By Nancy Gottesman

Head lice aren’t an infectious disease, but they are one of the most common childhood complaints. Although the Centers for Disease Control has no reliable data quantifying the number of people who get head lice annually, experts do know that children ages 3 to 11—and their families—are infested most often (girls more so than boys).

High in the “eeew” factor, head lice can affect anyone—regardless of socioeconomics or hygiene practices. Specially formulated over-the counter shampoos usually get rid of lice. If not, your pediatrician can prescribe a more potent shampoo. But your best bet is to avoid getting the little buggers in the first place by taking these precautions:

» Teach your child to avoid head-to-head contact.

» Do not share combs, brushes, hats, scarves, hair bands or bike helmets with anyone, whether they have lice or not.

» Do not allow your child to use linens or towels or lie on rugs recently used by someone with lice.

» If any family member has had contact with someone who has had lice, examine their scalps. If you find lice or nits (eggs) on the scalp, apply over-the-counter lice shampoo and follow the label instructions. You’ll also need to wash the clothing and linens used by this family member in the two-day period before treatment started.

Learn how to protect your tot from this “Eeew!” ailment.

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