Itchy head? Just reading those words sends my scalp into a scratching frenzy, and chances are if you live in Paris you’ve seen this announcement posted on a bulletin board outside one of the city’s schools. French, international, private, and public, nearly every school in Paris faces yearly head lice infestations. Head lice are so common in the Île-de-France they even secured a spot in a recent promotion for French news source RTL. Their prevalence has made them movie stars!
In the U.S., most schools have a policy of regularly checking elementary school children for lice and barring students with any evidence of lice from attending school (the so-called no nit policy). In Paris, the administrators take a laissez faire approach toward the pesky louse. It may be that they believe that head lice are simply an unfortunate (and itchy!) right of passage for students or because they don’t have the political will to create strict rules. Whatever the reason may be, head lice take advantage of this lack of oversight and happily jump from one child to the next.
Without established procedures to reduce instances of head lice, prevention, detection, and treatment is left to parents. For many this means playing hairdresser and doing more loads of laundry than they’d like to count. Forget the “nit nurse,” it’s all parents when it comes to lice in the City of Light.
What to do if one of those buggers makes home sweet home on your child’s head?
- Educate yourself in head lice 101. A little lice know how can prevent multiple and prolonged infestations, and the Internet makes becoming a lice expert easier than ever! For clear, concise, and scientifically vetted information, we recommend the CDC’s page on prevention and treatment.
- Inform yourself on what’s happening in your child’s classroom. Are younger children sharing mats for naps? Are hats being shared for dress up or theater? It may take guts to suggest to your teacher that Johnny sleep on his own mat (one you provide) but consider the alternative of repeated infestations.
- As embarrassing as it may be, share the news of the infestation with the parents of your children’s friends. As always when dealing with the French, you will get best results when you accept responsibility before you seek allies. So ‘fess up. Your kid has lice. You just want to be sure others know so they don’t get infected. If you don’t want your child reinfected, make sure their friends are lice free before you send them on a play date or sleepover.
- Invest in a really good lice comb, a strong pair of glasses, and a nontoxic treatment lotion. Your neighborhood pharmacist can recommend the products you need to deal with an infestation.