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Bring back the nit nurse
Let’s bring back the nit nurse AH, autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness... and nits.
Children’s hair will be crawling with head lice over the next few weeks because the autumn return to school heralds a boom in infestations. It’s a bad year already, infestations up 15% thanks to early summer’s wet weather and the arrival of thousands of foreign visitors for the Olympics and Paralympics, resulting in one in 10 children sporting this living headgear.
Even more worrying, head lice are becoming resistant to over-the-counter medications, and the seriousness of the situation is reflected in the fact that parents take off 2.78 million days a year from work and children miss 2.73 million schooldays dealing with the problem.
The problem has escalated since the late 1990s, when the responsibility of detecting headlice shifted from “Nitty Nora the Head Explorer”, as the now-defunct nit nurses used to be called, to parents. Parents often aren’t as vigilant as they should be and they’re not experts at spotting them – at least 53% of people don’t realise they have nits until thousands of lice are crawling through their hair.
The irony is that nit nurses were withdrawn to avoid subjecting pupils to “embarrassing and humiliating” head examinations. But I would have thought it’s far more “embarrassing and humiliating” for a child to have hair that is literally moving with the number of lice living in it, as I’ve seen on at least one child so far this term.
My solution would be to reinstate nit nurses. But this isn’t likely to happen any time soon.
“Primary schools in Brighton and Hove follow national guidelines upholding respect and privacy for the individual child and their family, which touches on a wide variety of personal health issues, including a case of head lice,” Brighton and Hove City Council tells me. And schools “would generally send a letter to all parents of children in the affected class advising a course of treatment”. “Advise” being the operative word, rather than enforce. Well, on our heads be it – along with thousands more.
What's your solution to the nit crisis? Let me know at email@example.com