'NitBusters' target Christchurch schools
A team of "nit busters" have been employed to find and treat head lice in children's hair at 15 low-decile Christchurch schools.
National children's charity KidsCan was contracted by the Ministry of Social Development to run a $900,000 NitBuster programme in 117 schools around New Zealand in November last year.
The programme started in Christchurch this month after operating in Hawke's Bay and Wellington schools, KidsCan health programme manager health Julia Haydon-Carr said.
No other South Island schools will be offered the programme.
Most Christchurch schools will have a fixed hair salon basin installed and one NitBuster.
Treatment with a non-toxic product, Mr Nits Headlice Treatment, will be offered to any child with nits, applied at the school by a NitBuster or by a parent at home.
Haydon-Carr said she expected each NitBuster to check about 50 children a week. About half are expected to require treatment. About five families would require "extensive support", she said.
Nits could be a serious health problem if itching caused a sore which became infected but mostly it was an irritant that distracted children from learning, Haydon-Carr said.
"This [nits] was seen as a barrier to learning and so there is a serious health issue but it's also about dignity and there's quite a stigma associated with nits."
The programme aimed to reduce shame associated with nits and head lice, she said.
"Nits are no reflection of people's parenting ability or the money they have in the bank – the only thing is that parents with more money in the bank can afford treatment more readily."
A small bottle of the treatment solution retails for about $30. NitBuster Tui Herewini said it was a privilege to work for KidsCan getting nits out of children's hair.
"Over the years I've seen where the kids' confidence is really quite low because they've got a head full of nits, so they're shy and afterwards I've said, 'Come on I'll look after you, I'll get rid of them'. Then when you send them away and they've got nothing [in their hair], their confidence is way up here. I love that."
As a mother, grandmother and former parent helper, Herewini said she was experienced in finding and treating nits.
"I know what they look like and they don't freak me out. I just love them not to be there."
- The Press