Should kids with head lice stay in school?

PLANO, Texas - Many parents are concerned about new guidelines about head lice. Experts now say kids who have lice shouldn't be kept home from school.

The updated guidelines were issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics this week. The group says kids who get head lice should not be barred from class because lice are "not a health hazard," even though the doctors acknowledge the problem causes a high level of anxiety among parents of school-aged children.

CBS DFW spoke with Texas mom Tracy Wineberg, who knows what a headache head lice can be. "It's a pain to have to pick their hair through to get all the eggs and everything out of it," she said.

Wineberg's 7-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, caught lice from a classmate last year. It took more than two weeks for the little girl to recover. That's why it's hard for Tracy Wineberg to believe that anyone would suggest keeping kids in school who have it. "I think that's kind of ridiculous," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that "head lice is a nuisance, not a serious disease or a sign of poor hygiene." And in a report published this week in the journal Pediatrics, doctors note that "head lice have low contagion within classrooms."

Susan Hoff oversees health and safety policies for five United Way-funded childcare centers. She says missing class time can be more serious than lice, but doesn't agree with the recommendation. "As a parent I feel like if my child or there were children in the classroom that had lice, I would want them to go home."

The pediatricians' report suggests that parents simply use over-the-counter anti-lice shampoos and then send their kids back to school.

But some parents like Wineberg say it's not that simple. "Within another week she had it again, so we had to do prescription shampoo."

Ashlyn is now lice-free. But just the thought of sending her to school with kids who knowingly have it makes parents like her mother scratch their heads.