VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - A national expert is weighing in on the new lice procedure for Vigo County Schools.
Earlier this month, parents were told about a new change that would allow students with live lice or nits to remain in class. The new procedure raised concerns from parents who were worried about the risks their child may be subjected to.
"People think well it worked for me when I was in school, so it's got to work for my kids and I don't want to be at risk," said Dr. Marc Lame, "What I'm trying to say is that you're not at risk, and your kids are not at risk and this is the right thing to do."
Dr. Marc Lame is a clinical professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
He's also an entomologist of 40 years with work spanning across the country, including the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Lame travels to different schools nationwide implementing pest management programs. He says schools are continuing to ditch the "No Nit" policy.
"The no nit policies basically have been going away for about 15 years," he said, "A lot of schools have completely done away with it, but there are a lot of schools that have hung on to it."
With Vigo County being one of the most recent to ditch the policy, Lame says the school corporation is making the right decision.
"The no nit policies don't work and they can be harmful," he said, "and it's based on science that we know about now that we didn't know about when those parents were going through school and those teachers were going through school."
"Another thing that's really important is that research has shown that almost all the lice in Indiana that they've tested are resistant to pesticides," he added, "So putting the pesticides on their heads is not necessarily going to kill the lice, but it can again be harmful to the children."
Lame said another problem with the no nit policies is that that they can often lead to misdiagnosis of lice or nits.
"If you're sending a child home because they have a white egg of a louse on their hair, that does not mean that they have lice," said Lame, "So you're sending them home for no reason."
"These little white eggs that are basically cemented to the hair, when they're white that means they're empty," Lame added, "So they're not viable. If they're more than a quarter inch from the scalp, they're also not viable."
Lame said in elementary schools, an average of one percent of children will have lice.
"Where children normally get lice is not from schools," said Lame, "They get it from sleepovers and other activities. One of the things these days is what do kids do when they take selfies? They put their heads together. Actually, medical entomologists, like me, are seeing more head lice because of that."
We told Lame about the concerns some parents have about the new procedure in Vigo County. He said he understands that the change may take some time to get used to, but it's important parents educate themselves and work together with the school corporation to execute the strong management plan in place.
"It's Integrated Pest Management, IPM, is how we manage pests whether they're lice, roaches or mice," said Lame, "and first the backbone of that is monitoring. So what we do want to do is parents need to do a lice check on their children's heads and see how they're doing."
"Like any pests, whether it's roaches, bedbugs or lice, the key to good management is early detection and early intervention," he said, "and so if parents do that monitoring that's the really good thing, and to understand that these are just bugs. They are typically squashed."
Lame said most lice are killed when people comb or brush their hair. Other ways to get rid of lice, Lame says, are by physically removing them, using certain gels to suffocate them, special shampoos with enzymes, lice combs and blowdryers with heat.
"There are pesticides that do work very well," he added, "but these are newer pesticides that are alcohol based, alcohol based gels, they're prescription only right now. There's no resistance to those pesticides and they are safer, much safer, than what is over the counter."
Combined with treatment, Lame also recommends good sanitation methods at home such as vacuuming and cleaning as louce can come off of the body ocassionally and live for 48 hours.
"Knowing about lice is number one, education is the foundation to good pest management," he said, "and then monitoring is that backbone and then these alternative uses."