What Should Your Preschool — s Head Lice Policy Be?

Lice in a child: how to treat head lice at home, a photo of how lice and nits look in children’s hair

Parents need to be educated on prevention and administrators should be aware of proper procedures.

Head lice infestation increases during the summer months. Lice can spread during play, sports activities, sleepovers, at summer camp, and anywhere children can come in contact with the head or personal items of another child. These tiny gray and brown insects – about the size of a sesame seed – feed on human blood to survive. Although lice are not considered a health hazard and do not spread disease, head lice can lead to anxiety for parents as well as for the kids themselves. Preschoolers might find themselves excluded from the class and isolated from their friends and from gatherings because of head lice.

In order to keep students safe from head lice, educators need to understand how to handle these situations in the classroom. For those not sure where to begin, there are courses designed to prepare teachers for these types of situations. A good preschool head lice policy should keep parents informed and involved, as they can play a critical role in prevention.

What Makes an Effective Preschool Head Lice Policy?

Start the school year off by informing everyone involved what the symptoms are and how head lice can be spread. This will keep children, parents, teachers, and administators on the same page. This proactive education can make treating a head lice infestation much easier. Routine screenings can help prevent the spread of lice by finding the first cases before it spreads. If caught in the early stages, lice and their eggs can be manually removed without the use of pesticides. School administrators have a responsibility to take all reasonable measures in making sure head lice does not spread to other students.

Nits is a term used to describe an empty egg casing, or the lice eggs themselves. Hatched nit casings can remain in the hair for months after treatment. Removing nits is a time-consuming process. Some schools adopt policies in which children with nits are not allowed to rejoin their classes until they are cleared of nits. This particular preschool head lice policy is widely debated. Doctors recommend children be allowed to return after one treatment to to prevent unnecessary absences from school.

Head Lice Prevention

It is not possible to prevent all head lice infestations, but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk. In a preschool setting, children should be discouraged from sharing bedding and personal items, such as hats, brushes, and combs. You should have them store their clothes, outerwear, and personal items so they do not touch. Use hook spaced widely apart for hanging outerwear and have separate, non-touching areas for children to put their belongings.

Another good way to prevent the movement of head lice is to be aware of the warning signs before lice have time to spread. While teachers and administrators can spot warning signs, much of this responsibility falls on parents. There are a number of practical strategies that can be learned and applied by an early childhood educator on how to help this process. Spotting an infestation before it reaches school not only keeps other kids safe from head lice, but it also helps children avoid the embarrassment of being found with lice in front of their friends. There are some common symptoms of head lice infestation:

  • • Feeling movement and tickling in the hair.
  • • Trouble sleeping and irritability.
  • • Itching that can result from an allergic reaction to lice bites.
  • • Sores on the head, which can be caused by excessive scratching.

Head Lice Treatment

If a child is found to have head lice, knowing what to do can make sure the problem is taken care of quickly. Ask a health care professional for head lice treatment. It may be either an over-the-counter or prescription shampoo medication for lice. Avoid treating with the same medicine more than 2-3 times. Do not use over-the-counter medicine on children under 2 years of age.

  • • Apply the medication over a sink so it does not come in contact with other parts of the body.
  • • Follow the directions and do not use in combination with any shampoo or conditioner. Do not wash the child’s hair for 1-2 days after treatment.
  • • Use a fine tooth comb to remove any visible bugs or nits after the treatment is done. Comb through the hair every day for a week, taking time to carefully look for any remaining lice or nits that need to be removed.
  • • After seven days if there are any live lice, reapply the treatment.

If you are an early childhood educator interested learning more on how to work with parents and administrators on preschool head lice policy and other areas, contact Naptime Academy at 844-435-7682. Register for courses as a group or as an individual. You can also subscribe to our state-approved training to earn your state-required clock hours.


Preventing (or Dealing With) Head Lice in the Classroom

I am phobic, phobic about head lice! I have been since I was a child. Turns out, I probably work in the worst profession for someone with this phobia — right? I have to laugh at the irony. Over the years, my OCD around the topic has helped me to develop some survival techniques for dealing with this enemy. By no means am I even remotely close to having the expertise of a nurse or dermatologist, but through talking to school nurses, reaching out to the teacher blogging world, and digging into some general online research, I have found a few good tips and resources for lice prevention. Read on to see what my head lice plan of attack is for this school year!


As recommended by the American Association of Dermatology (AAD): «Teach your child to stop sharing things that touch the head. Brushes, combs, hair accessories, hats, helmets, scarves, towels, and even earbuds offer head lice a good place to hang out until they can crawl onto a human. When someone has head lice, tell your child not to touch couches, chairs, pillows, rugs, and beds that a person who has head lice uses.»


