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Definition

What are body lice?

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.

How common are body lice?

Body lice are most common in crowded and unhygienic living conditions, such as refugee camps and shelters for the homeless. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of body lice?

The common symptoms of body lice are:

  • 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

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes 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 typically live in your clothes and bedding. They travel to your skin several times a day to feed on blood.

The seams of your clothing 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.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for body lice?

There are many risk factors for body lice, such as:

  • War refugees
  • Homeless people
  • Victims of natural disasters

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are body lice diagnosed?

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.

How are body lice treated?

Body lice are primarily treated by thoroughly washing yourself and any contaminated items with soap and hot water. Dry cleaning and ironing clothing that cannot be washed is also effective.

If these measures don’t work, you can try using an over-the-counter lotion or shampoo — such as Nix or Rid. 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.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage body lice?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with body lice:

  • You can usually get rid of body lice by cleaning yourself and any personal belongings that may be contaminated. Wash infested bedding, clothing and towels with hot, soapy water — at least 130 F (54 C) — and machine dry them on high heat for at least 20 minutes.
  • Clothing that can’t be washed may be dry cleaned and ironed.
  • Items that can’t be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag and stored in a warm area for two weeks. Mattresses, couches and other upholstered furniture items should be hot ironed or sprayed with lice-killing products to eliminate eggs from seams. Exposure to infested items should be avoided for two weeks.
  • To prevent body lice infestation, avoid having close physical contact or sharing bedding or clothing with anyone who has an infestation. Regular bathing and changing into clean clothing at least once per week may also help prevent and control the spread of body lice.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: September 7, 2017 | Last Modified: September 7, 2017

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