December 31, 2008

School district relaxes ‘no nit’ policy

A suburban Chicago school district no longer sends children home if staffers find louse eggs, or nits, in the kids' hair, saying the policy was an overreaction.

Students now will be removed only if their scalps harbor live lice, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 officials said.

We felt that that was in keeping with the recommendations of the medical profession, Supt. Sally Pryor told the Chicago Tribune. We also felt it was important for children to be in school, she said.

The no nit policy reversal is part of a national movement encouraging schools to become more laid-back about lice, the Tribune said.

Health experts say the tiny wingless insects, which spend their entire life on the human scalp and feed exclusively on human blood, are not dangerous.

They also say educators' overreactions can lead to far worse consequences than a few itchy heads.

Louse eggs are no reason to remove children from school because the eggs might be dormant or already hatched, Harvard University immunology and infectious diseases researcher Richard Pollack told the newspaper.

Even live lice is no cause for alarm, he said.

No evidence exists that the insects transmit disease -- and because they appear to require head-to-head contact to move to a new host, they're more likely spread at home than in school, he said.