Head Lice (Pediculosis)

Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) have been companions of the human species since ancient times. Head lice is not associated with any disease but causes a high level of anxiety among parents of school-aged children. Although lice are not considered a health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene, infestations cause a significant stigma resulting in children being ostracized from their school, friends and social events.

According to research published in 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), lice are not as contagious as previously assumed. Lice do not hop or jump; they can only crawl. Therefore, transmission at school is less likely than the home or other close head-to-head contact activities, like sleepovers. School screenings for head lice by school nurses has proven to be ineffective since it does not decrease the number of cases of head lice in the school community over time.

Penn Charter recommends that all Lower School families perform weekly head checks on their children and inform the health office for any infestation. Please refer to the following informational link to aid in your detection.

Head lice are small, brown insects no larger than the size of sesame seeds. They live and feed on the human scalp. The female louse lays eggs, called nits, on the hair close to the scalp. The nits, which look like tiny, whitish ovals and are firmly glued to the hair shafts, usually hatch within two weeks. If you suspect head lice, check your child's hair closely. Head lice may be hard to locate because they move to avoid light. Nits may be easier to find. If left untreated, head lice will quickly increase in number, so you should be sure to treat head lice as soon as detected.

Our school has adopted the following policy to manage an active infestation of head lice. If a student is identified with an active infestation of lice, the student will be assessed by the school nurse and returned to the class and/or dismissed to home at the discretion of the nurse. The nurse will assess siblings and may assess close contacts. Parents/guardians of all children in the affected grade will be notified when two or more cases are identified. The family will be expected to treat the infestation and must be checked by the school nurse prior to returning to school. Parents must accompany the student to this compliance exam. It is then recommended that the student's hair be combed nightly for 7-10 days to remove any nits (eggs). As an alternative to home treatments, lice-removing hair salons can assist you in the treatment of head lice. Please contact our health office for referrals.

The role of the school nurse and this policy is to inform parents regarding treatment, prevent stigmatization of the student and maintain the students/families’ privacy.

Additional Resources

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Nursing Staff

Debra A. Foley, RN, MSN, CRNP
Coordinator of Health Services/Health Faculty
215-844-3460, ext. 142 or 487

Nancy Hirschfeld, RN, MSN, CRNP
Associate Nurse
215-844-3460, ext. 142

Counseling Staff

Middle & Upper School Counselor
Elizabeth Coombs, BA, MEd
215-844-3460, ext. 205

Lower School Counselor
Lisa Reedich, BA, MSS
215-844-3460, ext. 171

Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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