Looking for Lice

By Rachel Martin

August 23, 2012 Updated Aug 23, 2012 at 5:17 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Now that school is back in session, parents are looking for lice.

It's gross...disgusting...and a fact of life—lice. Pediatrician, at Parkview Regional Medical Center, Dr. Matthew Barb, says lice are very common. In fact, he says 25 percent of kids will get lice at one point or another during the school year.

Dr. Barb says lice are one of the most common contagious conditions among children, but he doesn't consider it serious. Head lice are tiny insects that live on the scalp and in the hair. They are spread by sharing things like hats, combs and pillows.

So how can you tell if your child has lice? The most common symptom is an itchy scalp, although Dr. Barb says some might not show any symptoms at all. In that case, the only other way to tell is by inspecting the scalp and looking for small white eggs, called "nits,” or live lice in the hair.

“By the time you see lice, you've probably had it in your hair for at least 4 to 6 weeks or more,” he said. “The life cycle of each lice is 2 to 4 weeks or so by time they lay an egg and they hatch. Usually when it's treated, those nits can last for a while although they're not infectious.”

But don’t worry, Dr. Barb says lice are easy to get rid of. There are cheap, over-the-counter shampoos and gels that will kill lice and their nits. Usually it takes a couple washings before they're gone. Otherwise, he recommends not sharing hats, combs, or pillows. Be sure to wash clothes and sheets, and put things you cannot wash into a sealed plastic bag for a couple of weeks.

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