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Parents Unite and Say "Give us Back Our No Nit Policy!"

January 3, 2003 - Communities are mobilizing against The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines issued last fall to allow children in school with lice and nits. One such group of parents just won their battle in Sebastian, Florida.

Parents won out in a fight to keep the Indian River County School District's current policy prohibiting students with nits (head lice eggs) from returning to school.

Last fall, school health officials asked the board to eliminate the policy based on new guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The Academy blamed school absence on the No Nit Policy, when according to the National Pediculosis Association, the chaos in lice control is reflective of reliance on ineffective products and industry-generated guidelines. In spite of scientifically documented lice resistance, guidelines encourage parents to use every product on the drug store shelf. The NPA insists that this approach puts children's health at risk.

At the same time, sales of pesticidal lice treatments continue to decline, down 18% in the past two years. More parents, school nurses, and child care professionals have learned that chasing lice with chemicals isn't working. They are looking for alternative methods.

Dan Sheridan, webmaster for the National Pediculosis Association's HeadLice.Org knows that people are looking for other options. "We are amazed at the steadily increasing numbers of visitors to our website."

"Thousands are arriving each day, staying longer, and visiting more pages. This is exciting to us given that internet users typically spend limited time on any one web site." He reports that people are also taking time to watch our video on combing with the LiceMeister
®. They appear strongly motivated to get it right.

The NPA says that parents are the "experts" in the lice wars. They know firsthand when a product doesn't work and while they may be willing to try the pesticide shampoo once hoping that it will live up to its claims, they aren't running back to buy more when it doesn't.

This alone could account for decreasing sales of traditional treatments. The profit days for ineffective lice products are dwindling. Consumers are more savvy, better informed and generally making more of their own medical decisions than in years gone by.

As reported in an article in Florida Today, the School Board in Sebastion unanimously voted against the AAP guidelines scheduling a public hearing to change the wording of its current nit policy. Proposed changes would have let students with nits go back to school as long as there were no live lice.

But a petition signed by 350 parents and residents asked the board to leave the policy as it is. The district's elementary school principals also asked that the No Nit Policy stay in place.

Angela Weathersbee, a Sebastian parent who circulated the petition, said she was pleased that the board listened to the parental concerns. "I felt like I was David battling Goliath," she said about going before the board to argue against the change.

Weathersbee said the No Nit Policy "Will provide at least a modicum of protection."

The NPA says that its No Nit Policy establishes a public health standard to educate the community in advance of outbreaks and enable everyone to know what to look for, how to safely respond and to keep children in class and ready to learn.

Those who oppose the No Nit Policy misrepresent it as a means of excluding children. The NPA says that dismissal of a child with lice and nits is unfortunate and should never be the first effort to control head lice.

Still families need to be accountable once they have been afforded accurate information on what to look for, how to screen and the importance of avoiding ineffective or potentially harmful treatments.

Head lice needn't be a disruption to families and schools. Nor should combing be tedious and time consuming. Everybody wins with little effort if head lice and nits are detected early and removed thoroughly and immediately.

The NPA developed and recommends the LiceMeister
® comb for this purpose and proceeds from the comb support its programs of education and scientific research. The consumer needs to have a place to trust for help. Independent of product manufacturers, the NPA is proud to be the one they turn to.

A nonprofit organization celebrating 20 years of service, the NPA reaches out to each new generation of parents.

The NPA launched Jesse's Project to reach certain people who, because of other medical problems such as asthma, allergies, epilepsy, cancer or AIDS should never be treated with pesticide shampoos and lotions.

It is a unique situation where both the person being treated and the person giving treatment can also be at risk. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should always avoid using chemicals for lice.

NPA reminds parents that combing for head lice as a preventive is the rational approach and is no different than brushing one's teeth. The routine doesn't guarantee "no cavities" but certainly provides a competitive edge. And when the dentist says "great job," it doesn't mean you get to stop brushing.

Head lice are part of raising children today and routine screening is the best defense. Parents need a means to do this that is safe and effective. One should never respond out of fear or shampoo with pesticides as a preventive. It is a community problem that requires a community approach.

Last fall, the Brevard County school district eliminated its No Nit Policy policy, because of the new AAP's guidelines. Weathersbee said she's contacted Brevard parents and suggested they lobby their school board to reinstate the policy.

Indian River School Board member Herbert Bailey said after listening to parents that he had changed his mind about this. He stated that the public had a right to say what they did and that's what changed his mind.

Board President Steven Mohler agreed. "We all had feedback from parents," he said.

The NPA says it is a basic measure of doing for the children what adults would insist be done for themselves. Nobody wants lice and nits in their hair dead or alive. At the same time new scientific research on head lice and disease documents the fact that these blood-obligate human parasites warrant more serious attention than they have gotten when considered as a nuisance disease. Unfortunately they are well established among the childhood population.

This is not the time to abandon public health standards about education and prevention of head lice. In fact the NPA says we need to keep raising the bar.

The NPA has a limited time offer for free Critter Cards to show parents what to look for and how to differentiate nits from common hair debris. You can sign up for one by visiting their website www.headlice.org. Other NPA educational resources are available free at their website to download and put right to work in the community.

 

 
 
 
Jane Cotter
National Pediculosis Assn
www.HeadLice.Org
781-449-6487 x109
 


 
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