Health Topics

The following health topics may be of interest to parents of school-age children.

Head Lice

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. This video on how to detect lice may help.

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


Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Please refer to the following frequently asked questions on Pertussis (whooping cough).

Anaphylactic Food Allergies

Children are the largest population group affected by anaphylactic food allergies. At Penn Charter, we are food-allergen aware. We have instituted a team approach to educate faculty, staff and other students regarding a student's specific food allergy. Our food allergy program focuses on identification of students and developing a working individualized plan to meet their needs as a member of our school community.

Faculty and staff are instructed yearly on the food allergy program protocol, signs and symptoms of severe reactions and the use of emergency medications, like the Epi-pen. New families with children who have food allergies are required to meet with the school nurse prior to the start of classes.

Our food allergy program has proven to be effective and empathetic to the needs of all members of our community. We strive to provide a safe, developmentally appropriate environment in which the student learns to navigate his world.

More information on Penn Charter food allergy programs:


Flu season is always a difficult time of the year for schools due to the increase in illness. Viruses spread easily among children in schools, and families with school-age children have more infections than others, with an average of one-third of these family members infected each year. Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health have developed a combination vaccine covering multiple strains of the influenza virus.

You can help prevent the spread of flu or help your child get better if he/she does get sick by following a few simple steps:

  • Obtain a flu vaccine every year.
  • Remind your child to cover his/her nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and dispose of the tissue immediately.
  • Have your child wash his/her hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and shared items at least once a day.
  • Ensure that bathrooms are stocked with soap, hand towels and tissues.
  • Teach your child not to touch his/her mouth, nose and eyes.
  • If your child is sick and has a fever, keep him/her home to prevent the spread of illness to others.
  • If you are concerned about your child's flu symptoms, call your health care provider early. Call your provider immediately if your child has a chronic disease.

Common symptoms of flu include:

  • high fever
  • severe headache
  • muscle and body aches
  • fatigue
  • dry cough
  • children may also have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

    Some children might benefit from an antiviral medication, which can be prescribed by a health care provider and can help lessen the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. To be effective, antiviral medication must be taken with the first 48-72 hours after flu symptoms begin. Students that are identified with influenza symptoms at school will be immediately sent home. Students must remain at home for at least 24 hours after the last episode of fever without the aid of fever reducing medications.  In most cases, students will be asked to recover at home for at least a period of 3-5 days.

If you would like additional information about seasonal influenza, read more from the Centers for Disease Control.


Staphylococcus aureus ("staph") are bacteria commonly found in the noses and on the skin of healthy people. Staph infections have been around for a long time, causing mild to severe illness. Staph with resistance to the antibiotic methicillin (and other related antibiotics) is known as methiciliin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Resistance means that a particular antibiotic will not work against those bacteria.

Staph that is present on or in the body without causing illness is called "colonization." At any given time, from 20 to 50 percent of the general population is colonized with staph bacteria; some may be MRSA while others are not antibiotic-resistant.

Staph is passed from person to person through direct contact with skin or through contact with contaminated items. The bacteria may live in people's noses and on their skin and most of the time does not cause any problem. Staph can enter the body through breaks in the skin and sometimes cause infections.  Mild infections may look like a pimple or a boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections or surgical wound infections. The main ways to prevent staph infections are to wash hands and care for wounds properly

Advice for Parents

Clean wounds and cover them with a clean, dry bandage. Wounds that do not heal properly need medical attention. The only way to determine if an infection is caused by MRSA is through laboratory testing ordered by a physician or other health care provider. Immediately notify the school nurse of any suspected or confirmed cases of MRSA. Teach children to wash their hands regularly, such as before eating and after toileting. Be sure your family members use antibiotics properly. Take all that are prescribed, even if the symptoms stop before the prescription is used up. Do not share prescriptions. Children who participate in sporting events should wash their hands after each practice and game. They should not share equipment, uniforms, towels or other personal items (e.g., razors).  Wash uniforms and towels with hot water and detergent after each use.

More information about MRSA can be found at the Center For Disease Control website.


Mononucleosis or "Mono" is caused by the Epstein Barr Virus which is a common respiratory virus. It is spread by kissing, hence the nickname "kissing disease," coughing, sneezing or any way salvia is transmitted from one person to another. Sharing of water bottles, cups and utensils should be avoided.

Most young children have been exposed to this virus but may have experienced only mild symptoms. In older children and adults the symptoms can be quite severe and include fatigue/weakness, sore throat, fever, swollen lymph glands and enlarged liver and spleen. In the majority of cases, the mono symptoms resolve within 2 to 4 weeks, however, some individuals, especially teens, may experience fatigue and weakness for months.

All students must be examined and monitored by their health care provider and provide the school with written documentation of the recommendations and duration of activity restrictions for the illness.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act (Act 59) was signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett in May 2012. Please see the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Information Sheet.

An automatic external defibrillator is a life-saving device used to restart the heart in a victim with sudden cardiac arrest. Please note these locations of AEDs on campus: main office (receptionist area), health office (main building basement), Field House training room and lobby, Graham Center lobby and fitness center, Middle School faculty room, Kline & Specter Squash Center at Strawbridge Field, Kurtz Center and the mobile unit that travels with the athletic trainer during afternoon events. Key personnel, including the school nurses and the athletic trainers, have been certified in the use of the AED.

Alcohol Education Program

William Penn Charter School is committed to providing students with the knowledge, skills and strength they need to succeed, both inside and outside the classroom. As part of this commitment, we have our entire freshman student class participate in an online program, AlcoholEdu for High School. This program will be part of the ninth grade health/advisory curriculum program. Developed by prevention experts at Outside the Classroom in conjunction with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this interactive course delivers a science-based, interactive prevention experience about alcohol and focuses on healthy decision-making strategies for youth.

AlcoholEdu for High School includes three surveys: one before the course, one immediately following the course's final exam and one taken six months after the final exam. These surveys measure students' attitudes, experiences and expectations regarding alcohol. Although we know that many of our students have never consumed alcohol, most of them do have beliefs and attitudes about alcohol, and we hope to use the data collected from these surveys to better assess our students' attitudes and to determine whether our alcohol prevention programs are having a positive effect.

All student responses are completely confidential. Individual responses are never linked to an individual student, and our school will receive the aggregate data only. Participating in this course poses no risk of harm to your child. Students are required to complete this program during the first weeks of quarter 1.

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

Upper School Counselor
Elizabeth Hitschler, BA, MEd
215-844-3460, ext. 205

Middle School Counselor
Katie Martin, BS, MEd
215-844-3460, ext. 352

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