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SALT LAKE CITY — They’re creepy, they’re crawly, and nobody likes to talk about them. Some doctors say cases of lice in Utah and nationwide are on the rise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are between 6 and 12 million new cases of lice in the United States every year.
Lice Clinics of America started tracking the numbers in January 2018. They say in the past year the Salt Lake area is up 20 percent, while states like Washington and Louisiana have seen an increase of over 80 percent.
The health department doesn’t track cases of lice because they say it’s not a public health hazard.
Dr. Krista Lauer with Lice Clinics of America says lice is extremely common.
“It’s one of those things that people don’t talk about because there’s a lot of stigma,” said Lauer. “They’re embarrassed.”
There are also a lot of myths about how people get lice, but doctors say they don’t jump and they don’t fly.
You only get lice through direct head to head contact with somebody who’s infected.
Doctors say the most common age group to get lice are kids ages 3 to 11 because they play so closely together.
They recommend parents do a head check on their kids once a week. But you’re not looking for adult lice; you’re looking for babies.
“They lay eggs and they cement them to a hair shaft. So when you’re going through your child’s scalp you should be looking for something that looks like a grain of sand that’s stuck firmly to a hair shaft and it won’t slide along the hair,” said Lauer.
Doctors also say an itchy scalp is a sign of lice, but only about half of people show that symptom. That’s why a head check is so important.
They say lice has nothing to do with personal hygiene or the cleanliness of your home or your school. It only spreads given the opportunity.
Lauer says lice have developed a resistance to traditional methods of treatment.
There’s a new option developed by a professor at the University of Utah: Lice Clinics of America use precision controlled heated air to dehydrate the bugs.
So far there are two clinics in Utah, but nationwide, there are hundreds. Another option for parents to consider when ridding their kids of lice.