Preventing the Spread of Super Lice in the Classroom
Lice seem scary enough by themselves without introducing treatment-resistant bugs into the mix. Super lice have been a growing concern for parents and schools alike this year, and the problem doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. However, there's no reason to panic! For one thing, lice are NOT
considered a health hazard, according to the CDC
, since they do not spread disease – they are merely annoying pests.
And, as it happens, prevention is always your best defense. While most information out there is aimed at parents (as it should be), schools have to know how to handle the problem, as well. Here is some essential information for teachers that will help them prevent the spread of these bugs.
First off, how do lice spread?
- Lice are most often spread through head to head contact among preschool and elementary school-aged children, though anyone can get them.
- They do not fly or jump. Lice crawl from one person to another, feeding on their blood and laying eggs (nits) in their hair close to the scalp where it's warm.
- Their presence does not mean that the family has a dirty home or that there is any parental neglect, as lice are incredibly easy to spread and common.
- They do not come from your pets. Lice are human-specific parasites.
- Lice cannot live for more than a day or two off of a human, as this will cut off their food supply and keep them at a cooler temperature than they are comfortable with.
Adult lice are small and look like brown grains of rice; eggs are white, oval-shaped, and attached to the hair. A magnifying glass may help you to identify them more accurately, as they are tiny and often confused with dirt and dandruff. Also, the eggs may be easier to find, as adult lice avoid light and will move away when you part hair.
How can I prevent them in the classroom? 1. Remind children not to share hats, coats, scarves, hair bands, earbuds, etc.
– These are the most well-known transmission methods.
2. Discourage selfies
– Two people sticking their heads together to fit into a shot has increased the number of people (older tweens and teens especially) who get head lice. Remind kids that they shouldn't be taking pictures in class anyway. You've got learning to do!
3. Invest in smart school furniture
– Piling backpacks and coats is an easy way to ensure that if one person in the class gets lice, the rest of the class will get it too. One of the smartest ways to avoid this problem is to invest in school furniture supplies
that are designed to separate each child's items. For instance, individual cubbies and spaced out coat hangers can keep kids from transmitting lice.4. Keep naptime nit-free – If children are young enough to still have a naptime, assign each child a cot that only they will sleep on (preferably with removable and washable fabric) and make sure that they are easy to identify. In addition, have parents bring in laundry bags to place blankets and pillows in so that these items aren't coming in contact with other children's. If there is a confirmed case of lice in the classroom, have the parents take home fabrics and launder them regularly.
5. Keep an eye out for infestations
– If you notice one of your students scratching their head an inordinate amount, pull them aside and quietly talk to them about it. If you think they might have head lice, send them to the nurse for a check. Also, if your school doesn't already do this, organize a regular check for everyone (including staff). This will take some of the stigma away from the problem and help prevent larger infestations at the same time.
6. Send home information to parents
– A great deal of the most important treatment and prevention will take place in the home, not the school. As such, parents need to know what to look for and how to handle the problem. A pamphlet detailing the symptoms, the appearance of lice and nits, and the treatments options and recommendations should be sent home whenever there is a confirmed case in the school, and probably at the beginning of the year as well.
Preventing super lice in the classroom is not as difficult as it seems. Armed with the right knowledge and supplies, you can stop the spread of these pests and help those affected get back to normal more quickly. Check out School Outlet for classroom furniture that will bolster your efforts!