LPS officials say cases of head lice remain extremely low

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The start of school means kids are back with their friends. While this may seem like a good thing, it heightens the chance for head lice. The constant hugging and potential head-to-head contact in kids is what leads to this problem.

The CDC says lice is more common among girls than boys. This is because on average, girls tend to have longer hair than boys. (Source: Kamri Sylve/KOLN)

Doctor's say some common signs to watch out for is if your child's scalp is itchy or irritated. They may even complain of things tickling their heads.

An estimated 6 million to 12 million kids in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 11 get head lice every year. The CDC says it's more common among girls than boys. This is because on average, girls tend to have longer hair than boys. For lice, this is actually the best spot for them to hide. Swapping hats, sharing hairbrushes and even letting someone borrow headphones are all ways lice can spread.

Nits, which are lice eggs, will look like tiny yellow or brown dots. They're mostly found on a child's scalp, behind the ears, or in the back of the neck. Doctors say changes in weather can also cause more cases of lice.

Family Physician Dr. Dale Michels tells 10/11, "Unless you've seen them you may not even know that you had them. But it seems to start in the fall when kids are back together in school. And then of course during the winter because they're inside all the time and it's even more close environment."

When checking for lice, a magnifying glass and a bright light can help you get a closer look in your child's scalp. Professionals say the best way to check is combing through wet hair with a fine comb. Parents should understand that lice can't fly or jump, but their claws are what allows them to crawl and cling to hair.

Lice can be treated several different ways. Medicated shampoos can be bought over the counter or even prescribed by your child's doctor. Parents should be aware that some medications contain chemicals, which could be harmful for kids. It's suggested that you always consult a professional before trying to treat your child's lice.

One Lincoln company called Healthy Heads offers an alternative type of treatment. Lice expert Faith Haase says they offer two products that are all-natural, "Most treatments rely on pesticide-based programs to do the work of the treatment versus we use something that interrupts the life cycle." Healthy Heads also suggests using the simple comb method. They say with this, it ensures lice eggs are removed, which can prevent you from seeing them again in your child's head 4 to 6 weeks later.

In Lincoln public schools, the cases of lice remain extremely low. Last year, only 0.5% of kids in the entire LPS district had lice. The LPS health coordinator tells me that's likely because they enforce education on lice.

According to the National School Nurse Association, it's recommended districts do not notify parents about cases of lice as they pop up in schools. Studies show it creates social stigmas and anxiety in kids. Instead, LPS takes preventative measures to try and avoid lice from spreading.

Dr. Dale Michels says teachers and caregivers can help in stopping the spread of lice if they are properly educated, "The basic thing is making sure that kids don't borrow each other's hats or head scarves or any of those sorts of things."

Parents are instructed to notify the school if their child has lice. When notified, LPS includes reminders of lice prevention in their newsletters. In a situation that a child does have lice, the school nurse will properly check the heads of students. The LPS health coordinator tells me making sure the lice eggs are removed is one of the most important things. She says his helps ensure the outbreak of lice on a child's head doesn't reoccur.

Having head lice is no way connected to personal hygiene. If your child does have lice, experts say you should remind them that anyone can get them.