Swampscott Elementary School Nurses Offer Advice for a Lice-Free Halloween

It's no outbreak but cases have been reported. The best screening takes place at home.


This article was submitted by Laurie O'Brien, nurse leader for the Swampscott School District

Sharing is a wonderful thing, but not when it comes to head lice.

The Swampscott school nurses want to inform parents and guardians of a “pesky” situation that has been reported.  With Halloween around the corner, children should avoid sharing costumes, masks, hats, sweatshirts, combs and brushes with their friends.  There is no cause for alarm, as this is by no means an outbreak but the fact that it is being passed around the community calls for proactive measures.  

One of the biggest challenges in controlling head lice is parents’ discomfort in communicating about the problem with other parents when they find head lice.   The most effective screening occurs when parents check their own children at home and treat if any are found. 

Schools are not the most common places where head lice are spread, even though schools have been blamed in the past. Schoolwide head checks are not recommended or endorsed by the Harvard School of Public Health, the American Academy of Pediatric or the Centers for Disease Control.  However the nurses track cases in school, and provide information and support.

The most common symptom of head lice is itching and head scratching.  Head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene and they do not transmit disease.   However the treatment is time consuming for parents.  Just ask anyone whose child has had it. 

The school nurses’ goal is to empower parents and guardians with knowledge about what to look for.  They recommend that you check your child’s head for lice once a week; more often if a close friend or relative has it.  Catching it early reduces spread and ensures that your child’s education is not disrupted.

For more information, go to www.swampscott.k12.ma.us and click on Health Services.

Other resource: www.headlice.org



Richard Pollack October 14, 2012 at 12:46 PM
The Harvard resource mentioned (I am the author of that work) in the article is now hosted at https://identify.us.com. Links are included to the AAP, CDC and other guidance documents. Readers should note that shared Halloween costumes, hats, brushes and other such items are NOT likely to help transfer head lice. Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)


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