“Lice is as common as the common cold and is fairly prevalent in our schools right now” said Nancy Gordon. She’s a nit-picker who owns Lice Knowing, Inc. a lice-removal business on Mercer Island. And business is booming.
Lice are parasites that live on the head and nits are the eggs they lay in the hair shaft.
Both are spread mostly from head-to-head contact, which Gordon said is very common in schools.
It's estimated one in four elementary students will get lice at some time in their school years, but most schools won't send kids home if they have lice.
In 2010 the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with new guidelines and told schools to abandon no-nit policies.
They said lice isn't harmful and is not a good enough reason for kids to miss class.
It’s a recommendation some parent's don't agree with.
“I freaked out,” said Ferrell Hogenauer. Her daughter, Madeline came home from kindergarten with lice in 2010.
“I came home and I got carpets cleaned, bagged all my daughter’s stuffed animals for weeks -- I was very stressed out about it.
Her daughter's school in the Northshore District doesn't have a no-nit policy and like many public schools, does not do frequent head-lice checks.
“I asked them to send a note home and they didn't,” Hogenauer said. “It took them two weeks to send a note home to say someone in the class had lice.”
Back at the salon Gordon admits that a no-nits policy at school would be bad for business, even though it’s welcome news for parents.
“I've worked really hard to get rid of my child's head lice. I don’t want re-exposure, I want to feel comfortable that I can send my child to school and they won't get it where they're taking a really lax approach to it,” she said.
In the Seattle school district kids are not sent home if lice is detected, but the parents are told to treat the problem. Lake Washington schools have a no-live lice policy, but if nits are found, kids do stay at school.
There’s little you can do to prevent getting lice, but experts recommend frequent weekly checks if you have kids.
Lice cannot live if they're not on your head and die within 24-48 hours after falling off.
Forty percent of people who get lice don't have any itch symptoms.