Lice policy

I have three kids (they are not with Toronto District School Board, but Halton District School Board ) but changes in TDSB policy with regard to lice may be adopted by our school board, so I thought I would weigh in. It’s not really a surgical condition but anyway.

We had a problem with lice about 4 years ago. I was looking at my 4 year old daughters head one Sunday afternoon and saw one of the bugs crawling out of her hair. She was heavily infested. It was disgusting-I’m a surgeon and I’ve seen a lot of disgusting stuff but lice are just gross, even for me. Even worse, she had just been to a birthday party with 10 other girls. I called the mother of the girl with the birthday party to warn her feeling just mortified and found out she knew her own daughter had lice the week before, had treated her (once) and sent her back to school (to then infect my kid and others as it turned out). My younger 2 yo daughter was infested too, although not as heavily. My husband and I did not have lice and I did not even check my son’s head- I shaved his remaining (very short) hair off on the spot. I then called the school to let them know (something parents avoid because they know what will happen). My daughter was not allowed to return until given clearance by a public health nurse who at any given time, could be at any one of the Halton schools doing lice checks. We had to chase her down all over Halton Region to get her to check our daughter and give us the all clear to go back with a note. We had to take her four times before we got clearance.

I really do not believe the chemical shampoos work (although we used one anyway- toxic smelling stuff) and I tell anyone who asks that it takes mechanical removal, mechanical removal, mechanical removal to get rid of a lice infestation. Cut off as much excess hair as your child will allow, (hey if you want to save yourself the trouble just shave it all off) then buy a large bottle of inexpensive conditioner, wet and cover the remaining hair with lots of conditioner in the tub and wait a few minutes. Do not rinse out the conditioner but comb it out with a fine tooth comb (it does not need to be a nit comb. The drowning lice are immobilized in the conditioner. You will be able to see them in the conditioner which comes out. Rinse the whole mess down the drain. Lice do not survive very long away from the warmth of the human head- they are not like bedbugs in that respect. The problem is the remaining live eggs and you have to know something about the life cycle. Lice cannot lay eggs for 10 days after they hatch. You have to repeat the conditioner every day (or every other day) for the next 10 days as the eggs which have been laid hatch. You are then removing the junior lice before they have a chance to mature and lay more eggs. You can try getting rid of the live eggs (they are the ones which are brownish in colour and very close to the scalp) but this is difficult. My daughter was not allowed to return to school until every single nit casing had been removed from her hair. She missed 8 days of school total over a period of two weeks. Having two essentially healthy children at home (we took my younger daughter out of daycare until she was clear) while my husband and I worked full time was not fun for anyone and there were lots of testy moments. Lots of TV was watched as our usual limits on screen time went out the window. The nit picking companies are extremely expensive and expecting all parents to pay for that kind of service is not viable as a way of eliminating lice from schools.

I don’t believe children with live lice and/or unhatched eggs in their hair should be allowed to attend school. My daughter had several recurrences and we never got rid of the problem until she switched schools (we were moving anyway), but it suggests that the kids were passing them back and forth. Halton school board’s policy when our daughter had lice was that ALL eggs had to be gone from her hair- even obvious dead egg sacs (which are usually white not brown) and which stay attached to the hair and grow out with it. This is not necessary and children without live lice or eggs should be allowed to attend school. While lice do not carry disease, children who are bitten enough will develop allergy to the bites and that is where the itching comes from.

It is disappointing parents will send kids to school knowing they are going to pass on an uncomfortable and embarrassing condition. There is obviously more pressure on families to keep their kids in school now that a lot of families have two parents working (or single parent families). The letter (sent home to every kid in a class where lice has been discovered) from the school after I advised the school of my daughter having lice gave some very good advice- girls should have their hair tied back in ponytails, or even better braids. I was dismayed to go in to the school for a parent teacher conference and find every single girl in the classroom, bar my own kid, with free flowing long hair, not a barette or pony tail holder to be seen AFTER the letter went home. You can lead a horse to water….. My girls now have their hair tied back at school most days and I also now spray them with hairspray before going to school, as lice do not like hair which has a lot of product in it. We have been lice free for over four years, although I fully expect a recurrence at some point. I’m ready, I know what to do now!

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2 thoughts on “Lice policy

  1. My son got lice TWICE in the first month of school this year and I was furious. The TDSB is terrible. Parents dont need to prove that their kids are lice free, I told them I treated him and he was allowed right back to school. Lucky for them I sat for HOURS picking out each egg and treated him with the 2 different shampoos and also started using a tea tree oil shampoo. I get that its not easy to keep the kids home, I live that battle on the daily, but we need to draw the line here.


  2. Don’t know where to leave a comment about your CBC vaccine for children talk today, so I will say well done. Vaccination are the reason for the greatest improvemnt in population heath behind clean water,

    Martin Chen,M.D.


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