Department of Health

Head lice in schools and childcare centres

Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009

Pediculosis is not a notifiable condition and head lice do not transmit any infectious diseases. Head lice are transmitted by having head to head contact with someone who has head lice: this happens frequently in families, schools and childcare centres.

The Minimum Period of Exclusion from Primary Schools and Children's Services Centres for Infectious Diseases Cases and Contacts, regulated by the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009, protects public health by preventing, or containing outbreaks of infectious conditions common in schools/children's service centres.

The exclusion criteria for various diseases are based on the public health risk: the consequences of contracting a particular condition or disease and the way it is transmitted or passed from person to person. As an example, the risk from measles is quite different to the risk from head lice.

While head lice do not spread disease they are included on the school exclusion table. The exclusion criteria for head lice should be interpreted as:At the end of the school day, provide the child with a note to take home to tell their parents that they have head lice. Children may return to school after treatment has commenced.

There is no requirement in the Regulations for a clearance certificate to be issued either by a general practitioner or a municipal council. The exact wording of these regulations is can be found in the regulations: Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009External Link .

School head lice programs

In the previous regulations there was a specific regulation allowing particular municipal council employed staff, to conduct head lice inspections without parental consent. There was, however, no requirement for councils to provide this service. This power was not extended to school staff or community nurses.

Encouraging parents to frequently check their children for head lice using inexpensive white hair conditioner on dry hair will help control head lice in your community. Dry hair examinations alone are of little benefit in the control of head lice.

However, if your school or childcare centre wants to have an inspection program various options are available including:

  • Parent managed head lice programs are working successfully in many schools. Guidelines for running a parent or school run program are available on the Resources page.
  • Some local council offer head lice inspection programs; these may operate on a fee for service basis - check with your local council.

Some schools and councils have raised the issue of obtaining consent from parents for head lice inspections. There is no statutory requirement under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 or Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 (available on the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website) to obtain consent for head lice inspections, however the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development have advised schools that parental consent is required.

Reviewed 10 October 2023


Contact details

Do not email patient notifications.

Communicable Disease Section Department of Health GPO Box 4057, Melbourne, VIC 3000

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