The jury is out on a final verdict, but I’ve talked to many a mother, even some who are nurses, and certainly found all over Pinterest, the wonders of using tea tree and lavender oils mixed with shampoo or water solutions as a preventative measure (and possibly treatment) against these pests. Certainly, do your own research, but I personally mix this solution into my son’s shampoo and styling spray bottle. It smells great, his hair looks great, and it gives me some hope that it might be helping prevent any creepy crawlers from coming home as stowaways. Want more information? I found this article from Healthline to be interesting, informative, and it provided necessary precautions.


I’ve used heavy-duty garbage bags to store everyone’s personal belongings when we’ve had a lice outbreak in class. Two years ago I had what I think was a genius moment when I realized I should just do this same prevention all year. We don’t have separated cubbies, so student coats, backpacks, hats, etc. are constantly right next to each other, which is not optimal when trying to prevent the spread of head lice. My first attempt at daily bagging led me to the dollar store laundry bags below. These worked great for organization of our entryway, and must have at least somewhat helped with lice spread prevention.

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The laundry bag method above is certainly worth a try (if for no other reason than for organization of a hook area in the classroom), but it has two drawbacks: 1) The bags eventually wear out, usually before the end of the year; and 2) The bags are not totally sealed, nor made of 100 percent impermeable material.

So, I scoured the Internet for other potential ideas and found the king of lice prevention bags: SUPER JUMBO zipper seal bags with handles. These were originally designed for basement storage, but are perfectly sized for backpacks, coats, and other home items. They seal, they hang, and they are made of plastic so they are impermeable!


According to the AAD, if lice become an issue in your classroom (or at home), there are a few things you can do to catch the problem early and hopefully remedy the situation. As for my own tip, I would certainly suggest instantly bagging up belongings of ALL STUDENTS into at least garbage bags or any of my other suggestions above. On the AAD website, they suggest you:

Inspect household items that can get infested with lice and nits: towels, rugs, and bedding.

Look carefully at the clothes your child has worn during the past two days for lice and their eggs.

Reinforce the message to stop sharing anything that touches the head.

Tell your child to stop head-to-head contact with other kids until the school is free of lice.


Lice happens. We want kids to learn about it, know about how to prevent lice from spreading, and we also want to be very sensitive to the feelings of anyone who might have lice in the classroom. We would never want someone to feel isolated, bullied, nor made fun of because they have or had head lice. I find that having open discussions about lice, pointing out that head lice is a common part of elementary school life, and that lice can happen to anyone prevents insensitivity from ever being an issue.

Below are a few of my favorite resources to help you facilitate these conversations promoting awareness. I mean, how can you beat David Shannon talking about bugs in his hair?

NOTE: You must have a BrainPOP account to watch that specific video. Several other lice educational videos can be found on the My Head Lice Treatment YouTube channel.

Do YOU have any other brilliant tips for preventing and dealing with head lice in the classroom and at home? If so, please share. Thanks for reading, and see you soon!


How to treat your child for lice

Lice is everywhere. It is not a hazard to your child’s health and it is not a sign of a dirty home. It’s just a nuisance.

The good news is that it’s not that hard to treat.

We’re going to show you a few simple steps to treat lice when you get that note home from school.

The first step in treating lice is confirming that your child actually has it. You’ll want to look behind the ears and at the nape of the neck for both live lice and nits.

Nits are lice eggs and nits are actually often confused for dandruff or other skin flakes. The difference is that nits stick like glue to the hair shaft whereas dandruff can easily be flicked off.

For treatment, most people start with an over-the-counter lice shampoo. This is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Make sure you follow the directions closely on the box.

You’ll want to use a cloth or towel to cover your child’s eyes while you’re shampooing, so that none of the lice shampoo actually gets in your child’s eyes.
You’ll massage the shampoo from the roots to the ends of the hair. After shampooing, you’ll need to do a thorough comb-out with a metal lice comb.

This process can take anywhere between one and three hours, depending on the length of your child’s hair. It’s a good idea to have a children’s book or video on hand to help pass the time.

Make sure you have these supplies ready for the comb-out:

  • a regular comb
  • a metal lice comb
  • conditioner
  • clips or barrettes to hold sections of your child’s hair
  • a bowl filled with soapy water to clean the comb
  • paper towels to wipe the lice comb
  • a cloth towel to place around your child’s shoulders
  • strong reading glasses or a magnifying glass to see better
  • and lots of bright light, such as a bright lamp that can be directed at the area you’re combing

Before the comb-out, wet the hair and add conditioner. Remove the tangles with a regular comb.

