I remember a child having head lice when I was in elementary school. The school nurse immediately sent the child home and she was not allowed to come back until all evidence was gone. Disaster averted so I escaped childhood unscathed.
Years later, I get a call from school that my daughter has these disgusting parasites and I need to come get her immediately. It ends up there was a rampant epidemic at the school and 15 out of 21 kids from her classroom were sent home that day.
I began my first foray into treating head lice. There is the stinky chemical that burned her scalp (oh, the tears were unbearable!). The volume of laundry that had to be done right away was huge – all linens on every bed, all clothing from all family members worn in the last week, plus figuring out ways to put stuffed toys in the freezer and steam-clean the car upholstery. And the worst part – the hours we spent combing and combing our daughter’s thick mane of hair to remove the nits.
For the uninitiated, ‘nits’ are the almost invisible egg sacs that are basically glued to the hair shafts. The horrible chemical treatment doesn’t kill these nits so you must painstakingly comb every strand of hair to remove them so they don’t hatch. It was a nightmare to say the least and now we know the origin of the term ‘nit-picking’.
I can honestly say that I would do just about anything to prevent having to go through that again.
Granted, head lice are not proven to carry any disease. They don’t cause health problems other than the occasional infection caused by overly aggressive scratching. But they are a health issue in that they distract students – how can you effectively learn when all you can think about is how much your scalp itches?
But for parents, the worst part is the treatment! Putting your child through the tedious process using toxic chemicals is horrific! Why would I want my child exposed to a student with these extremely contagious parasites?
Many school districts across the country are changing their policies to allow children with head lice to remain in the classroom. And their arguments are supported by pediatricians – ‘there is no health issue associated with head lice’ and ‘keeping students out of the classroom is not fair to their education needs’. But what about the needs of everyone else?
If there are no consequences, a family could choose not to treat at all. It happens. That is an invitation to widespread infestation. How can a teacher effectively teach a classroom rife with fidgeting, scratching, miserable kids?
There are now safe, quick and inexpensive treatments that kill the adult head lice as well as the nits. Treating kids immediately with a safe solution so they can return to class sounds like a much better solution.