Head lice outbreaks in camp settings cause substantial burden on kids, staff

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SAN FRANCISCO – New research to be presented at the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition finds that lice can be the end of a happy summer for many kids at sleepaway camp.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital tracked lice infections in more than 500 summer camps over a three-year period and followed up with a questionnaire to camp leaders. They found 30 percent of camps have a "no nit policy," which excludes campers based on the presence of lice eggs, despite evidence that no-nit policies are not effective.

Sixty percent of camp leaders said lice infections were a substantial burden on staff and the camper's family. Camps often have limited staff resources and children are away from home, making treatment more challenging. That means many kids with lice or nits are sent home for treatment. Reintegrating into the camp experience after treatment can be difficult, and children may suffer a social stigma.

According to the survey, less than 20 percent of campers with nits and live lice were able to stay at camp. Of those children who did receive treatment at camp with standard over the counter treatments, only 40 percent received a second treatment as recommended. Most camp staff do not feel well trained in recognizing or treating lice and would welcome more training on the subject, according to the survey.

"While it's no surprise that summer camps identify head lice as a significant challenge, current practices regarding lice detection, treatment, and exclusion are often outdated, unnecessarily resource intensive, and pose a greater burden on children, families, and camp staff," said lead researcher Ashley DeHudy, MD, MPH, University of Michigan Pediatrics. "At this time, we have an excellent opportunity to collaborate with summer camps in developing lice management policies and educational training materials that will efficiently and effectively treat head lice."

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Dr. DeHudy will present the abstract, "Scratching Our Heads: A Survey of Current Practices for Head Lice Detection and Management in United States Summer Camps," at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 22 in the Nob Hill AC room of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. To request a copy of the abstract or an interview with Dr. DeHudy, contact the AAP Department of Public Affairs at 948-434-7877 or University of Michigan Health System media relations officer Beata Mostafavi at (734) 764-0220 or [email protected]umich.edu. Dr. DeHudy also will be available during an informal media meet-and-greet for highlighted abstract authors on Saturday, Oct. 22, beginning at 12:15 p.m. PT in room 134, Moscone North (Press Office).

Please note: only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media, or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit http://www.aap.org

Media Contact

Laura Milani Alessio
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