Body Lice

An Overview

Body lice are tiny insects, about the size of a sesame seed. Body lice live in your clothing and bedding and travel to your skin several times a day to feed on blood. The most common sites for bites are around the neck, shoulders, armpits, waist and groin places where clothing seams are most likely to touch skin. Female lice glue their eggs on the seams of clothing worn near the skin, where body heat allows them to hatch in about a week. Hatchlings develop to the adult stage in about nine days if they remain close to the host and have access to blood.
Body lice are most common in crowded and unhygienic living conditions, such as refugee camps and shelters for homeless people. They can also spread from contact with an infected person’s clothes. Body lice bites can spread certain types of diseases and can even cause epidemics.

Body lice are small, parasitic insects found mainly on the clothing of infested people, and occasionally on their bodies or bedding. They spend most of their life on an infested person’s clothing, crawling onto the skin to feed on the host’s blood one or more times a day. Clothing and bedding that have been infested with body lice should be laundered in hot, soapy water and machine dried using the hot cycle.

Types of Body lice

An infestation of body lice occurs when a certain type of lice invade the body and clothing. Liceare parasitic insects that feed on human blood and can infest the head, body, and pubic area.
There are three types of lice that infest humans:
• body louse
• head louse
• pubic louse

Lice that are found on the body are different from lice found on the head or on the pubic area. Body lice are only found on humans on the body. Humans are the body louse’s only host and lice will die within five to seven days if they fall off of a person. Good hygiene and regularly washing clothing and bed linens are generally enough to treat and prevent infestations of body lice.

Symptoms for Body lice

Body lice bites can cause intense itching, and you may notice small areas of blood and crust on your skin at the site of the bite marks.
See your doctor if improved hygiene doesn’t remove the infestation, or if you develop a skin infection from scratching the bites.
• intense itching (pruritus)
• rash caused by an allergic reaction to body lice bites
• red bumps on the skin
• thickened or darkened skin, usually near the waist or groin, if the lice have been there for a long time
• A tickling feeling on your skin.
• Itchy and irritated skin.
• Groups of small, discolored (red, purple, brown) dots or bites. They may grow bigger and develop a lighter discolored ring around the outside.

Causes of Body lice

Body lice are similar to head lice but have different habits. While head lice live in your hair and feed on your scalp, body lice usually live in your clothes and bedding. They travel to your skin several times a day to feed on blood.
Your clothing seams are the most common places for body lice to lay their eggs (nits). You can become infested with body lice if you come into close contact with a person who has body lice, or with clothing or bedding that is infested with body lice.
Infestations occur worldwide and are spread via close person-to-person contact or through commonly shared bed linens, towels, and clothing. In general, infestations of body lice are limited to people who live in unhygienic or crowded living conditions and who don’t have access to clean clothing.


An infestation by body lice is typically diagnosed by looking at the skin and clothing and observing eggs and crawling lice. The insects are about the size of a sesame seed. They are big enough to see with the naked eye, but a magnifying lens can be used to help find them. The eggs (called nits) are usually found in the seams of clothing.


Medications that kill lice, called pediculicides, may be used to treat body lice infestation. However, this is usually not necessary if clothing is laundered and personal hygiene is maintained. Lice-killing products may be toxic to humans, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
• Most people successfully get rid of body lice infestations by regularly bathing with soap and warm water and washing their clothes. Try to bathe daily until you no longer see body lice or nits on your body, clothes, bedding or other fabric items, like towels.
• To prevent body lice from coming back, try to bathe and wash your clothing, bedding and other fabric items at least once a week.
• Wash your clothing, bedding and any other fabrics that have been in contact with the body lice in hot water (at least 129 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 degrees Celsius). You may need to adjust your water heater to get the right temperature. After you’ve washed your clothes, put them in a clothes dryer set to the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes.
If these measures don’t work, you can try using an over-the-counter lotion or shampoo that has 1% permethrin (Nix) or pyrethrin. If that still doesn’t work, your doctor can provide a prescription lotion. Lice-killing products can be toxic to humans, so follow the directions carefully.
Tips to prevent body lice infestation
Body lice usually infest people who aren’t able to bathe or change clothes regularly. Good personal hygiene and changing into clean clothes at least once a week should be enough to prevent body lice infestation.
You should also make sure not to share clothing, bed linens, or towels with someone who is infested. If you discover body lice, machine washing and drying all infested clothing and bedding in hot water should prevent body lice from returning. Family members or those who share living areas with you may also want to be treated.

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