NORTHEAST INDIANA (21Alive) --- Staying on the lookout for a public health nuisance.
The start of the school year is like an alarm bell to be on guard for head lice.
No known outbreaks have popped up on the radar for this area yet, but infestations can surface in a hurry, and it's a huge annoyance when they do.
Officials with the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health say the good news is head lice are rarely a serious problem.
However, if they show up on your kid, you've got to deal with it, because lice get worse as they breed.
If you are checking for the presence of lice, an adult is tiny, but large enough to be recognized with the naked eye.
Using a fine-tooth comb, rather than a brush, is a better form of detection.
Lice are an aggravation, but local nurse Steven Williams says too often, they are a source of embarrassment.
" There's just no need to do that. It's the most common infestation among children 3 to 11 years of age. We see 6 to 12,000 cases in the state alone every year, and it's something that we're going to run into and you're going to see it," Williams said.
Contrary to popular belief, lice don't hop, jump or fly from one child to the next.
You have to have direct contact from an infected hair strand to the hair strand of another child that's not infected.
The key is early diagnosis by a doctor, and then strict adherence to a prescribed treatment plan.
Just like with antibiotics, if you dilute the recommended dosage of over the counter medications used in the treatment process, or don't take the meds as long as you should, some of the lice can survive, and then become more resistant to medical intervention.
Officials say despite the stigma attached to head lice, you should alert the families of other children you know if your child comes down with head lice, which can slow the spread of any outbreak.
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