Unexpected Ways You Can Get Head Lice

11 Unexpected Ways You Can Get Head Lice

You know that lice can spread quickly—but do you know how and where? Here are the actual ways the tiny parasites travel from person to person.

Attending a family reunion

Multi Generation Family Enjoying Meal In Garden Together

Family get-togethers are wonderful, but they are also a great excuse for relatives to squeeze together for a family photo. Almost all head lice infestations happen from direct, head-to-head contact, which gives lice the opportunity to transfer from one head to another. If you’re posing for a photo next to a family member, who is unknowingly infected with lice, chances are that now you are, too.

Going to summer camp

nterracial group of kids playing at the park

Summer camp fosters incredible memories that most attendees cherish for the rest of their lives. However, in the short term, it’s the perfect breeding ground for the spread of head lice. Living in close quarters and having lots of intimate contact—hugging and sharing bunks, crowding around a flashlight listening to ghost stories—all provide the opportunity for direct head-to-head contact, allowing lice to move from one head to another.

Having sleepover parties

Teenage girls brushing teeth

Another of the great joys of childhood is attending sleepover parties.  But whenever heads are together in this way, there is the opportunity to share more than just a fun night away from home.  It’s best to do a head check after each sleepover to make sure your child didn’t catch anything.


Cheerful young couple embracing in restaurant

Because lice only require head-to-head contact in order to spread, all it takes is one hug to transfer the parasite from one person to the other. In fact, it only takes three seconds for a louse to go from one person to another.  Hair is often touching during a hug, which gives head lice the perfect opportunity to transfer to a new host.

Wearing your hair down

Group of mixed-race girls looking at a smartphone in a restaurant.

If you have long hair that you frequently wear down, there’s more opportunity for it to come into contact with others. While head lice can live on very short hair—even a shaved head—there is a greater chance of one person’s hair touching another if the hair is long.  Lice may take this opportunity to transfer, and they can move fast.   We recommend wearing your hair tied back in a braid or a bun to reduce the potential for this contact and the transfer of head lice.

Taking selfies

Group of smiling friends taking selfie with mobile phone. Multiracial man and women enjoying themselves outdoors and taking pictures with smart phone.

We all love a good selfie, especially with a close friend—but if that close friend happens to have head lice, you’re probably going to get it, too. This direct, head-to-head contact is the perfect opportunity for head lice to transfer from one head to another.  However, keep in mind that head lice are not dangerous, and an infestation is an indicator of being social and having friends, nothing more.

Playing video games/Sharing an Ipad

Boy and girl sitting in living room playing video game together

Children love to play video games; Children often play video games so close to each other that their heads will actually touch. It happens more often than we notice.  When heads touch, lice are able to spread.”

Watching a movie or TV together

Family Sitting On Sofa In Open Plan Lounge Watching Television

Unfortunately, even the innocent act of relaxing with loved ones on the couch could transmit lice if one of you is infested. Head-to-head contact happens more often than you realize—even while watching a movie!

Playing on a sports team

Basketball players forming a huddle in the court

While it seems harmless—not to mention beneficial for social life and fitness—playing on a team could increase a person’s chances of getting lice. Many sports participate in team huddles, during which heads are close enough together to be touching.  Huddles are an ideal opportunity for head lice to transfer from team member to team member.


Two young friend sitting in the tent, play the guitar and sing songs

Sleeping in tents with others means sharing close quarters and, sometimes, even head-touching.

Going to concerts

Excited music fans up the front at a music festival

Concerts are a fun time to let your hair down and have a good time, but they also make for the perfect jumping-off point for lice. Concerts include being in close contact with lots of people.  And close contact includes head-to-head and/or hair-to-hair contact, which is how lice are spread.