When Lice Comes to Church

When Lice Comes to Church

Are you looking for a head lice letter to parents?

Imagine this. It’s Monday morning. You come into the office still excited about how yesterday went—all the volunteers showed up on time, kids were well-behaved and fully engaged, programming had no glitches whatsoever and you had several new families visit your church. As you drink your morning coffee and connect with the co-workers, your phone rings. It’s one of the parents letting you know that their child, who was in church yesterday, has lice. You get off the phone and wish you could hit the reset button…

Unfortunately children’s ministry and lice are almost inseparable. In the last five years I had to deal with this issue twice.

It’s not a question of IF, but WHEN lice will attack a child in your church.

That’s why I have put together a game plan that will give you all the information and tools to tackle the problem calmly, quickly and professionally WHEN it happens to you.


First of all, the term lice is simply the plural of louse. A louse is an arachnid, a very tiny creature related to spiders and ticks. Like ticks, they feed on blood and reproduce rapidly. Unlike ticks, they do not burrow into the skin of their host, but live in the hair, descending the hair shaft for a blood meal

Lice are usually passed on from person to person in close proximity. They will crawl from the hair of their host to another person’s hair, or from an infested comb or brush. In rare cases, they can also be picked up from infected clothing, blankets, toys and carpet. It is extremely easy to pick up lice from others, who may not even realize they are infected.

The most noticeable symptom to the host is the itch, caused by the little insects feeding on the scalp. The adults, which are white, can be seen moving around in the hair, usually near the scalp. This is why they can go unnoticed by parents or volunteers looking after infected children. Unless the hair moves enough to expose the lice, or one comes to the surface, they are hidden by the hair. Furthermore, the nits (eggs) are almost clear, very, very sticky, and attached to the hair shaft, usually very near the scalp. They are very hard to spot unless they are being closely looked for by someone who knows what to look for.

A very common misconception about lice is that a child who has lice is dirty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lice just aren’t picky when it comes to hair and will infect any hair, equally, regardless of whether it is clean or dirty, long or short. However, head lice are more common in long hair, which is why infestations are two to four times more common in girls than in boys.

The good news about lice is, if there is any good news about them, that they have not been shown to spread disease.

Lice spread best through head to head contact, so it should be no surprise that they are more common in young children who often play together closely on the floor. Unlike some of the myths claim, they do not jump, nor do they fly.

As mentioned above, head lice can be spread from infected textiles such as clothing and toys, but they can’t survive for very long off the head. This means the first line of treatment needs to focus on the infested hair.

Head lice don’t always cause itching. Many children don’t even realize they have lice until someone else gets them and a call goes out to “Check your children.”

Children do not get lice from pets. People cannot share lice with pets, nor vice versa.

No matter what you might read on a friend’s blog, lice are not simple to get rid of. Also, they do not develop resistance to head lice products. If someone tells you a certain product is no longer effective, it is likely that they did not follow the age approved methods for getting rid of lice. It takes specific steps which we will examine further, below.

Unfortunately, many people still associate lice with someone else’s dirty children. Parents are often mortified when they discover lice in their child’s hair, and immediately want to come up with a million excuses about how it could possibly happen to their child. I’ve heard of a situation where a child was shunned because she had lice. Other parents told their children to avoid the girl, because she was dirty and had bugs in her hair. Those children told other children and, of course, embellished a bit as children are prone to do. The poor girl couldn’t understand why her friends had suddenly turned against her. That is why it is absolutely necessary to protect the identity of the infected child. By protecting and not giving away their name you really protect their self-worth.