Camping is a popular and fun activity for many people. But there’s not much fun to be had when you have to deal with the fear of contracting a disease or getting an infestation.
With all the talk about the spread of scabies in camps, you probably want to know what the deal is, and whether you should be taking safety measures against scabies while you camp.
Is it really possible to get scabies while camping? The answer is a yes and a no. Not to worry; I’ll clear things up in a moment. Let’s begin by clearing up a very important aspect of scabies.
How Do You Get Scabies in The First Place?
First, it is important to know where scabies comes from. Tiny parasites called scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabies) are responsible for the infestation called scabies.
These parasites hang on the top layer of your skin and burrow into the skin to lay eggs, which lead to itching and rashes. However, the parasites don’t appear in a vacuum. That’s where we talk about how scabies is spread.
Scabies is mostly spread through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the infestation. This contact must be direct and prolonged for it to count; at least 10 minutes or more.
One of the most cases of such transmission is a case where you sleep on the same bed with someone who has scabies, especially crusted scabies.
Beyond prolonged physical contact beyond members of the same household or fellow campers, scabies can be, howbeit rarely, spread through indirect activities like using the clothing or bedding of someone who is infested.
Scabies can also be acquired when you have sexual intercourse with a partner who has the infestation. However, it isn’t an STI that’s spread through sexual fluid, but actually from the touching and long-term physical contact involved in the act.
So, let’s talk about scabies and camping, and how they get to cross paths.
Can You Get Scabies While Camping?
Yes, you can. However, it is quite rare to get scabies while camping, unless you’re in a group and you get up close with other campers. You’ll also have to be in a camp with people or animals that have scabies for them to pass it to you.
Still, coming in contact with an infected person or animal isn’t enough to pass scabies to you. As we stated earlier, you’ll have to be in close contact with them for a reasonable amount of time to catch it.
Sleeping in tents or on the ground in close contact with a group of people is one way many campers who have gotten scabies got it.
So, if you’re not sleeping in the same tent or bed with people or animals who are infected, and not sharing their clothes and sleeping materials, then it is very unlikely that you would get scabies while camping.
One reason it’s easier to get scabies from people than the scabies mites themselves is because the mites don’t last longer than 2 to 3 days outside the human body. But when they are in the human body, they survive for as long as 30 to 60 days.
Also, scabies mites cannot survive at a temperature of 122°F for more than 10 minutes.
However, if you go camping survival-style, talking about sleeping on a tree or logs, you are definitely placing yourself right in the path for the mites to get you and make a home for themselves in your skin
Important Tips to Prevent Scabies While Camping
Although scabies is rare when camping, you do have to be careful when camping to avoid being one of the rare cases.
Here’s what you can do:
- Avoid sleeping in close company with campers who you’re not sure of their personal health, such as whether or not they could be infected.
- Clean up your campsite with disinfectant before and during your camping period to avoid any possible spread of scabies.
- Always take a shower immediately after you return from any activity or expedition and keep the used clothes in a sealed bag separate from the rest of your clean clothing.
- If you have reasons to think that one of your fellow campers has contracted scabies, then separate them, decontaminate their clothing, and dry them in the heat, in a hot dryer, or store them in a sealed bag. Whatever scabies mites that might be in the clothes will naturally die in a maximum of 3 days.
- If your camp gets infected by scabies, disinfect the camp totally and consider moving away from that camp entirely.
- Avoiding prolonged physical contact with your fellow campers, whether or not you suspect them to be infected will naturally decrease your possibility of contracting scabies.
- It is important to remember that a dirty environment isn’t what causes scabies to infest an environment. Similarly, a clean environment doesn’t guarantee that you won’t find scabies in your domain.
However, these measures will largely reduce the risk of scabies infestation in your camp.
In summary, getting scabies from camping probably shouldn’t be at the top of your worries; at least not enough to prevent you from enjoying your camping expedition.
Yes, there might be a rise of scabies cases, but the one place they spread most isn’t on camping grounds. Interestingly, the places you regularly find yourself, such as your church, a bar, and other such locations might probably be a higher risk location than a camping site.
However, don’t throw all caution to the wind when camping outside, especially when you’re in groups with people outside your family or circle. You don’t know who could have it, so be careful and stay safe.
Always shower after every outdoor camping expedition, keep your dirty clothing apart from the clean ones, and disinfect your camping area as much as you can.
Be wary of close skin-to-skin contact, whether of a sexual or non-sexual nature.
With these tips, you’re most likely as safe as you can be from getting scabies while camping.