OSCEOLA COUNTY — Rumors abound.

The word is out.

There is a lice infestation in Osceola County schools.

But ...

It’s not quite true. Not by a long shot.

While lice do occasionally show up on the heads of kids in school districts around the county, it would be a real stretch to say the situation is “out of hand” or there is anything out of the ordinary happening in area schools.

“We have had some students we’ve sent home from school with head lice,” reported G.T. Norman principal Tonya Harrison. “But it would be quite an exaggeration to say there was “a wave of lice” sweeping through our school.

“Actually, we haven’t sent anyone home this week, and there have only been 8-10 students sent home this entire school year - on the high side.”

Not quite the plague some folks may have believed, and school districts are well organized to deal with the occasional case that does pop up.

“We occasionally have a teacher send a student to the office with a suspicion of lice,” continued Harrison.

“They may be itching a lot, or the teacher simply sees the lice or nits on their head.”

(Nits are the egg casings of lice.)

“We check the student, and if there are lice we contact the parents. The student is sent home and can’t return to school until they are nit free.

“If this student has siblings in the building, we will check them as well.”

Beyond that, Reed City schools do not have a special “Lice Day” or anything of the sort.

“We do bring up the topic in newsletters and ask people to be careful and tell their children to be careful about sharing hats, hairbrushes, and other things like that,” noted Harrison.

“We take a common sense approach to lice. We don’t get too upset by something that has happened and will happen in the future.

“Lice aren’t a real problem in our schools, but they do exist - and we deal with it.”

Oftentimes, folks think lice affect children who are less clean or more unkempt.

This simply isn’t true.

Lice actually enjoy nice clean heads more than funky, dirty noggins.

So, everyone ... EVERYONE ... can be a home to a colony of lice.

In Evart Elementary School, principal Carol Phelps also notes the suspicion that there is an inordinate “wave of lice” rolling over the area is simply incorrect.

“We don’t have a big lice problem,” said Phelps. “On any given day, I suspect we have a child with head lice at school, but that isn’t any different than any other time since I began teaching.

“We actually don’t have a special day set aside for lice checks, but if a teacher does notice a student with signs, the students is carefully checked and sent home if necessary.

“We work with the parents and try to help as best we can.

“The fact is, getting lice is not unlike catching a cold. Nobody wants a cold, but it happens.

“Nobody likes catching lice, but this too happens.

“We deal with it.”

According to the Michigan State University Extension Service, headlice are an inevitable problem.

Here are the facts.

Head Lice 

The head louse commonly infests school-aged children, but is also found on adults. The head louse is 1-2 mm in length and grayish-white with dark areas along the side of the abdomen. The nits are firmly attached to the base of hairs, especially behind the ears and on the back of the neck.

The adult lice may be found in any facial hair, but they are almost never found below the neck. Transmission of the lice is by direct contact with infested persons or by using infested articles (headgear, combs, brushes, hair rollers, scarves, and in rare instances upholstered chairs and bedding).

Lice Control 

Contrary to popular opinion, anyone can acquire lice regardless of sex, race, economic status, family background and personal habits. The control of human lice begins with two important steps: regular inspections and proper identification of the louse species involved.

Infestations may be detected by the presence of the lice themselves or by other signs. Infestations cause intense itching and subsequent scratching. The fecal pellets from head lice may be seen on the shoulders, especially if light-colored clothing is worn.

Lice may be detected by the nits attached to the hairs. However, old nits (hatched) will remain attached to hairs for a long time. Old nits are pale and papery; new nits are yellow and opaque. Also, since the hair continues to grow after the eggs hatch the old nits will tend to be higher on the hair shaft. It is important to distinguish louse nits from scalp scales and this may require a magnifying glass.

Consult a physician. Every member of the family should be treated.

Practice proper personal hygiene. Avoid using other individuals’ combs, hats, towels, or hairbrushes. Bedding and clothing should be changed and washed frequently.

Sanitation of locker rooms, and proper laundering will help reduce the incidence of lice.