The conditioner may help slow down the lice and make it easier to see the nits
on the comb. Follow these steps for a thorough comb-out:

Part your child’s hair down the middle and clip up one half so it’s out of the way.

On the loose side, pick up one small section of hair, about the width of your lice comb. Start at the scalp to catch the nits, which are laid and hatched just a fraction of an inch from the scalp.

Pull the comb all the way through to the end of the hair. Comb each section in multiple directions: up, down, left, and right. You may see lice on the comb after you pull it through the hair. Dip the comb into a bowl of soapy water or wipe it with a paper towel after each swipe. Keep combing each section until the comb comes up clean – no lice or nits.

Twist the combed hair and clip it to the head. When you finish the whole head, unclip the hair and rinse out the conditioner. Rinse the comb and clips in hot soapy water to clean them. Wash the clothes you and your child were wearing during the comb-out.

Remember, lice is manageable and you will survive it.


Child care and head lice

Head lice — A fact of life!
For most parents there is something inherently icky about the thought of head lice. However, it is worth remembering that head lice have been around for almost as long as humans and they are a natural, if somewhat disgusting, fact of the world we live in!

Kids in child care are very susceptible to head lice because they are physically close to each other for almost all the activities they participate in. Head lice are not fussy and are equally happy in clean or dirty hair; you can catch head lice no matter what your age, ethnicity, hair colour or hair type. This means that all kids in child care are at risk when there is an outbreak in a centre.

There are a few popular myths about head lice, including the idea that you should sterilize and bag up all your linen and soft toys after an outbreak and you can catch lice from sharing hats and headrests.

However, according to the Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council, head lice die from dehydration within 6-24 hours of being removed from a human head and research has shown that sharing a hat with someone who has head lice does not increase your chances of getting lice. In addition, head lice can not jump from one person to the head of another. They are spread only through direct head-to-head contact.

Head lice and child care
Most child care centres have policies on head lice. A typical policy will outline the roles, responsibilities and expectations that child care providers and parents have in the treatment and prevention of head lice. Ask to see your centre’s policy so that you are familiar with the process if your child ever does come down with the dreaded critters.

If you detect lice in your child’s hair, and were not advised about a breakout in their child care centre, it is worth telling the centre as soon as possible as head lice rarely occur on an isolated basis. Most centres have a policy of not identifying children who have lice in a centre, so you shouldn’t worry about your child being embarrassed.

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The good news for parents is that kids with head lice do not need to be sent home immediately on detection of the lice, and do not have to stay home from their child care centre, as long as they are effectively treated before their next day in care.

Effective treatment means that all the lice are dead and this can be achieved by the conditioner and comb technique or through using a chemical treatment.

Conditioner and comb technique
The conditioner and comb technique is a very effective way of detecting and treating head lice however you will need to continue treatment every day for about ten days to ensure you remove all the lice from your child’s hair. The conditioner works by stunning the lice for a few minutes so they still enough to be combed out. If you want to give this technique a go follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Untangle your child’s hair with an ordinary comb.
  2. Apply a generous amount of conditioner to your child’s hair covering the entire scalp from roots to tips. You can use any conditioner, however, a white product will make it easier to see the nits.
  3. Use your ordinary comb to distribute the conditioner evenly through your child’s hair and divide the hair in to four or more sections using hair ties.
  4. Change to a head lice comb.
  5. Pick up a section of hair near the back of your child’s head. Place the teeth of the comb against your child’s scalp and comb the hair from the roots through to the tips.
  6. Use a tissue to wipe the teeth of the comb clean after each brush stroke and check for head lice and eggs.
  7. Comb each section of your child’s hair at least twice until you have done the whole head. If your comb becomes clogged up use an old toothbrush to clear the teeth.
  8. Keep combing until all the conditioner has gone.
  9. Repeat the conditioning and combing daily until you find no head lice for ten consecutive days. It is important to continue for ten days to make sure you remove all the adult lice as well as any lice that hatch, before they get a chance to reproduce.

Chemical treatments
If you decide to opt for a chemical treatment make sure you choose one that is specifically for head lice. It would probably be worth a trip to the pharmacy to ensure you use something that meets all Australian safety standards. Remember, that you are using what effectively amounts to a pesticide on your child’s head, so it is important to find the right product and to closely follow the usage directions.

None of the chemical treatments available on the market will kill the eggs so it is essential to reapply the treatment one week later to make sure you kill any young lice that hatch after the first treatment.

You could use the conditioner and combing technique between treatments to help remove the lice.

