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American Academy of Pediatrics issues new guidelines for lice outbreaks

According to the association, head lice can cause children psychological stress and shame.

With the school semester back in full swing, a new regulation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) aims to keep lice out of the classroom and affecting kids’ heads.

As AAP notes in a new clinical report titled “Head Lice,” a school’s quarantine approach to eradicating a lice infestation can often be “psychologically stressful” to individuals.

“It is important for medical providers to educate and reassure affected individuals and caregivers that head lice are neither a health hazard nor a sign of poor hygiene and are not responsible for the spread of any disease,” the report says. “Despite this knowledge, there is significant stigma resulting from head lice infestations in high-income countries, resulting in children and adolescents being ostracized from their schools, friends, and other social events.”

In the report, the AAP lays out how lice can be transmitted. It also emphasizes that lice cannot hop or jump from one host to another, despite certain beliefs.

"In most cases, transmission occurs by direct contact with the hair of an infested individual, the most common situation being head-to-head contact," the report explains. "Indirect spread through contact with personal belongings of an infested individual (combs, brushes, hats, sport helmets) is much less likely to occur."

The AAP report offered a number of alternatives to removing children from classrooms or isolating them once a lice discovery has been made.

"A child or adolescent should not be restricted from school attendance because of head lice, given the low contagion within classrooms," the report reads. "'No-nit' policies that exclude children or adolescents until all nits are removed may violate a child’s or adolescent’s civil liberties and are best addressed with legal counsel for schools."

Best options for removing lice (and preventing social stigma in a school setting) include the use of natural products such as essential oils like citronella or eucalyptus and occlusive agents like “petrolatum shampoo” or mayonnaise. Other alternatives include over-the-counter desiccation products and the manual removal of lice and nits.

According to AAP, a fine-tooth come can be used to look for lice and nits (lice eggs and empty shell casings).

The AAP also recommends consulting a physician for a proper diagnosis of lice and an effective treatment plan.