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Looking for Lice: Why it may be creeping into your child's school

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, October 1, 2010

COLUMBIA CTY, Ga. --- It's a problem no one wants to talk about: head lice.

But odds are, the tiny critters are creeping into your child's school, and experts say grades elementary school is one of the most common places to get them.

"We never even thought of it before, because we never had to deal with it," says Todd James.

But that all changed a year ago, when he discovered his nine-year-old daughter had head lice.

"She's itching her head and my mom said, let me check her hair," James remembers. "She checked it, and she had it."

James says after treatment, the lice were gone. But just last week, they were back. He believes she's getting it at school in her fourth grade class.

"You know, little girls, they hug each other all the time, and that's all it takes is just a hug. One gets on her head and then it all starts from there."

"I was embarrassed," James adds. "You know, I didn't want to tell anybody."

Experts say that stigma makes lice all the more difficult to treat.

"Lice don't discriminate," says head lice specialist Jennie Nerud. "Anyone and everyone can get lice. But it doesn't mean they're dirty."

Nerud studies and treats lice across Georgia. She says elementary schools see the most cases, because students come in such close contact with one another.

"It's very, very common," Nerud says. "Lice is actually second to the common cold in children elementary age and younger."

Recently, the American Association of Pediatricians said too many children are missing school because of lice. So they recommended that students with nits, or eggs, should still be allowed to go to class, as long as there are no live bugs in the hair.

Some school districts agree with the findings, however Richmond and Aiken counties do not.

"Children could be sent back to class and some of their nits could start to hatch," Nerud says.

But, she adds, contracting lice is common for elementary school children, and there's no need for parents to panic.

And Todd has a message for other parents:

"Don't be embarrassed. I was embarrassed at first, but the reality is being embarrassed won't fix the problem."

Experts say if treated properly, lice can be completely gone within a day.

The next step is to disinfect the areas of contact. Vacuum all places where your child's head has been, and put bedding in the dryer on high heat. All combs and brushes should go in a plastic bag and in the freezer for at least 48 hours.

For more information on lice treatment, please click the links below.