It is important to check the effectiveness of the product you use after the first treatment as some lice are resistant to some chemical treatments. To check whether a product has been successful use a head lice comb to comb your child’s hair from roots to tips. Repeat until all the hair has been combed through at least twice. Wipe the comb on a tissue after each stroke and check the lice for movement, if all the lice are dead then the treatment has been successful, however if you see movement the treatment hasn’t been effective and you will have to try a product with a different active ingredient.

Preventing head lice
It’s important to remember that head lice are irritating but ultimately harmless. By encouraging your child to follow some of the ideas listed below you may reduce the likelihood of your little one catching head lice:

  • Avoid sharing hair brushes, combs, hats and fancy dress wigs
  • Avoid direct head-to-head contact
  • Discourage your child from playing with other people’s hair
  • Keep long hair tied up or plaited
  • Checking your child’s hair on a weekly basis

Remember that these suggestions should not get in the way of ensuring your child is able to have fun in their child care centre.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 05 December 2019


Lice — Head


  • A scalp infection with tiny gray bugs called lice
  • Lice lay many white eggs (nits) in the hair

Symptoms of Head Lice

  • The eggs are easier to see than the lice. Nits (eggs) are tiny white specks attached to hairs. Unlike dandruff or sand, nits can’t be shaken off the hair shafts.
  • Itching of the scalp is the main symptom.
  • A scalp rash may be present. The back of the neck is the favorite area.


  • Lice are 1/16-inch (2 mm) long gray-colored bugs. They move quickly and are difficult to see.
  • They are the size of a sesame seed.
  • The lice feed on blood from the scalp. While the bug is sucking blood, some of its secretions get mixed in. Any scalp rash or bumps is the body’s reaction to the bug’s saliva.

Lifespan of Lice

  • The nits (eggs) hatch into lice in about 1 week.
  • Nits (eggs) that are over ½ inch (1 cm) from the scalp are empty egg cases. They are very white in color.
  • Off the scalp, nits (eggs) can’t survive over 2 weeks.
  • Adult lice survive 3 weeks on the scalp or 24 hours off the scalp.

Transmission of Head Lice: Live Lice, Not Nits

  • Only live lice can give lice to another child.
  • Nits (lice eggs) cannot pass on lice. Nits are attached to the child’s hair.

Lice Exposure: Low Risk for Getting It

  • Most children who are exposed to someone with head lice do not get them.
  • Lice cannot jump or fly. They can only crawl. Lice are only passed to others by close head-to-head contact. Even then the risk is low.
  • Lice are rarely passed to others by sharing caps or combs.
  • Sleepovers and sleeping together only has a small risk.
  • Bed-sharing is the only reason the AAP recommends treating after exposure.
  • Most often, the spread of lice to others occurs at home, not school.

Should I Call?

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Age less than 2 months old
  • Scalp looks infected (such as pus, soft scabs, open sores)

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Not sure your child has head lice
  • New head lice or nits are seen after treatment
  • Scalp rash or itch lasts more than 7 days after treatment
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

