HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — School-aged children are the most susceptible group to head lice, a parasite that attaches to hair and feeds on human blood. 

Lice spread from head-to-head contact, so students that spend all day together in close quarters are at risk.

A tell tale sign of lice is itching of the scalp, neck or shoulders, but the absence of itching does not mean the absence of lice.

“Not everybody itches when they have lice,” Catherine Collins, owner of Coastal Lice Center, said. “So, if you don’t itch, you may not know you have it.”

She said that even if a student is not showing signs of lice, it is still important to stay on top of it. She recommends getting a good lice comb and combing through hair once a week.

There are also some tricks to help prevent lice. 

“Best way to prevent lice going back to school is for girls to wear their hair up. Bun or braid is the best,” Collins said. “We recommend prevention spray of peppermint. Lice don’t like the smell of peppermint.”

If a child does get lice, they have to be individually picked out of the hair. Collins said it is tedious but necessary work. 

“Before I started this business, my children had lice, and I know how time-consuming and frustrating it is to do,” Collins said. “It’s really the manual labor of the combing through really well, and going through strand by strand getting all the lice out ”

She said the worst part is that even after hours of searching, some lice and eggs may get left behind. 

“The hard part is getting rid of all the eggs,” Collins said. “Because if you don’t, they will just rehatch.”

She said if even one egg is missed, the infestation will start again. 

The good news is that lice only live on humans, so parents don’t have to worry about the parasite infecting their homes. 

“Once they come off your head, they die within 24 hours, so they’re not living in your home.” Collins said. “Obviously, if you have lice and get treated, you need to do the basics, but you don’t have to do crazy cleaning [of your home].”

Collins advises against using old wives’ tales like mayonnaise and vinegar to cure lice.

“Oh, no, please don’t put mayonnaise. We’ve seen quite a few people that have done that in the past, but that is not a good way,” Collins said. “If you wanna do something at home, we would say olive oil. That can help to suffocate the lies, but it doesn’t do anything to the eggs.”

Horry County Schools’ website states that if a student gets lice, the district will excuse their absence for two days while they get the lice removed. Once the student is ready to return, the school nurse will screen them before they are allowed back into the classroom.

Coastal Lice Center is offering free head lice checks this week leading up to the first day of school, so parents can ensure their students are heading into the school year lice-free.