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George Washington had lice. Nearly everyone did in Washington's time, a couple centuries ago. Young Washington advised that it's bad manners to pick lice off yourself in company, but always right to brush a louse off someone else. Robert Burns may have scratched as he wrote "To a Louse," his famous poem about seeing ourselves as others see us. Real cooties aren't so common now as in Washington's itchy era, partly thanks to better education about lice prevention, and to early detection. Teachers -- "alert to scratching" -- likely spot most of the trouble first, Swanson says, and then school nurses confirm it. The second time a child comes to class with lice, the kid is to be sent home until he is free of lice and nits completely.
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