Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Outbreak of Cooties: Why are peanuts and scents banned in schools but not lousy students?

When we were kids, we used to worry about getting 'cooties' from the girls in our class, and they were probably just as worried about getting them from us. You had to watch who you hang out with, or you could get them. What's worse, once you've got them, you can spread them.

But then somewhere along the line, cooties stopped being the elementary school equivalent of an STD or leprosy and started to become something even more sinister. Go on, say it with me, just for the tingle it sends over your scalp. Head lice.

I remember being screened for head lice in elementary school. I remember an outbreak or two. I remember boiling our combs and having to wash with the horrible medicated shampoo. The important thing was knowing who actually had head lice, so that the outbreak could be contained and eliminated.

Turns out they don't do that anymore. A woman in Newfoundland has decided to keep her daughter home from school rather than send her back to the school that's seen its third outbreak of head lice this year. She says that if health officials would reinstate school checks for lice, she's send her back tomorrow. The health officials argue that it's not effective to do mass screenings, and that they prefer to educate parents on how to identify and treat lice at home.

Pardon me while I rant. WTF is the world coming to? If I sent my kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich, I'd be treated like a terrorist. Don't you know that some children are allergic to peanuts, and even having them in the same province could kill them? If a teenager goes to school wearing too much AXE body spray, they can be suspended for violating no-scent rules. Yet if a kid comes to school infested with lice, spreading discomfort to classmates and inconvenience to their parents, what are we going to do as a society?

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be accommodating towards other people's sensitivities. Even so, there's a part of me that longs for the good old days when kids could have whatever damn sandwich they wanted, and teenagers had a choice between being laughed at for smelling like too much cheap cologne or being shunned for smelling like BO.

Come on! While peanut and fragrance allergies are a real thing, they do get blown out of proportion, and people get hysterical. Fact is, in the real world, some kids need to learn to respect other people's individual rights, and others need to learn to cope with their own sensitivities, or get into a big plastic bubble.

But if we're going to get so extreme about foods and scents, why not get similarly extreme about little critters running through your hair that spread like wildfire through a school? That's just disgusting.

[Now I've got to go scratch my head. Just thinking about it makes my scalp itch!]


  1. The Google ad on this post is "Find pictures head lice eggs".

  2. You don't even want to *know* some of the Google ads I've had come up! 8O

  3. maggie.danhakl@healthline.comJune 7, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Hello Jonathan,

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    Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
    660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
    www.healthline.com | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

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