ATLANTA — Brand new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics says there's no need to keep kids home from school if they have head lice. It's the first time its guidance has been updated since 2015.
The AAP says lice is not a health hazard, and that keeping students away from school can add stigma and psychological stress.
Jennie Lasater, founding owner of the company, Lice Ladies - which provides professional treatment services - believes school nurses will likely need to have their company's number on speed dial.
"We've seen kids who have been held back entire grade levels because of the head lice infestation parents have been struggling with," she said. "We completely understand the panic."
The guidance states children or teenagers can still go to school even if they have head lice and that "no-nit policies violate a child's civil liberties."
The CDC states a similar guidance, writing:
"Children diagnosed with live head lice do not need to be sent home early from school; they can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun."
As a scientist, who developed her own lice-treatment products, Lasater sees why this decision could've been made.
"I do think that will help with the stigma attached to it… but it most certainly is not a dirty or unclean thing," she said. "There shouldn't be a stigma attached to it. It is what it is."
However, as a mother, she also sees the other side.
"I'm torn with it because I do think there are instances where children have suffered with it for years and they probably should not be in the classroom, however, I do think that with the right education that parents can get a handle on it and children should be able to go back in the classroom," she said.
The internet is exploding with reaction from parents, school staff, and health professionals.
Some comments read that this will lead to bullying, others are concerned this will keep parents from properly treating their kids for lice.
Lasater thinks that with this guidance, insurance companies should cover professional treatment services.
"I think a lot of parents are worried it's too much money or they're worried that the best friends are going to self-treat and the child is going to get it back after spending the money. I do think that if insurance covered it, it might help," she added.
Lasater said that with the rise of selfies and head-to-head contact, they've been seeing more cases with high schoolers and college students.
She reminds folks that the itchy insects live off of the human head for 48 hours and cannot jump or fly. At home, make sure you wash pillow cases, brushes and combs.
"It's mostly going to be cleaning at home, but in the classroom if there’s a beanbag or chair that head after head sits on, that’s something that might be vacuumed but other than that, there’s no shared space that the kids are putting head after head on except maybe a head phone that’s not wiped off in between use," she said.
She added the most important thing is education. She recommends doing a 5-minute weekly check and use lice-prevention spray.
"Fourteen years ago we would see mostly elementary-aged children and younger, but now with social media and all of the selfies and head-to-head contact, as well as social kids who have sleepovers and play dates we’re seeing a lot more with junior high aged children as well as high school," she said.
The Lice Ladies have gone viral on TikTok and have a website with information and tips and tricks you should know. To read more, click here.