for lice and nits with a regular comb, you won’t actually be able to pull out any lice or nits with it. Nits and lice are too small for a regular comb to be of any use. Our Nit Terminator metal lice comb has micro-grooved teeth to maximize the success of your lice check and nit removal. There’s no better tool in the trade than our Nit Terminator comb!

Will Cleaning the Classroom Help Prevent the Spread of Lice?

While it might be your gut instinct when a lice infestation occurs to want to clean, clean, and clean some more, it’s actually not all that necessary. Head lice are spread mainly by direct human to human contact, especially when it’s head to head contact. As the CDC attests, “the risk of getting infested by a louse that has fallen onto a carpet or furniture is very small. Head lice survive less than 1–2 days if they fall off a person and cannot feed; nits cannot hatch and usually die within a week if they are not kept at the same temperature as that found close to the scalp.” However, we would like to point out that clinical studies published by the Pediatrics Child Health organization have shown that nits can only survive up to three days without the heat they need from a human host to incubate— “eggs can survive away from the host for up to three days, they do not hatch at temperatures lower than that near the scalp.” 

Nits are “glued” to the scalp and will not easily fall off, and even if a hair with a nit does fall off the head, the unlikelihood of it hatching means it’s highly improbable that nits will be found on the carpet, desks, or chairs in a classroom. Moreover, in terms of lice on furniture, lice do not want to leave their host— their source of food and warmth. It is extremely unlikely that lice will fall off the human head. As they do not jump, hop, or fly, lice will not crawl off the head, down the arm, and onto a desk just for fun. They would rather stay close to their source of warmth and food— the human head. We often receive the question, “how long can lice live on clothes, or how long can lice live on a couch?" Without feeding, lice can only live for one to two days.

The above information proves why cleaning a classroom isn’t a very effective way of preventing lice from spreading. Lice will stick to humans and their heads, not the furniture! 

What Should I Do If My School Reports a Lice Outbreak? 

If your school reports a lice outbreak, it’s best to ask them what their head lice and school policies are. Hopefully, they provided you with this information at the time of notification; however, it is the prerogative of each school to have its own policy and procedures in place to handle a head lice infestation. 

In terms of what some of the most important institutions on health and safety say about head lice in schools, the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken the stance that no healthy child should miss school because of head lice and/or nits. Moreover, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses agree that the “no-nit” policy should no longer be upheld by schools as the price of absenteeism is not worth the slight chance that nits will spread to others. 

What is the “no-nit” policy? The “no-nit” policy is one that forces the dismissal of children who have lice eggs in their hair from school. Nits might not even be viable. They may be empty shells or misdiagnosed cases of dandruff, dirt, or hair product residue. As the National Center for Biotechnology Information asserts:

It has been repeatedly shown that only a small number of children who have nits on their scalp are also infested with living lice. Accordingly, in the USA alone, 4-8 million children are treated unnecessarily for head lice annually, which amounts to 64% of all lice treatments. In addition, 12-24 million school days are lost annually. The annual economic loss owing to missed workdays by parents who have to stay home with their children adds US$4-8 billion to the country's economy.” 

If you wish to review the results of one of the scientific studies that have proven that nits alone are not likely to convert into a lice infestation, please review the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics study by clicking here

That being said, it’s up to your child’s school to determine if they are upholding the “no-nit” policy or not. If they are not upholding the “no-nit” policy, then if a lice outbreak is reported at your school, it is best to immediately inspect your child’s hair for lice by combing. If you would like more information on how to check for lice, please read our post here

Should Schools Screen For Lice?

In terms of whole classroom lice screening, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) has taken the stance “that the management of head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) infestations in school settings should not disrupt the educational process, including but not limited to the elimination of classroom screening.” Moreover, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have also advocated for discontinuing whole classroom screenings as well.

Therefore, it is up to you as the parent to screen your child for lice. You can also visit a lice treatment center or your pediatrician to diagnose lice; however, with Lice Choice products, you can treat lice effectively and easily in your own home with ease.

While there are plenty of home remedies for head lice that you can find on the internet, unfortunately, these are not effective treatments. Will Dawn kill lice? Does olive oil kill lice? Does apple cider vinegar kill lice? These are all popular questions that we receive from moms and dads across the nation, all who are wondering how to prevent lice naturally, or who are looking for lice treatment natural methods.With lice’s “widespread resistance to neurotoxic agents” that means that even the best over-the-counter lice treatments are now ineffective against lice. The best lice treatment that is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, all-natural, and enormously effective is Lice Choice. Our proprietary formula for all-natural lice spray utilizes lice’s own DNA against them. Our head lice spray triggers lice to shed their exoskeletons exponentially faster, which takes the head lice life cycle down to minutes. How long can lice live? About a month. How long do lice live after being treated with Lice Choice? Minutes. So, if you’re wondering how do you get rid of head lice quickly, effectively, and safely? The answer is Lice Choice.

We hope that we covered all your lice questions from A to Z! However, if you have any unanswered questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’d be happy to hear from you. Drop us a note at Info@licechoice.com