7 tips to avoid lice while travelling

Cushy Spa/FlickrIt’s not hard to contract lice while travelling.

Nobody wants lice. Lice are pesky insects that invade your hair and cause severe itching. Not to mention, they can be a nightmare to get rid of. The small pests can easily be picked up in public places – including while travelling.

The parasitic bugs are known to take up residency is hairy places on people’s bodies such as the head and pubic areas, as well as on clothing and blankets. The most common way to contract lice is through person-to-person contact. If you’re travelling in close corridors, such as on an aeroplane or in a small vehicle, it may seem like picking up lice is unavoidable. Dodging lice while on-the-go is easier said than done.

There are three different types of lice: Head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. The microscopic bugs are anywhere from 1.1 to 3.6 millimetres in length depending on the type of lice, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Their tiny size makes them hard to immediately see with a naked eye, so you’ll need to take extra precautions when you are travelling.

Here’s how to protect yourself from lice during your next trip.

Check your seat on mass transit.

Yana Paskova/Getty ImagesMass transit is a common place to get lice.

Subways, buses, and other forms of public transportation are popular options when travelling. But, according to the Illinois Department of Health, lice can be lurking inside of a train car or on a bus seat. Lice may crawl from an infected person’s head or clothing and make a home in a plush bus seat or in the nooks and crannies of a hard plastic subway seat.

Although your chances of contracting lice this way or low, you can lessen the possibility of coming down with the bugs by wiping off the seat with a wet wipe before sitting down. You can also hold stand and hold onto the handrail instead of sitting down.

Read the hotel reviews before you book.

Africa Studio/ShutterstockChances are someone has told their story on the internet.

Like bedbugs, lice can infiltrate hotel rooms if left behind by a previous traveller who had lice. As long as the hotel changes the sheets and gives the hotel room a proper and thorough cleaning, the risk of contracting lice from hotel rooms is fairly low, according to LiceDoctors.com. That said, it can still happen.

Lice enjoy nuzzling up in a warm and cosy space (like the hair on the top of your head). For this reason, lice may be found in hotel room beds, couches, chairs, carpets, and other soft, plush areas that are easy to breed in. When you are making your travel arrangements, make sure to read unbiased, unfiltered reviews of the place you are planning to stay. If in the comments section, you find any reviews that mention lice, that could be a sign to steer clear of the hotel or shared space in question.

Don’t share head or hair products with anyone.

geliatida/ShutterstockThis includes hairbrushes.

This one may seem obvious, but it’s an important reminder to keep in mind throughout your travels. Avoid sharing combs, hairbrushes, towels, and other items that come into contact with your hair, according to the CDC.

Even if these items belong to trusted friends and family that you’re travelling with, it’s best to use your own. Although your travel buddies may not have any immediate symptoms of head lice, it’s possible that the tiny and bothersome insect still could be prevalent in their clothing or in their hair.

This also goes for trying on hats while you’re shopping around during your travels.

Forgo checking your jacket in the coat closet.

Juan Naharro Giminez/Getty ImagesCoat closets are a great place for lice to spread.

If you’re travelling to a cooler climate, keep your coat with you. It’s very convenient to drop your jacket off at the coat check when you first arrive at a restaurant or event venue, but you might regret it later. Although your puffy winter coat is cumbersome to hold onto, you could save yourself the trouble of dealing with lice.

In tight spaces, body lice can easily spread between coats, crawling from one to the other. This type of lice will live and lay eggs on your clothing,according to the CDC. Make sure to hang your coat away from someone else’s jacket, like on the hooks at the end of your dinner table or stuff it in your purse.

Don’t borrow headphones.

Shutterstock/David PereirasKeep your headphones in a secure place.

Using headphones to listen to music or catch up on your favourite shows is a great way to pass the time while travelling, especially long distance. If you forget your headphones, don’t borrow any from a neighbour. Plastic may not seem like an opportune place for head lice to thrive, but, while rare, it can happen.

The problematic bugs have been known to set up shop in earbuds and headphones, according to the University of Nebraska.

Most airlines have headphones for sale, or you can buy a spare pair at the airport or train station.

Do your laundry.

FOXLike, as soon as you get home.

If you think you may have come into contact with lice during your vacation, one of the best things you can do is your laundry. If you’re staying in a home with a washer and dryer, toss your clothing in right away. If you’re staying at a hotel, place your laundry in a plastic bag and send it off to be cleaned by the hotel staff or visit a nearby laundry mat.

Lice can’t hop or fly – the insects move by crawling, according to the CDC. To kill lice, wash your clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat for at least 20 minutes, suggests The Spruce.

This should eliminate any concerns that you’ll be bringing the bugs back home with you because the last thing you want is a suitcase full of lice.

Maintain your personal hygiene.

iStockShower often.

This one goes without saying, but make sure to keep up with your personal hygiene when you are travelling. It can be easy to skip the shower and sleep in when you’re on vacation, but it’s best to maintain your regular hygiene routine in an effort to avoid lice.

Body lice love dirty conditions but are also attracted to clean scalps. It may seem like a double-edged sword but your safest bet is to shower regularly. If you think you may have lice while on vacation, purchase a lice-killing shampoo and follow the directions on the back of the bottle.

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