Lice- Not a Disease

Lice Update:
They are Not a Disease

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses both have recently come out with major policy statements on lice.   The issues involved were nicely summarized on this article in Slate:

Here are the main points:

1.  Lice have been around a long time, longer than we humans.   They come in a variety of species, and many have caused terrible diseases, but not the species we are talking about, the head louse.

2.  The lice we are talking about are a particular species called head lice which are only found on human heads that have hair.

3.  Human head lice are harmless.  They carry no disease and pose no danger at all.  They simply feed on shed skin flakes off the scalp.   They can cause itch, that's it.

4.  Human head lice are not that contagious.  They do not spread easily, but after hours of being together and having many contacts, they can spread.

5.  Once discovered in a classroom, there are probably many children with them in their hair, and have been for weeks.   

There are a number of important conclusions to be drawn from these facts:
  1. Since lice are harmless, the treatment better be harmless, too.   Strong pesticides have no role to play in treating lice.  They can cause harm to the brain, and treat a situation that presents no danger.
  2. Since lice are harmless, do not spread easily, but usually are present for months in any one classroom, it makes no sense to keep a child out of school if found to have head lice.
  3. The no-nits policy, that is keeping a child with head lice out of school until all lice eggs are removed from the hair, makes no sense, and flies in the face of all the biology we know about lice.
And yet, common practice leads many families to soak their children's heads in strong pesticides many schools to block school attendance if any eggs are found.  This is a curious situation given that all of science argues very strongly against these practices, and has for many decades.

1.  Lice are harmless.
2.  They do not spread all that easily.
3.   Since lice are harmless, any treatment or response to them should be too.
4.  No pesticides should be used to treat lice, rather products like Lice MD which simply form a silicone shell around the hair can be used.
5.  Children should not be blocked from attending school for having lice.
6.  Lice come and go, it does our children no good to panic.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

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