It will come as no surprise to many parents that head lice infestations in children appear to be on the rise. Reasons for this increase are not clear although there is evidence from research conducted in Queensland schools that some head lice are becoming resistant to the common chemical head lice treatments available.
The Nitbusters School Head Lice Project is a joint project between NSW Health, NSW Department of Education and Communities, Federation of School Councils and the Federation of P&C Associations. The project aims to educate schools, children and parents about head lice and how to treat them as a community and within the home.
In order for Nitbusters to be successful in your school, every child should be involved. It takes just one infested head to infest the whole class. One of the key messages of the project is that anyone and everyone can contract nits, regardless of your age, sex or background. Treatment needs to be community-based and ongoing.
The project involves the entire school community working together to coordinate and run a Nitbusting Day on the school premises, in an effort to treat the entire student body for head lice at one time. The school's parent body organises the day by providing helpers to screen and treat all children for head lice. The screening is done by parent/guardian volunteers on a class by class basis, with the youngest children treated early in the school day. The project employs the use of the comb and conditioner method for treating the presence of head lice, which is a safe, non-chemical treatment, involving the mechanical removal of head lice through combing.
Each child is encouraged to participate and requires a signed Parent Consent Form before they can be screened. No child should participate without a signed consent form, nor be penalised in any way for not participating. Parents/guardians and/or children can withdraw from the screening at any time. Those children not participating, however, can learn how to identify and remove lice and eggs.
The Parent Consent Form is to be returned to the school before the Nitbusting Day. A separate consent form must be filled out for each child and can be returned to the school office by either the children or their parents/guardians. On Nitbusters Day, each child will have their hair inspected to determine if there is an active infestation. Parent helpers will wear disposable rubber or latex gloves for both the screening and treatment process. If nits (the eggs) or lice are found then regular hair conditioner will be applied to the dry hair and combed through. When the tangles are removed with a large comb, a fine lice comb will be used to remove the lice and nits. Gloves should be changed between treatments for each individual child. If a child's head shows signs of an infection or evidence of lesions or psoriasis, the child will not be screened or treated.
Upon completion, the child's hair will be combed and tidied (braiding is advised for long hair). Rinsing off the conditioner in the schoolyard is difficult to manage and not advisable. Therefore, because the conditioner will not damage the hair, it will be left on and can be rinsed off when they return home. Children will be encouraged to watch and help detect lice on their classmates.
The lice and detangle combs are cleaned between each treatment in hot soapy water and rinsed in running hot water. Since, head lice cannot survive at 60 degrees Celsius, hot water is an effective way of killing and disposing of them. A note will be sent home to all parents indicating whether lice or nits were detected on your children. All parents/guardians, regardless of whether their children participated in the program, will receive an information sheet on how to treat for head lice.
The school P&C is encouraged to run a Nitbusters Day each term and use the school newsletter to promote regular head checks by parents. Nitbusters urges parents and schools to remain vigilant when it comes to monitoring and treating for head lice—remember they can be managed!