The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp but are not known to spread disease. Additional information about head lice may be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website

Head lice are spread most commonly by direct head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact. However, much less frequently they are spread by sharing clothing or belongings onto which lice have crawled or nits attached to shed hairs may have fallen. The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:

The best way to prevent an outbreak of head lice is to check your child’s head/hair frequently for any signs of head lice. The earlier a case is detected, the easier it is to treat, and the less likely it is to spread to other households. We encourage parents to check their children, particularly if they are scratching their heads or complaining of itchiness of the scalp.  

If you identify nits or head lice on your child, please contact your child’s primary care physician for treatment guidance and notify your divisional nurse’s office

Will my child be sent home if head lice are found? 

While families are encouraged to pick up their child when notified, students diagnosed with live head lice will not be required to go home early in most cases. Students can go home at the end of the day, be treated, and return to class after appropriate treatment has begun. Nits may persist after treatment, but successful treatment should kill crawling lice.

Your divisional nurse may provide hair ties for those with long hair so hair may be put up. The divisional nurse may also provide hats to the child if desired by the family. Depending on the severity, the perversity of symptoms, and in the nurse's best clinical judgment, students may be sent home if conditions require. 

Does ECFS adhere to a "no nit" policy? 

No, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) advocate that “no-nit” policies should be discontinued. “No-nit” policies that require a child to be free of nits before they can return to school should be discontinued for the following reasons:

When a Case is Detected

Will we be notified if children in my child's class have lice?

Yes, at EC/FL families will be notified if at least one student in your child's class is found to have head lice. These notifications will occur on the same day on which the school was notified of such a case and will include prevention strategies and additional resources. 

Will the nurse check the entire classroom if a student has lice?

Not typically. The School Nurse will work with the family to identify additional students who may have had high-risk close contact with their child (e.g., sleepovers, playdates, etc.). The nurse will conduct focused lice screenings on these students. 

Will the classroom be cleaned? 

While data shows in school transmission is minimal, the nurse will notify Facilities and request that the classroom be deep cleaned and carpets, rugs, couches, pillows, stuffed animals, and other soft-seating are properly cleaned and laundered.

The nurse will also meet with impacted teachers to share best practices for preventing further transmission. 


The diagnosis of a head lice infestation is best made by finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or hair of a person. Because nymphs and adult lice are very small, move quickly, and avoid light, they can be difficult to find. The use of a magnifying lens and a fine-toothed comb may be helpful to find live lice. If crawling lice are not seen, finding nits firmly attached within a ¼ inch of the base of the hair shafts strongly suggests, but does not confirm, that a person is infested and should be treated. 

Nits that are attached more than ¼ inch from the base of the hair shaft are almost always dead or already hatched. Nits are often confused with other things found in the hair such as dandruff, hair spray droplets, and dirt particles. If no live nymphs or adult lice are seen, and the only nits found are more than ¼-inch from the scalp, the infestation is probably old and no longer active and does not need to be treated.

Returning to School

When can my child return to school after having head lice? 

Students must receive treatment before returning to school. They will be required to report to the divisional Nurse's Office upon their return for evaluation after they receive treatment. 

These students will receive a second follow-up check from the Nurse's Office after an additional 14 days. Families will be notified of the results of these follow-up assessments by viewing "Treatment Notes" on their child's Magnus Health Portal

Does ECFS adhere to a "no nit" policy? 

No, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) advocate that “no-nit” policies should be discontinued. “No-nit” policies that require a child to be free of nits before they can return to school should be discontinued for the following reasons:


The School does not conduct mass screenings for lice or nits. While this is a facet of elementary school life that many of us remember from our grade school days, public health recommendations have shifted over the past decade. 

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends that schools do not conduct mass screenings for lice or nits as studies show control measures such as lice checks have not been shown to have a significant effect on the incidence of head lice in schools. There is no evidence that infestation rates have been reduced using routine class or school-wide screenings.  


Symptoms of head lice include:


Head lice are spread most commonly by direct contact with the hair of an infested person (e.g. head to head contact, sharing hats). Head lice have no wings and do not fly or jump.

Spread by contact with inanimate objects and personal belongings (e.g. headphones, helmets) may occur but is very uncommon. Head lice feet are specially adapted for holding onto human hair. Head lice would have difficulty attaching firmly to smooth or slippery surfaces like plastic, metal, polished synthetic leathers, and other similar materials.


Data show that head lice can survive underwater for several hours but are unlikely to be spread by the water in a swimming pool. Head lice have been seen to hold tightly to human hair and not let go when submerged under water. Chlorine levels found in pool water do not kill head lice.

Head lice may be spread by sharing towels or other items that have been in contact with an infested person’s hair, although such spread is uncommon. Children should be taught not to share towels, hair brushes, and similar items either at the poolside or in the changing room.

For Children

For Parents/Guardians