By Suzanne Monaghan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a common misconception that head lice are most prevalent during spring and fall. In fact, there is a dramatic increase in lice cases during the winter months and especially over the holidays.

During the holiday season people are together, families vacation, kids do sleepovers and the cold weather means many children play inside. All of that closeness increases head to head contact, which is how most head lice cases are transmitted.

“And then when the kids go back to school, they bring the head lice with them,” says Karen Sokoloff with Lice Doctors, “and spread it to other kids.”

But there are steps parents can take to help prevent the bugs from taking up residence in a child’s head.

“What you will see are translucent eggs that are about the size of sesame seed stuck to the hair shaft,” says Sokoloff. “And when you pull on it and slide it down the hair and put it against a white background it will look brown.”

Sokoloff encourages parents to make a habit of checking a child’s head once a week.

“It’s so rampant among school-aged children now,” she says. “I believe it’s the second leading cause of absenteeism.”

Other tips include pulling long hair into a bun or braid and wear gel and hair spray which make it harder for the bugs to stick to the hair.

And Sokoloff wants to put to rest some common myths. Lice don’t jump, they crawl. They also can’t live on pets. And it’s not something that kids with dirty hair get.

“If hair is dirty, that means that there is an oil, sheen around the hair,” she says, “and that makes it a little more difficult for a louse to adhere to the hair.”

Kids also shouldn’t share hats, scarves, brushes, hair accessories or pillows.