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Washington Co. Health Department changes lice policy

Children with nits a certain distance from the scalp will be allowed to attend school

September 22, 2011

Citing study evidence, the Washington County Health Department has changed its lice policy so children with nits that are a certain distance from the scalp can continue to attend school, a health official said.

Previously, children who had any nits could not attend school, said Carol Adams, program manager for school health..

The decision was based on best practices through the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses and studies that showed nits, or lice eggs, that have the potential to hatch and become live lice are usually located within a half-inch of the scalp, Adams said.

Children with nits a half-inch or more from the scalp can go to school because those nits are less likely to survive, Adams said. However, children with nits closer than a half-inch to the scalp must go home and get treated for lice, Adams said.

The policy change took effect with the current school year, Adams said. In July, the change was approved by the School Health Advisory Council.

Other counties have made similar changes to their lice policy in recent years, Adams said.

Adams would not release information about how many cases of lice had been reported this school year or if any possible cases generated letters home to parents.

Typically, letters are sent home to parents advising them of a lice issue if two or more children in the same elementary school class have lice at the same time, she said.

Lice are usually not a problem in middle and high schools, she said.

The county health department has information online about lice at www.washhealth.org/html/sh/headlice.htm.

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— Julie E. Greene

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