I’ve been camping for my whole life but have never gotten scabies. However, my buddy, Ken, has an unfortunate history of dealing with skin infection breakouts, including scabies, every time he goes camping.
Now, with such mixed information, I know you’re wondering whether you can get scabies from camping?
The simple answer is no. You can’t get scabies while camping unless your camping partner or camping location has a scabies mite infestation.
See, scabies mites usually transmit through prolonged contact with a scabies-infested person. Therefore, you’re pretty unlikely to catch scabies even if you come into contact with infested persons.
A guaranteed way of transmitting scabies is through sexual contact or a sexual partner.
You can also get infected from sharing garments or sleeping in the same bed with an infected person.
Now, if you’re interested in learning more about the spread of scabies in campgrounds, how to avoid it and how to treat scabies, we’ve prepared a detailed guide explaining everything about scabies.
What Is Scabies?
Scabies is a pruritic skin condition brought by the infestation of scabies ants.
The microscopic ants usually borrow through the top layer section of the human skin to live and lay eggs.
Usually, the scabies burrows appear as short, reddish and darkened lines on the skin surface.
Within several weeks, the human body develops an allergic reaction to the presence of foreign bodies.
The allergic reaction usually manifests in the form of intense itching, scratching of the skin, and a severe pimple itchy rash on the infested body part.
Sometimes, the itchy skin can be unbearable enough to keep people with scabies awake all night through.
The unfortunate part about scabies is that it’s transmissible even when the signs and symptoms aren’t visible.
So, it’s easy to get infected with scabies even from a perfectly healthy person.
The other thing that makes scabies challenging to detect is that scabies are microscopic and therefore not visible through the human eye.
And this brings us to the definition of a scabies mite.
What’s a Scabies Mite?
A scabies mite is a microscopic eight-legged tick related to arachnids (spiders).
It burrows through the top section of a person’s skin and lays mite eggs.
Can you Get Scabies from a Campground?
You can’t get scabies from camping unless you’re in contact with fellow campers infested with the scabies mite.
You could also get scabies from sleeping in one bed or wearing the garments of an infested partner, but it’s quite rare.
While scabies are highly contagious, understand that they are transmissible through prolonged contact.
Therefore, unless you’re in prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infested person in camp, it’s highly unlikely you get infected with scabies.
Usually, cases of scabies transmission are rampant among sexual partners because of prolonged skin contact.
In short, unless you come to close contact with an infected person and for a long duration, it’s highly unlikely you’ll contract the infection.
Sharing beddings or garments is also less unlikely to spread human scabies from different persons.
Here’s the thing, scabies mites don’t live for long outside their host. Scabies can live on a person’s body for 1-2 months.
But off a person, scabies can’t survive for more than 48 to 72 hours.
So, unless your share and wear the infected person’s garment immediately after they get them off, it’s highly unlikely you’ll contract the skin condition.
Of course, there’re a lot of possibilities for you contracting scabies, but the bottom line is you’ll rarely get the infection from sharing a camping ground.
The only guaranteed way to contract the skin infection is by having prolonged close contact with an infected person.
How Long Does Scabies Take to Develop?
Generally, scabies symptoms may take 4-8 weeks before they start to show.
But if it’s a recurring or re-infection, the common symptoms will take much faster to show, ideally within four days.
Understand that the infested person can still transmit the infection even below the symptoms develop.
Most Common Symptoms of Scabies
One of the major signs of scabies infestation is intense itching, which is usually pronounced at night.
You may also experience an outbreak of pimple-like skin rash all over your body or on specific sections of your body such as the fingers, nipple, penis, or buttocks.
The pimple-like rashes in older children usually manifest on their facial section, palms, and feet.
Another common indication of a scabies infestation is burrows on your skin. The burrows are usually the spots where scabies made their way through into your skin.
Usually, the burrows are tiny, reddish lines on your skin. The burrows are also raised and crooked but might be challenging to find.
However, if you’ve contracted crusted scabies, you may not display the typical signs of regular scabies, such as rashes or itching.
How Do I Diagnose Scabies?
Diagnosis of scabies infestation is usually made through visual examination.
The first step is usually checking for the imminent systems of scabies, such as rashes, their distribution, the presence of burrows, and if there’s itchiness.
But that isn’t enough because there’re a couple of other skin irritations, allergies, and infections that share the same symptoms as scabies infestation.
A fool-proof way to determine whether you’re infested with scabies mites is by identifying the presence of mire, their eggs, or fecal matter.
A couple of ways that can help you identify that.
The fits one is identifying a scabies mite burrow and then carefully removing the mite using the tip of a needle or sharp object.
Alternatively, you can scrap the skin irritations and carefully examine them using a microscope to check for mites, eggs, or fecal matter.
In my opinion, the two last methods are the best ways to diagnose the presence of a scabies mite.
