It's never a pleasant topic to discuss, but we need to talk about head lice.
When I was young, I caught the tiny pests from another kid at daycare. I wasn't particularly close with this girl, so I'm confident that we weren't sharing hats or rubbing our heads together, but somehow, I ended up with lice anyway. This was years ago now, but my mom still shudders when she thinks about it. Because naturally, my sister caught them too, and my poor mother was forced to spend hours washing and combing out our long hair. And it wasn't easy for me either—she bagged up all my stuffed animals for two weeks! (Experts have since determined that those grueling days without my plush friends weren't necessary, as lice can't survive without human blood. So even worse, my suffering was all for nothing!) Needless to say, the head lice era was a dark time in my family's history.
I was interested to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just updated their guidelines, saying that kids with lice should not be banned from school. Instead, the child should finish out the school day, be treated and then return to class the next day. Experts are reminding parents that lice are not a serious health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene—just a nuisance that can be dealt with.
I'm feeling a little conflicted about this. On one hand, I obviously trust that the experts know what they're talking about, and I don't necessarily believe that a child should be banned from school until every last bug is gone. But what if someone had forced that kid from my daycare to stay home? My whole family would have been a whole lot happier, I can tell you that much. Sure, lice won't ruin your life—but they will be a massive pain to your family while they're kicking around. ("Nuisance" is way too gentle of a word in my mind.) It seems to me that keeping your child out of school until you've gotten things under control is a reasonable request. Let's just hope that no matter what the school policy is, parents will use common sense about when a child should stay home, much like with colds or other mild illnesses.
Tell us what you think: should kids with lice be allowed in school?
How to Identify and Treat Lice
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Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.