Head lice advice from pediatrics group

Children who contract head lice should not be kept home from school, according to updated guidance on the common childhood problem from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The leading association of pediatricians said that although many schools have exclusion, or “no-nits” policies, keeping children with lice home from school has been shown to be ineffective in preventing the spread of the pests.

“We’re stressing still that healthy children should be in school and schools shouldn’t have no-nits policies,” said Barbara Frankowski, an author of the updated guidelines that were published online in the journal Pediatrics Monday.

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The group said that head lice are largely transmitted by head-to-head contact, which is more likely at sleepovers and overnight camps. Moreover, signs of head lice infestations usually occur a month or more after a child has the pests.

The academy said it no longer recommends the use of lindane, a neurotoxin, and that the first-line treatments are lotions with 1 percent permethrin which are available without prescription. Non-chemical options include combing the child’s hair to remove the lice and nits along with approaches that attempt to suffocate the insects such as olive oil or petroleum jelly. The academy noted that such approaches might work, but “their effectiveness have not been proven.”

“It does take a little more effort and persistence to get [the lice] out that way, but certainly we want to have that option open for parents who would prefer not to use other products,” Frankowski said.

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