Head lice are uncomfortable, annoying and inconvenient. However, they do not spread disease. They are not considered a public health problem. Head lice are primarily spread by close, personal contact in the home, at sleepovers, camps, and sometimes by sharing hats, combs, and other hair ornaments. They are rarely spread in schools, but it can happen.
What are lice? Lice (or the singular, "louse") are tiny, wingless insects that survive by feeding on human blood. They cannot jump or fly, and they do not burrow under the skin. Head lice, or Pediculosis, are the most common type of lice and live mainly on the scalp, at the base of the neck, and in the eyebrows and eyelashes. Sometimes, adult lice can lay tiny white eggs, called "nits," in the scalp.
Boston Public Schools does not have a "no nits" policy. Nits are the egg cases attached to a hair strand. Children found to have nits are allowed to come to school, although children with adult lice should receive treatment before they return to school. Treatment can be bought from any drugstore and is available over the counter.
Parents should check with their school at the beginning of the year about how the school will notify parents if any children are found to have head lice. Site council participation is a good way to work with other parents about your feelings on notification.
For assistance in treating cases of Head Lice, speak with your school nurse or primary care provider. Also, the following Massachusetts Department of Public Health fact sheets contain more information on diagnosing and treatment in English or Spanish.