Care At Home

Care Advice for Head Lice

  1. What You Should Know About Head Lice:
    • Head lice can be treated at home.
    • With careful treatment, all lice and nits (lice eggs) are usually killed.
    • There are no lasting problems from having head lice.
    • They do not carry any diseases.
    • They do not make your child feel sick.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Anti-Lice Shampoo:
    • Buy some anti-lice creme rinse (such as Nix) and follow package directions. No prescription is needed.
    • First, wash the hair with a regular shampoo. Then, towel dry it before using the anti-lice creme. Do not use a conditioner or creme rinse after shampooing. Reason: It will interfere with Nix.
    • Pour 2 ounces (full bottle or 60 mL) of Nix into damp hair. People with long hair may need to use 2 bottles.
    • Work the creme into all the hair down to the roots.
    • If needed, add a little warm water to work up a lather.
    • Nix is safe above 2 months old.
    • Leave the shampoo on for a full 10 minutes. If you don’t, it won’t kill all the lice. Then rinse the hair well with water and dry it with a towel.
    • Repeat the anti-lice shampoo in 9 days. Be sure to do this or the lice may come back. Two treatments are always needed. The second treatment will kill any new lice that have hatched from eggs.
  3. Remove the Dead Nits:
    • Nit removal is not necessary. It should not interfere with the return to school.
    • Some schools, however, have a no-nit policy. They will not allow children to return if nits are seen. The American Academy of Pediatrics advise that no-nit policies be no longer used. The National Association of School Nurses also takes this stand. If your child’s school has a no-nit policy, call your child’s doctor.
    • Reasoning: Only live lice can spread lice to another child. One treatment with Nix kills all the lice.
    • Nits (lice eggs) do not spread lice. Most treated nits (lice eggs) are dead after the first treatment with Nix. The others will be killed with the 2nd treatment.
    • Removing the dead nits is not essential or urgent. However, it prevents others from thinking your child still has untreated lice.
    • Nits can be removed by backcombing with a special nit comb.
    • You can also pull them out one at a time. This will take a lot of time.
    • Wetting the hair with water makes removal easier. Avoid any products that claim they loosen the nits. (Reason: Can interfere with Nix)
  4. Hairwashing Precautions to Help Nix Work:
    • Don’t wash the hair with shampoo until 2 days after Nix treatment.
    • Avoid hair conditioners before treatment. Do not use them for 2 weeks after treatment. Reason: Coats the hair and interferes with Nix.
  5. Treating Close Contacts:
    • Check the heads of everyone else living in your home. If lice or nits are seen, they also should be treated. Use the anti-lice shampoo on them as well.
    • Also, anyone with an itchy scalp rash should be treated.
    • Bedmates of children with lice should also be treated. If in doubt, have your child checked for lice.
  6. Return to School:
    • Lice are spread by close contact. They cannot jump or fly.
    • Your child can return to school after 1 treatment with the anti-lice shampoo.
    • A child with nits doesn’t need to miss any school or child care. Nits do not spread to others, nor
      do they cause lice in others.
    • Remind your child not to share combs and hats.
    • Be sure to tell the school nurse or child care center director. She can check other students in your child’s class.
  7. Cleaning the House — Preventing Spread:
    • Avoid close contact with others until after the first anti-lice treatment.
    • Lice that are off the body rarely cause infection. Reason: Lice can’t live for over 24 hours off the human body. Vacuum your child’s room.
    • Soak hair brushes for 1 hour in a solution containing some anti-lice shampoo.
    • Wash your child’s sheets, blankets, and pillow cases. Wash any clothes worn in the past 2 days. Wash in hot water (130° F or 54° C). This kills lice and nits.
    • Items that can’t be washed (hats, coats, or scarves) should be set aside. Put them in sealed plastic bags for 2 weeks. This is the longest period that nits can survive. (Note: This is an option. This step probably is not needed.)
  8. What to Expect:
    • With 2 treatments, all lice and nits should be killed.
    • If lice come back, it can mean another contact with an infected person. It can also be that the shampoo wasn’t left on for 10 minutes. It may also mean that hair conditioner was used.
    • Also, make sure the Nix is repeated in 9 days. If you don’t, the lice may come back.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • New lice or nits are seen in the hair
    • Scalp rash or itch lasts more than 1 week after the anti-lice shampoo
    • Sores on scalp start to spread or look infected
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse
  10. Extra Care Advice — Cetaphil Cleanser for Nix Treatment Failures:
    • Go to your drugstore and buy Cetaphil cleanser in the soap department. No prescription is needed. It works by coating the lice and suffocating them.
    • Apply the Cetaphil cleanser throughout the scalp to dry hair.
    • After all the hair is wet, wait 2 minutes for Cetaphil to soak in.
    • Comb out as much excess cleanser as possible.
    • Blow dry your child’s hair. It has to be thoroughly dry down to the scalp to suffocate the lice. Expect this to take 3 times longer than normal drying.
    • The dried Cetaphil will smother the lice. Leave it on your child’s hair for at least 8 hours.
    • In the morning, wash off the Cetaphil with a regular shampoo.
    • To cure your child of lice, repeat this process twice in 1 and 2 weeks.
    • The cure rate can be 97%.
    • Detailed instructions can be found online: Nuvo Method for Head Lice.
See also:  Lice Home Remedies - Effective Natural Treatments That You Can Try

Photo Example

Care Advice for Head Lice

Nymph: the nit hatches into a baby louse called a nymph. It looks like an adult louse, but smaller. Nymphs mature into adults about 7 days after hatching. To live, the nymph must feed on blood.

Adult: the adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs and is tan to greyish-white. In people with dark hair, the adult louse will look darker. Female lice, which are usually larger than male lice, lay eggs. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head. To live, adult lice need to feed on blood. If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 2 days.

This shows head lice nits in the hair. Nits are the eggs of head lice which stick to the hair.

This shows an allergic reaction to the saliva of a louse (a louse is one lice). It makes the skin itchy and red.


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute — The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement — The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you — it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child’s medical problems.
  • Limitations — You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child’s doctor.
    • Your child’s doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child’s doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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