Even then, these diagnostic tests are usually not comprehensive because sometimes, it’s easy to miss the mites.
Remember, a healthy person may have fewer than 15 tiny mites in their entire body and still risk infecting others.
But this isn’t the case with the crusted scabies. It’s usually a more severe infestation and easy to diagnose. It’s also highly contagious, so you must do it more cautiously.
Preventing Scabies at the Campsite
Many people usually associate scabies with dirty living conditions, but that’s further from the truth.
Scabies doesn’t discriminate and will infest themselves to anyone it comes across, whether clean or unclean.
Even then, maintaining hygiene while camping is still a good idea.
In particular, if you suspect one of your fellow campers has contracted the infection, consider decontaminating their beddings, clothes, and beddings.
Washing their garments and anything they’ve come into contact with in hot water helps to kill some of the scabies mites.
From there, dry the clothes in a hot dryer; if that’s not possible in the wild, store the clothes in a sealed bag.
As we mentioned earlier, scabies mite can’t survive outside the human body for more than 72 hours. So, by placing them in a sealed bag, you’ll effectively kill them.
Next on, if your camp has scabies infestation, avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with anyone or with their items.
Separate your bedding, garments, or any shared commodity to decrease the risk of contracting the scabies mites.
Also, consider disinfecting your camping ground with a disinfectant wipe to avoid spreading the mites through gear or garments.
Personally, I’ve made a habit of always taking a shower after a long day in the woods with my friends. I also change my clothingonce in the tent and keep clothes used for the day in a sealed bag.
Finally, if you’re a frequent camper, your home must be free from scabies. You could subconsciously transfer the mites from your home to the outdoors.
So, maintain home hygiene, keep your nails short, and avoid scratching your skin.
Of course, these measures aren’t bullet-proof, but they’ll surely decrease the risk of exposure to the scabies infestation.
In particular, avoiding prolonged body contact with your fellow campers dramatically decreases the likelihood of contracting scabies.
Treating Scabies and Disease Control of Scabies
If you suspect scabies infestation, I suggest visiting your doctor or dermatologist.
As I mentioned earlier, scabies infestation may share many signs and symptoms with other skin infections. Therefore, your doctor must make an accurate diagnosis visually or by skin scraping.
After determining you’re infested with scabies, your doctor will proceed to recommend medication. All scabies medications are topical (not oral medication) or applied to the skin.
Usually, the first treatment will kill the mites, but if the symptoms persist, visit your doctor again for another prescription.
One thing to note is if one person in your household or campground has contracted scabies, it’s a good idea to check up with your doctor.
Remember, scabies is highly contagious, and even if you’re not showing signs of the infestations, you might be potentially exposed.
So, it makes sense to treat scabies at the same time with the infested person.
Myths Surrounding Scabies Infestation
There’re plenty of myths surrounding scabies, and in the guide below, we’ll debunk some of them.
1) Scabies can be transmitted between animals and humans
While a scabies infestation form exists for animals (Mange), it doesn’t spread to humans.
Of course, the animal-scabies mite might jump on you and cause an itching sensation, but they cannot survive on the human body to carry out a life cycle.
2) Scabies is easy to diagnose
Far from it.
First, scabies mites are microscopic and not visible to the human eye, so identifying one is not easy.
Secondly, scabies infestation shares a lot of signs and symptoms with other human skin conditions and infections.
So, unless you’ve crusted scabies or specifically looking for the signs and symptoms of scabies or visually inspecting your skin for their presence, it can be challenging to diagnose scabies.
3) Scabies is treatment-resistant
It’s easy to treat human scabies. Doctor’s prescription medications such as Elimite are effective and kill scabies mites, especially when used as directed.
Usually, treatment failure comes from how the treatment was administered but not what medication was used.
4) A hygienic person can’t contract scabies
Everyone is susceptible to scabies, regardless of their hygienic orientation. Scabies mites can survive on any person regardless of how groomed or not they’re.
Can I Get Scabies from Camping Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can you get scabies from being outside?
A: No, you can’t get scabies from outside unless you come into contact with a person infested with the mites.
Q: Can you get scabies from being out in the woods?
A: You can’t get scabies in the woods unless you come into close contact with someone with a scabies mite infestation.
Q: How do you get scabies in the first place?
A: You get scabies by getting into close contact with a person infested with the mites. You may also get scabies from sharing bedding, garments, and other utilities with a person infested with scabies.
Wrap Up: How Do I prevent Scabies While Camping?
Camping doesn’t pose the risk of contracting scabies. However, there’s a high risk if you’re sharing a campground with someone infested with scabies.
The chances shoot up dramatically, especially if it’s your sexual partner or someone you often have close skin-to-skin contact with.
Otherwise, camping doesn’t put you at any higher risk of contracting scabies than your household, church, or eve market.