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Head Lice - Get the Facts

Head lice egg nymph and adult stages compared to a penny

What are head lice?

The head louse is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp; they are not known to spread disease.

Head lice and nits are found almost exclusively on the scalp, particularly around and behind the ears and near the neckline at the back of the head. Head lice or nits sometimes are found on the eyelashes or eyebrows but this is uncommon. Head lice hold tightly to hair with hook-like claws at the end of each of their six legs. Head lice nits are cemented firmly to the hair shaft and can be difficult to remove even after the nymphs hatch and empty casings remain.

Signs and symptoms of head lice infestation

  • Tickling feeling of something moving in the hair.
  • Itching, caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the head louse.
  • Irritability and difficulty sleeping; head lice are most active in the dark.
  • Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria found on the person’s skin.

If you think your child may have head lice,
please contact your school nurse:
Early Learning Center at Kemblesville (K-3rd): Nurse Samantha at 610-255-5325, extension 203
State Road Campus (4th-12th): Nurse Holly or Nurse Erica at 484-667-5000 and select 2

How head lice are spread

Personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice. Head lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk. Spread by contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (such as combs, brushes, or towels) used by an infested person is uncommon. 

How AGCS Manages Head Lice in School

In January 2011, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) revised their position on head lice management in the school setting. This position is further supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in the 2015 Clinic Report. After thorough review of best practice research and data, the nursing staff at Avon Grove Charter School has adopted the following stance on the management of head lice in the school.

In the absence of illness, no child should be excluded from school due to the diagnosis of head lice (Devore, & Schutze, 2015). If a child is found to have an active case of head lice during the school day, a parent or guardian will be contacted to discuss proper treatment to be completed in a timely fashion. Because treating a child for head lice and subsequent nit removal and cleaning can be time consuming, it is suggested parents pick their child up from school to begin the process of treatment and checking other household members. Children that remain in school will be encouraged to avoid direct head contact with others. Children and family members that do not have evidence of live lice should not be treated with a pesticide containing preparation. Continued surveillance of household members should take place.

Current data and research does not support class wide or school wide screening for head lice or nits. Mass screenings have not proven to have a significant impact on the number of head lice cases, nor are they cost effective. Students are also deprived of classroom education time when mass screenings occur. Additionally, “head lice infestations have been shown to have low contagion in classrooms” (Devore & Schutze, 2015). It is more beneficial for the school nurse to check specific students that are symptomatic or have close contact with a student with active head lice.

Head lice letters will not be distributed to classrooms where a case of head lice has been discovered or reported. This practice has the potential to violate privacy laws and cause the unnecessary treatment of children with pesticides. In the event of a marked increase of head lice in the community, communication encouraging parent surveillance may be distributed. Classroom education will be done on an as needed basis to ensure children are aware of ways to decrease the instance of head to head contact and reinforce not sharing combs, brushes, hair accessories and hats.

In the event a child is found to have active head lice at home and is subsequently treated, the child may return to school immediately. The school nurses should be notified in order to work with the parents and provide resources and support until the case is resolved.

Links to evidence-based information

IdentifyUS: Why were my children sent home from school? - information and images to help identify head lice and nits Head Lice: What Parents Need to Know - from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Webpages - comprehensive information and data

Works Cited
Devore, C., & Schutze, G. (2015). Head Lice. Pediatrics, 1355-1366.

Pontius, D., & Teskey, C. (2011 , January). Pediculosis Management in the School Setting. Retrieved from National Association of School Nurses.