Monday 20 November 2017

This is how the Dutch get rid of head lice – and it's really simple

Mother treating daughter's hair against lice
Mother treating daughter's hair against lice
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

With 17.04 million people living in such close proximity, they've adapted an efficient system to get rid of head lice in their schools.

Every student is checked for lice on their first week back to primary school after the holidays. And the checks are carried out openly in school.

Irish mother-of-one Sinead Hewson, who is based in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband and daughter, was a "lice mother" in her daughter's primary school - a volunteer who helps to check the children's heads in school.

"The first week after a school holiday, the heads of all children are checked by volunteer parents on site, in school."

"There'll be a Whatsapp group and you'll get a text to say the lice check is on Wednesday, for example, and can all parents check their children. If you volunteer with the school, there'll be a workshop to teach you what to check for."

"If lice or nits are found, the parents are informed by the school to immediately collect the child and treat for lice. It's part of the school routine."

The name of the child who is carrying the lice is never revealed, Sinead says, which means the Dutch way is a "no fuss" approach. But crucially, there is no stigma when a child gets head lice. The infestation is simply dealt with immediately.

The Netherlands' Queen Maxima even registered there as a "lice mother" when her children were in primary school, to show that all children of every social status can get head lice.

"No names are used. All parents are written to and informed to check for lice at home. Two weeks later the class where the lice was found are checked again until there are no nits or lice found."

"Volunteer parents are given basic education on how and what to look for. Lice check guidelines and treatment options are on the parents part of the school website."

"You are also expected to check your child regularly and tell the school if you have found lice or nits separate to the school inspections," she said.

If recurring infestations are found in one family, the family will be visited by a public health nurse.

"If lice returns repeatedly, a home visit from the public health nurse is automatically arranged."

"In one class, they couldn't figure out why one infestation didn't go away. And so eventually they figured out that the children were going horseriding to the same place, and some were using the borrowed riding hats. So they had to wear [protective caps] underneath their riding hats. And eventually that got rid of it."

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