Can Kids Get an STD From a Towel?

Sexually transmitted diseases are the most common contagious diseases in the United States after colds and the flu, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website 23. Despite teaching your child about safe sex and the best ways to prevent STDs, it is still important to note that there are other ways to spread some STDs, like through the use of an infected towel.


Diseases like chlamydia and HIV are only passed through sexual contact, like oral and vaginal sex, while herpes and genital warts can be passed through skin-to-skin contact. According to the County of Los Angeles Public Health website, only pubic lice and scabies, a disease caused by mites, can be passed through infected items, such as:

  • towels
  • sheets
  • clothing 1


If there’s a chance that your child contracted an STD from a towel, keep your eyes open for possible symptoms. Symptoms of pubic lice typically appear around five days after exposure and can include intense itching, irritability and the presence of egg sacs on pubic hair. According to the Planned Parenthood website, scabies symptoms can take three to four weeks to develop and can include itching and small bumps or rashes that appear in small curling lines in the area that came into contact with the mites 4.


You can help protect your child from contracting STDs by talking with him about ways to keep himself safe, especially since it is possible to get some diseases without actually having sex. Remind your child not to share towels or other clothing items with kids and to keep his personal belongings inside his bag or locker while he’s playing sports or in gym class.


Keep in mind that some STDs can present themselves with no symptoms. In fact, Planned Parenthood warns that the symptoms of scabies are often not visible 4. To make sure that your child has a greater chance of being treated for any STDs, encourage her to be open with her doctor at regular exams about the possibility of STD exposure.