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“There’s going to be closer contact [with other people] at home than at school,” he said, adding that preschools and day care centers also can be more problematic than the average elementary school.

Whether the infestation originated at home or at school, Dr. Cohen said, worrisome parents should rely on the wisdom and judgment of school nurses and pediatricians who are well-acquainted with lice and how to deal with infestation. A simple call to the nurse or visit to the doctor’s office often can dispel misconceptions and put a mother’s mind at ease.

“People fail to recognize that there are no serious infections transmitted by head lice,” he said.

Another myth is that an infested child is dirty and parents need to keep closer tabs on their child’s hygiene. But cleanliness - or the lack thereof - does not correlate with lice cases, according to the CDC. Lice, scientists say, are more attracted to clean scalps.

Since they’re also spread from child to child, parents perhaps can find a silver lining in an infestation.

“It’s just a sign that your kids are clean and they have friends,” Ms. Wallin said.