Can You Get Lice from Camping?

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Lice is a frustrating, infesting parasite that needs hair follicles to survive. These parasites spread their eggs from one human to another, making them difficult to stop. Since campers often gather in close groups, it’s understandable that you might be worried about lice and other parasites spreading during your next vacation.

You can get lice from camping because lice spread through human contact. While they can’t hop or fly, lice can crawl on hands, heads, arms, legs, and anywhere else with hair. Scrub permethrin lotion and warm water on the area, then wash your camping clothes on a hot cycle to eliminate the lice.

In this post, we’ll discuss whether or not camping is safe against lice, how you can prevent outbreaks and protect yourself, and why you shouldn’t go camping if you or anyone in your family has lice.

Can Campers Contract Lice?

Campers can contract lice because of their close proximity to other people. Children’s summer camps are especially susceptible to lice outbreaks because there are tens to hundreds of kids and teens sleeping and playing in close quarters. Check your child’s head before and after the trip to ensure they don’t have lice.

Here’s a list of ways you can get lice while camping:

  • If you share the same sleeping area (tents, bunk beds, motorhomes, etc.) with other people, you might have a chance to contract lice. While it’s unlikely that the average person has lice, ACA Camps estimate that up to 12 million children between 3 to 11 get lice every year, so it’s worth keeping a safe distance.
  • Physical activities can result in lice infestations. These instances could range from tackle football to face painting. Lice need physical contact to spread. Any situation in which you touch someone else or they touch you is a potential lice spreader. The risk grows exponentially if you come in contact with someone’s head hair.
  • Relaxing or hanging out in a public lounge area could spread lice. Many campgrounds offer community pools, barbecues, and indoor seating. Sharing a seat with a stranger could bring lice into the equation, but Healthline shows lice can live in fabric for up to a whole day.

As you can see, campers aren’t immune to lice. They can get it just as easily as anywhere else that’s shared with strangers and potential hosts. Lice need humans to spread and thrive, so you can’t get it if you don’t interact with other campers or touch the same surfaces they touch.

That being said, there’s a lot you can do to prevent the spread. Let’s review a handful of suggestions below.

How to Prevent Lice from Camping

To prevent lice from camping, follow these instructions:

  1. Wash your hair thoroughly before heading out on a camping trip . Whether or not you have lice, it’s a good idea to go through a nice deep clean on your hair. Lice dislike a lot of ingredients in natural shampoo, including peppermint, tea tree oil, and similar organic additives.
  2. Check if the campground (or summer camp) inspects people’s hair if you’re going to a seasonal event where living quarters are shared. While it’s extremely rare for a regular campground to have lice inspections, summer camps or places with shared bedding should have these requirements.
  3. Wash your hands and hair throughout the trip with warm water and tea tree oil or peppermint to repel lice. As mentioned above, lice will stay away from these scents and ingredients because they can cause harm. Bring some hand sanitizer along for the trip to keep your hands clean if there’s no running water.
  4. Clean your bedding and clothing after the trip to protect yourself from potential lice outbreaks. The Center for Lice Control claims it can take almost three weeks for lice to show, so you can’t expect to notice it right after your camping trip. It’s always best to wash everything you brought on the trip instead of waiting for the infestation.
  5. Have a medical professional inspect your scalp if it feels itchy or has signs of lice (white specks, bugs, redness, itchiness, and sudden hair loss). Lice take a while to lay eggs and spread. Once you feel the uncomfortable sensation, you can use a mirror and a comb to spread your hair and check your scalp.
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Permethrin lotion is one of the most effective treatments for lice. Try the Lice Clinics of America Treatment Kit to cure the infestation. It comes with a comb and application tool to spread the lotion and remove the lice as quickly as possible. This is an excellent kit to have in case of a lice outbreak from campgrounds, hotels, and other vacation spots.

Can You Go Camping if You Have Lice?

You can’t go camping if you have lice because you’ll risk giving them to other campers. Furthermore, lice should be treated as soon as possible to prevent them from spreading to other parts of your body or getting skin infections. Going on a camping trip would give the lice more time to lay eggs in your hair, which could be detrimental to your health.

Camping with lice puts everyone else at risk. It’s never fun to cancel an exciting trip, but it’s much better for the people around you. Even if you’re in the treatment process and feel that you can’t be contagious, there’s still a big potential that you can spread lice. Unfortunately, the campers you spread it to could lose their hair or experience discomfort from the infestation.

The good news is that you can tackle a lice problem relatively quickly. If you know you have an infestation and there’s a planned trip around the corner, you can focus on the treatment and still go to your campground if it’s gone by then.


Now that you know campgrounds aren’t completely safe from lice outbreaks, you can head to your favorite campsites prepared. Expect the best and prepare for the worst, that way, you’ll have a good time without worrying about getting lice. Remember to inspect your family’s head hair after camping trips with other people.

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