Head lice, management guidelines for schools
Head lice are rarely a threat to health but their presence can have social, economic, psychological and educational repercussions. The problem is compounded by reports of treatment failure and repeat treatments. Head lice problems in schools are currently occurring at a rate which is causing many children, parents, teachers and healthcare workers a great deal of anxiety.
SA Health in conjunction with other agencies has developed The Management guidelines for the control of head lice in South Australia (PDF 185KB). These guidelines are developed for educators and include:
- who is likely to be affected, when and where (section 4)
- a variety of different treatment options, including insecticides that kill lice and non chemical controls (section 5 to 7)
- everyone's role including families, staff, local councils and government agencies (section 8)
- managing a case, including outbreaks and recurring cases.
The following brochures can be printed by schools:
- Head lice: Prevention and treatment (PDF 240KB)
- Head lice control: Wet combing and chemical treatment (PDF 408KB)
Staff in preschools, schools and childcare centres are not responsible for the management of head lice infestation in the community, and are not expected to conduct mass head inspections or to treat children for head lice. You can, support the control and prevention of transmission of public health pests, through a prompt and consistent response to a detected or suspected case.
It is recommended that education and care staff,in line with site policy and or procedures:
- Educate families and students about head lice and prevention and control.
- Send periodic reminders to families, during a detected head lice infestation and at other times, to check hair weekly as a preventative measure.
- Support parents with practical advice and a supportive approach particularly those families experiencing difficulties with control measures. Fact sheets on treatment strategies and products are available.
- Implement learning activities that minimise head to head contact during head lice out breaks.
- Regularly check own hair for head lice.
Detect or suspect head lice
If staff detect or suspect head lice in a child, they should:
- remove the child from direct head to head contact with others. The child does not need to be isolated. It is recommended that all children
in the class participate in activities where head to head contact is unlikely to occur. The child does not need to be collected before home time.
- contact the parent/guardian to arrange for the child to be checked and treated as soon as possible and before the child returns to
preschool, school or childcare.
- provide the parent of the infested child and parents of children in close contact with information about head lice treatments
- advise parents of those who have had close contact with the person identified with head lice, that they should check their child's hair daily for at least the next three weeks.
- only request confirmation from the child's general practitioner that effective treatment of head lice has occurred prior to the student returning to school if there has been ongoing infestation with an individual child and staff are concerned that treatment is ineffective or that the child's wellbeing is at risk. This should also only occur after all efforts have been made to support the family.
Department for Education and Child Development schools can seek reimbursement from the department for head lice shampoo provided to school card holders.
If numerous cases of head lice are detected or suspected, staff may arrange head inspections of children in close contact with others with head lice. These inspections should be conducted with discretion and parent/guardian and child/student consent.
- Check their children’s and other family member’s hair regularly for head lice and nits
- ensure their children do not attend education and/or care with untreated head lice
- inform the service that their child has head lice and when treatment started
- use appropriate head lice treatments to address infestation.