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Lice: What to Know, What to Do

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Bugs in your kids' hair -- something no parent wants to find.

Now central Texas pediatricians want to wash away some of the misconceptions about lice.

First and foremost anyone can get lice. It doesn't come from bad hygiene, just kids being kids. Plus lice don't fly or jump, so you can only get them through contact.

Barbara Sparks knows that all too well. She has two kids, and, fortunately, only one story about lice.

"She's got a wonderful, full, thick head of hair, curls," she said of her daughter, "and at dance, they decided they were going to let the kids share tiaras."

The bugs spread through the class.

It was a while ago now, but Barbara still hasn't shaken the lessons she learned.

"We don't share hats, we don't do any of that anymore," she said with a laugh, "'cause we don't want to have to deal with it."

But a lot of dealing with it is dealing with the stigma: Lice don't spread any kind of disease.

"It's embarrassing," said Mindy Wooden, school nurse at Southwest Elementary in Belton, "and we don't want them to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed."

That's why Belton schools have stopped doing class-wide screenings. Other districts in our area have done the same.

Instead, teachers watch out for individual itchy heads.

One private school teacher in Belton noticed a student with lice over the summer.

"And he was sent home, shampooed, brought back the next day, five days later, still had it," said Linda Welty.

Doctors say that's not a problem. Kids don't have to miss school if parents know about and are working to kill the problem.

The best way to do that? Shampoos with weak insecticides.

Some parents do get a little nervous about using products with chemicals they can't even pronounce, and for those, there are a couple more natural alternatives. Mayonnaise and olive oil, for instance, will do the trick.

"And you very carefully and methodically comb their hair out with a fine-tooth comb, preferably a metal fine-tooth comb," said Dr. Stephen Ponder, a pediatrician.

Then tell your kids not to share brushes, hats, hoodies, etc.

"I don't want kids to be super paranoid," Barbara Sparks said, "but that's just something you don't want your kids to have to go through."

With 6 million to 12 million kids going through it every year, it's worth it to bug them about not sharing the things that lice call home.

It's up to individual schools and districts how they deal with lice.

If they find enough of them, they'll usually send a note home to all parents to be on the lookout.

So far this year, Belton ISD hasn't had any problems.

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