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Kids bring all kinds of things home from summer camp: a bag full of laundry, lessons learned, great memories.

Unfortunately, sometimes they bring home an unwanted souvenir: head lice.

Just the thought of the little critters makes my head itch, but according to Maureen Rable, director of Pediatric Hair Solutions, a head lice removal service in Greenville, lice are a common problem, and parents need to be aware of the symptoms of infestation.

“One in four children are reported to have head lice at some point,” Rable said. “Many parents don’t report due to social stigma, so the number may be closer to two out of four.”

It is a growing concern. Rable said she has seen “a huge increase” in the number of customers she has treated this year.

“In January of 2015, we treated 23 people,” she said. “In January of 2016, we treated 76.”

While there is no specific season for head lice, Rable said she sees more cases during the summer after children have attended camps and sleepovers, at the beginning of a new school year, and any time a popular new movie hits theaters.

“Movie theaters are the second biggest place people pick up head lice,” she said.

Rable recommends that parents regularly check their children’s heads for lice.

According to the Pediatric Hair Solutions website, some common symptoms of lice are scalp itching, the sensation of something moving in the hair, sores on the scalp and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Rable cautions parents against relying only on an itchy scalp to diagnose lice.

“Only about 40 percent of people with lice will itch,” she said. “Itching is caused by an allergic reaction.”

She recommends parents look at pictures of a louse’s life cycle to help with identification. Lice are small, but not microscopic. Adult lice are difficult to see, but each adult louse lays around 200 eggs, so the eggs — or nits — are plentiful and a little easier to spot. They are yellow to white ovals located within 6 millimeters of the scalp. They are very small, about the size of a knot in thread. Unlike dandruff, they attach very firmly to hair.

“You can’t just brush them out, you have to use your thumb and forefinger to remove them,” Rable said.

Fortunately, head lice are not a health hazard.

“They are a headache,” Rable said. “But they are not life-threatening.”

In the past, parents were on their own to get rid of the bugs, using over-the-counter or prescription shampoos.

“These shampoos are becoming less and less effective as the lice develop resistance to them,” Rable said. “Clients will sometimes come in after using drugstore pesticides, but still have live bugs in their hair.”

Pediatric Hair Solutions offers two options for treatment. One option is at-home, all-natural treatment package that includes pre-treatment and post-treatment head checks and all of the tools needed to get rid of lice at home. The second option is in-salon removal.

The at-home treatment uses two different solutions and relies heavily on a parent using a special nit removal comb to get rid of all of the lice and their eggs. The in-salon option is more expensive, but less time consuming for parents. It is a 30 minute treatment using an FDA approved heat treatment to dehydrate and kill live lice and their eggs, Rable said. The treatment is followed by a comb-out to remove casings — the leftover hatched eggs — and a post-treatment shampoo used at home to prevent recurrence.

While parents may not be able to prevent head lice in their children, there are some things that can lessen the chances of an infestation. Rable recommends girls wear their hair in buns or braids, and cautioned against head-to-head contact.

“Selfies have increased our business quite a bit,” she said.

She also suggested using a repellent spray on movie theater seats and a preventative lice treatment spray in children’s hair when there is a known outbreak at school.

Visit www.pediatrichairsolutions.com.

Find things to do with kids at www.upstateparent.com

Upstate moms and dads: Looking for things to do with kids in Greenville or Spartanburg? You’ll find lots of ideas at www.upstateparent.com.

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