If a school nurse says your kid has head lice, they're probably wrong — and if you got the news from a doctor, be even more suspicious. Head scratching and white dots in the hair are usually not lice — but they're mistaken for lice more often than you'd think.
Photo by Gilles St. Martin.
When a lab asked teachers, parents, and school nurses to send in samples of lice or nits, only 32% were evidence of an infestation. (Doctors did worse, with only a 10% success rate.) The rest were dandruff or dirt mistaken for nits, or random insects that kids had picked up in the backyard — gross, perhaps, but nothing a quick shower won't fix.
That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
Never initiate treatment unless there is a clear diagnosis with living lice.
There's no need to send kids home from school or cover their heads with pesticides unless you're sure there's a population of lice having a party on your kid's head. Over at Slate, Melinda Wenner-Moyer explains how believing a casual lice diagnosis is just the first of a series of mistakes parents and school staff often make; check out the full article for more.
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