It's back to school for lice, too

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Parents do a lot of prep for the school year: new clothes, new supplies, and an arsenal of kid-approved lunch recipes pinned on Pinterest. But one thing seems to catch families off guard year after year.

“We are having a lice epidemic,” said Ruben Espinoza, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health.

Lice in kids

Lice are tiny insects that can infest the skin anywhere on the body.  affects as many as 12 million children each year and is most common in kids ages 5 to 12.

Unsurprisingly, the peak times for lice follows school breaks – August through October, and again in January. Lice spreads through close contact and sharing of items such as hats, helmets, brushes, scarves, pillows and other items that touch the head.  And, contrary to a common myth, they prefer clean hair.

“What we’re also seeing now is the spread of lice by kids putting their heads together to take selfies on their phones,” Dr. Espinoza said.

Dr. Espinoza recommends parents discourage their children from sharing the items outlined above. He said it’s also a good idea for children with longer hair to wear it pulled back into a braid or ponytail while at school or other activities with a lot of children.

“Whether you’re camping, having a slumber party or hanging out at the pool, make sure kids – and adults, too, for that matter – are using their own towels, their own pillows, their own sleeping bags,” he said.

Signs your kid may have lice

Itching is the most common sign of head lice. You can often see lice or their eggs, called nits, with the naked eye, usually on the scalp, behind the ears and even on eyebrows and eyelashes.

The good news? While highly contagious, lice have not shown to spread disease, and they are treatable.

Treatment includes eliminating lice from the infested person using an over-the-counter or prescription medication, as well as washing clothing and linens and disinfecting combs, brushes and other hair accessories.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes into much more detail on treatment.

Also read: Respiratory Synctial Virus: Facts About RSV

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