Many school districts will have 3-4 school nurses to oversee 10,000+ kids. The average school nurse is in charge of daily health management of children with chronic health issues such as diabetes, asthma, cerebral palsy, seizures, heart conditions, food allergies, and mental health conditions. Then throw in the feeding and toileting issues, giving medications, monitoring for disease outbreak, handing out ice packs, taking temperatures, and determining who is sick and who is faking it, is it any wonder that dealing with a student’s head lice is not always at the top of the list?
We have all seen posts on social media about “lice outbreaks” and “infestations” in classroom schools. Many parents come into our clinics angry at the school or the school nurse for being dirty or allowing an infestation to grow. Once the alerts have been raised, the comments usually include “why aren’t we being told?” and “Why aren’t they checking ever kid in class?
However, the reality is that lice do not know age, income, ethnicity, or day of the week. Head lice exists in EVERY school, EVERY day. In fact, one in twenty children have head lice at any given time. Lice Clinics of America Los Alamitos and Lice Clinics of America South Bay alone has treated families representing over 500 different schools over the past 12 months.
With privacy laws, school nurses may not disclose cases of lice to anyone other than a child’s parent or guardian. A thorough head lice check can take 5-30 minutes. School nurses do not have the time to check an entire class for head lice. Many school nurses will accommodate a parent’s request to check their child’s head, but they are simply looking for visible signs of lice, which includes live bugs and visible eggs. They do not have the time or the tools to perform a professional head check. If a student has contracted lice in the past day or two, they have a few bugs and a few eggs that can definitely go unnoticed by a visible check from the school nurse. In fact, many customers tell us “the school nurse checked him and said he is fine,” only to become angry at the nurse when we pull a bug or egg from the child’s head. Don’t blame the nurse, doctor, or your mother-in-law that has done the head check. A comprehensive head check can last up to 30 minutes and requires combing through the entire head, section by section. Anything that looks suspicious can be viewed under a microscope. We can then show the parent and educate on proper identification. A school nurse simply does not have the time to do all of those steps.
If you want to take control of matters into your own hands, we recommend that you purchase a high quality, professional nit comb and learn how to do it yourself so you can screen your child every week or another option is to schedule a professional head check at our Los Alamitos and South Bay clinics.