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Can You Get Lice While Traveling on Vacation?

Can You Get Lice While Traveling on Vacation?
Created on 
November 14, 2017
Updated on 
October 14, 2021

Can You Get Lice On Your Holiday?

Here you are on your long-awaited annual vacation. All of a sudden, you get a little anxious; your friend picked up a case of head lice on her last foray from home. What are your chances of getting lice on your vacation?

Can You Get Lice From A Hotel Pillow?

When you check into a hotel room, it is important to check for bugs, but not head lice! Bed bugs look similar to lice and can be found in hotel rooms, so do pull up the corners of the fitted sheet to check around the edges of the bed for tiny bed bugs 1st thing. Bed bugs and lice look similar but act very differently, and the short answer to “can you get lice from a hotel” is “not likely”. As long as the bedding is changed between guests, your chances of getting lice from a hotel pillow are nearly zero. Read on to find out why...

Can You Get Lice From Airplane Seats?

Standing in line to board your plane, you get anxious, recalling that your friend picked up a case of head lice on her last vacation. You’re about to spend 4 hours sitting on those seats. Just how clean are they? Can you get lice from airplanes?!

We don’t know exactly what goes into cleaning seats between flights, but we do know that it is very unlikely that you will get a case of lice from an airplane seat. Lice do not intentionally leave a human head (where their food supply is: human blood) unless they have another head very close by. Think of it like kids swinging hand over hand on the monkey bars at the playground, trying to keep off the ground: if there’s another set of monkey bars they can swing to without touching the ground, they’ll transfer, but otherwise they’ll turn around and go back.

Lice are the same with human hair. They don’t move very well out of the hair, because their short arms are adapted only to swing from hair to hair, they can’t fly or jump across a flat surface. If they do accidentally fall off the head and onto a seat, there would only be a short window of time they’d survive, hoping to get on a new head before they starve to death (less than a day). Nits (lice eggs) are glued to the hair and it is even less likely that they will fall out. If a nit does get pulled out of the hair, it will never reattach, and won’t hatch when it’s not on a head (there’s no body heat to incubate it).

BUT you say, that means it is possible to get lice on a plane! Technically, yes, but the chances are extremely small.

Can You Get Lice From A Car Seat?

What if you plan to use a rental car, or take a bus, train, subway, taxi, Uber, or limo when you get to your destination? The same rules apply as on the plane: technically, it is possible to get lice from a rental car, but the chances are extremely small. Chances would be a little higher in a car that people get in and out of frequently since it’s exposed to more people who could have lice, but the chances are still very small. Your highest chances are on a bus, train, or subway, since you may need to sit or stand close to other people.

Can You Get Head Lice On Bus?

Taking steps to avoid lice on bus seats is probably not necessary, since again, head lice don’t like to get off of heads and are very rarely transferred from any environment or item other than human contact. Bus seats may be exposed to more people than airplane seats, but most buses have low-backed vinyl or plastic seats nowadays, so simply putting long hair into a bun before getting on the bus should be sufficient to avoid any lice that might be on the seat, which again will be a very rare occurrence.

The main exposure on the bus would be from pushing past other standing passengers on a very crowded bus. As your hair brushes against them, that’s the most likely time to be exposed to lice on a bus. However, such brief encounters will very rarely give time for any lice to crawl all the way from their scalp to your hair. Wearing your hair in a bun on the bus should be extremely effective at preventing lice exposure.

Can You Get Lice From A Lake?

lice tips lake lodge fishing camping cabin

Lice don’t live off of human heads, so you can’t get lice from the beach, lake, woods, or any outdoor environment. Parents, who spot lice right after a weekend getaway often ask us, “Can you get lice from lake water? My kids swam in the lake and now they have lice.” The truth is, the kids got lice from other humans, and if your kids were playing with other kids in the pool or lake or ocean, that’s where the lice came from.

Can You Catch Lice On The Subway?

Subways are a little different from buses, in that they’ve typically got more people riding in each car every day, which means exposure to more sources of lice. But most importantly, during peak times, subway cars may be so crowded that you’re in direct contact with other people while riding. So the question “can you get lice on subway cars?” can basically be answered by answering the question “did you come into direct physical contact with other people for any significant amount of time?” Again, wearing hair in a bun is highly effective at preventing lice from crawling from another passenger’s long, loose hair onto yours, which is the only common way for head lice to get around.

Travel Tips To Avoid Lice On Your Vacation

The absolute BEST way to avoid lice is to keep your hair away from other people and use a product like LiceDoctors lice repellent. But if you’re feeling concerned, here are some preventative actions that actually help.

lice tips lice while traveling airport train boat airplane taxi bus

Check Your Seat on Mass Transit

When you get to your plane seat, wipe off the seat with a tissue before you sit down. In the unlikely chance that there is a louse there, it will wipe away. After the flight, if you get on public transit, repeat the wiping process, and try not to lay your head against the seat if you can comfortably do so.

Don’t Share Hair Combs and Towels With Anyone

Sharing items that directly touch the hair is the most likely way to catch lice other than direct human contact. You can rest assured that the towels provided by the hotel are lice-free, as head lice wouldn’t survive the laundering process. However, if you’re bunking with a roommate you don’t normally live in close contact with, make sure you know which towel is theirs, and which is yours. That way if they do have lice that they happen to rub onto a towel, you don’t rub your head with it right afterward.

Check Clothes Of The Person You Ride With

If you’re in an Uber pool, try not to sit pressed up against other riders. Your hair or clothing coming into direct, prolonged contact with theirs might contribute to the spread of lice; your head is by far the more likely conduit of lice.

Don’t Borrow Anyone’s Headphones

When you’re handed headphones to watch an in-flight movie, you’ll notice they’re usually in a sealed bag. This means they’re either single-use or have been through a professional sanitization process, both of which mean you’re totally safe from lice exposure. While the risk isn’t high with earbuds, if you’re aware that one of the teens has lice, warn them not to share this way.

Go To Shower After Traveling

On the off chance, you picked up a stray head louse on your travels, the last step before settling in should be to take a quick shower. If there was a random louse on your clothing, this would prevent it from having enough time to crawl to your hair. And after hours of travel,  we think you’ll be ready for a fresh start anyway!

If You Got Lice, We Can Help

Since LiceDoctors is a national service, getting treated during your travels means you can take our peace-of-mind guarantee home with you! Call us today at 800-224-2537, and get back to relaxing.

We provide a friendly in-home lice removal service

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