Students with lice stay in school (w/video)
Jan. 6, 2014 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2014 at 7:07 p.m.
How to treat lice
Dr. John McNeill, the Victoria school district's medical director, provides Victoria residents with some tips on how to deal with lice.
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Here are some pointers on what to do while you're treating head lice:
• All household members and other close contacts should be checked; those people with evidence of an active infestation should be treated.
• All infested people (household members and close contacts) and their bedmates should be treated at the same time.
• To be most effective, retreatment should occur after all eggs have hatched but before new eggs are produced.
• When treating head lice, supplemental measures can be combined with recommended medicine (pharmacologic treatment); however, such additional (nonpharmacologic) measures generally are not required to eliminate a head lice infestation.
• Hats, scarves, pillow cases, bedding, clothing and towels worn or used by the infested person in the two-day period just before treatment is started can be machine washed and dried using the hot water and hot air cycles because lice and eggs are killed by exposure for five minutes to temperatures greater than 128.3 degrees.
• Items that cannot be laundered may be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks.
• Items such as hats, grooming aids and towels that come in contact with the hair of an infested person should not be shared.
• Vacuuming furniture and floors can remove an infested person's hairs that might have viable nits attached.
• Do not use extra amounts of any lice medication unless instructed to do so by your physician and pharmacist. The drugs used to treat lice are insecticides and can be dangerous if they are misused or overused.
• All the medications should be kept out of the eyes. If they get onto the eyes, they should be immediately flushed away.
• Do not treat an infested person more than two to three times with the same medication if it does not seem to be working. This may be caused by using the medicine incorrectly or by resistance to the medicine. Always seek the advice of your health care provider if this happens. He or she may recommend an alternative medication.
• Do not use different head lice drugs at the same time unless instructed to do so by your physician and pharmacist.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A change in how public school districts address lice has one grandparent concerned.
At a recent Victoria school board meeting, Victoria resident Clara Ramos asked trustees to reconsider the district's policy on lice that, with the start of the 2013-14 school year, stopped sending students who have lice home from school.
"Lice is costly," Ramos said. "It's not something that can be addressed cheaply."
In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report concluding, "No healthy child should be excluded from or allowed to miss school time because of head lice."
Since the report's release, other national groups, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses, have backed the AAP's stance on lice.
One option for school districts could be to adopt a No Nit Policy, which would permit students with lice to be sent home.
However, the AAP strongly discouraged the adoption and stated in its report, "No Nit policies ... should be abandoned."
Ramos said she knows a family who has spent up to $600 on lice medications and cleaning expenses for linens in their home.
"It's ridiculous," Ramos said. "I'd support the adoption of a No Nit policy."
Victoria school district leadership disagreed.
Dr. John McNeill, a licensed physician on retainer by the school district, is a member of the VISD School Health Advisory Council and serves as the medical director for the school district.
"There are no benefits to sending a child home for lice," McNeill said. "It's not a disease; it's just an infestation."
The district has instructed faculty and staff how to treat and prevent lice, said L. Murphey Stuart, the district's health services coordinator.
"Lice is an ongoing problem," Stuart said. "But I haven't seen an increase of cases for this year."
Dwight Harris, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said he believes students should be sent home, but he does not oppose the district's position on the matter.
"If I found out there was head lice in my granddaughter's classroom, I would go pick her up and bring her home from school," Harris said.
Students with lice at Our Lady of Victory school, a private Catholic school in Victoria, are sent home, said school secretary Dorothy Gehrke.
"Our policy has always been to be lice-free," Gehrke said. "If we know of a child with nits at school, we send them home."
Lice carries a social stigma that should not be associated with income or cleanliness, said Victoria school board president Tami Keeling.
Keeling said she does not support having a No Nit policy.
"I would never want this to be used as an excuse not to teach a child," Keeling said. "My son had lice when he was a student at Trinity Episcopal School, which shows even well-heeled people get lice."
The school district does not keep record of lice cases, said Diane Boyett, VISD communications director.
"It's an inconvenience but not a public health matter, which is why we don't report it to other people in the classroom," Boyett said.
In some cases, the district will work with an economically-disadvantaged family and help them get in touch with someone willing to provide a donation for treatment, Boyett said.
"We put them in touch with someone who can help them," Boyett said. "But we as a school district cannot provide treatment."