What Should Your Preschool’s Head Lice Policy Be?

Do you have a preschool head lice policy? Here's how to build an effective prevention and treatment program in your classroom.

Parents need to be educated on prevention and administrators should be aware of proper procedures.

Head lice infestation increases during the summer months. Lice can spread during play, sports activities, sleepovers, at summer camp, and anywhere children can come in contact with the head or personal items of another child. These tiny gray and brown insects – about the size of a sesame seed – feed on human blood to survive. Although lice are not considered a health hazard and do not spread disease, head lice can lead to anxiety for parents as well as for the kids themselves. Preschoolers might find themselves excluded from the class and isolated from their friends and from gatherings because of head lice.

In order to keep students safe from head lice, educators need to understand how to handle these situations in the classroom. For those not sure where to begin, there are courses designed to prepare teachers for these types of situations. A good preschool head lice policy should keep parents informed and involved, as they can play a critical role in prevention.

What Makes an Effective Preschool Head Lice Policy?

Start the school year off by informing everyone involved what the symptoms are and how head lice can be spread. This will keep children, parents, teachers, and administators on the same page. This proactive education can make treating a head lice infestation much easier. Routine screenings can help prevent the spread of lice by finding the first cases before it spreads. If caught in the early stages, lice and their eggs can be manually removed without the use of pesticides. School administrators have a responsibility to take all reasonable measures in making sure head lice does not spread to other students.

Nits is a term used to describe an empty egg casing, or the lice eggs themselves. Hatched nit casings can remain in the hair for months after treatment. Removing nits is a time-consuming process. Some schools adopt policies in which children with nits are not allowed to rejoin their classes until they are cleared of nits. This particular preschool head lice policy is widely debated. Doctors recommend children be allowed to return after one treatment to to prevent unnecessary absences from school.

Head Lice Prevention 

It is not possible to prevent all head lice infestations, but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk. In a preschool setting, children should be discouraged from sharing bedding and personal items, such as hats, brushes, and combs. You should have them store their clothes, outerwear, and personal items so they do not touch. Use hook spaced widely apart for hanging outerwear and have separate, non-touching areas for children to put their belongings.

Another good way to prevent the movement of head lice is to be aware of the warning signs before lice have time to spread. While teachers and administrators can spot warning signs, much of this responsibility falls on parents. There are a number of practical strategies that can be learned and applied by an early childhood educator on how to help this process. Spotting an infestation before it reaches school not only keeps other kids safe from head lice, but it also helps children avoid the embarrassment of being found with lice in front of their friends. There are some common symptoms of head lice infestation:

  • • Feeling movement and tickling in the hair.
  • • Trouble sleeping and irritability.
  • • Itching that can result from an allergic reaction to lice bites.
  • • Sores on the head, which can be caused by excessive scratching.

Head Lice Treatment

If a child is found to have head lice, knowing what to do can make sure the problem is taken care of quickly. Ask a health care professional for head lice treatment. It may be either an over-the-counter or prescription shampoo medication for lice. Avoid treating with the same medicine more than 2-3 times. Do not use over-the-counter medicine on children under 2 years of age.

  • • Apply the medication over a sink so it does not come in contact with other parts of the body.
  • • Follow the directions and do not use in combination with any shampoo or conditioner. Do not wash the child’s hair for 1-2 days after treatment.
  • • Use a fine tooth comb to remove any visible bugs or nits after the treatment is done. Comb through the hair every day for a week, taking time to carefully look for any remaining lice or nits that need to be removed.
  • • After seven days if there are any live lice, reapply the treatment.

If you are an early childhood educator interested learning more on how to work with parents and administrators on preschool head lice policy and other areas, contact Naptime Academy at 844-435-7682. Register for courses as a group or as an individual. You can also subscribe to our state-approved training to earn your state-required clock hours.