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Body lice


Disease: Body lice Body lice
Category: Dermatological diseases

Disease Definition:

The very small, wingless, parasitic insects that may be found on someone's body and in the lines and folds of their clothing are known as body lice. Though all lice are similar, body lice are different from head and pubic lice.

Body lice feed mainly on blood, causing symptoms like itching. In places where people live in unhygienic and crowded conditions, body lice are very common. Lice are easily spread among people by close contact or sharing others’ tools such as clothes or bedding.

Body lice typically don’t need treatment. However, to avoid being reinfested or spreading body lice to others, people should take care of their clothing and other items.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Body lice could be detected almost anywhere on the body, especially in the seams and lines of clothes. Someone with body lice may go through:

  • Itching: Intense craving to scratch the body.
  • Rash: A rash could result if someone's allergic to lice bites.
  • Lice or eggs (nits) on the body or in clothing. Body lice rely on blood for food, and a person's body and clothes for living and breeding nits. Body lice mainly live in clothing, particularly the lines; however, they could be seen on someone's body.
  • Skin changes: If someone has had body lice for a long time without proper solution, they may undergo skin changes, for instance, the most heavily infested areas of their body may become thickened or discolored.


People can eliminate body lice by taking good care of their body and washing their clothing and other infested items properly. To make sure if a person has body lice or not, they could see a doctor.
Nonprescription shampoos that are specifically made to kill lice, such as Rid or Nix, could be used.
However, someone should see a doctor if:


  • These steps don't abolish the infestation.
  • The person develops infected hives or skin abrasions due to scratching.


Scientifically called Pediculus humanus corporis, body lice differ from the lice involved in the head, or pubic lice –though they share similarities. The largest lice in size are  the body lice.  

Feeding on blood, lice primarily live and lay eggs (nits) in a person's clothing. These  infestations are caused by exposure to body lice or their eggs through:

Contact with infested clothing or other items:

Bedding, towels and clothing are some of the items that are commonly infested. Body lice can sometimes survive 30 days on these personal items.

Direct contact with someone infested with body lice:

Lice are very common in people who live in crowded conditions because lice are easily transmitted to others by direct contact.



Generally, body lice infestation causes minimal or no problems. Yet, sometimes complications may occur, such as:

Skin changes:

Skin changes like thickening and discoloration might happen if someone has been infested with body lice for a long time.

Spread of disease:

Rarely, body lice could spread other bacterial diseases like trench fever, relapsing fever or typhus. All these diseases can be treated with antibiotics. But left untreated, they can result in death. If these diseases are left untreated, they can result in death. However, they can be treated with antibiotics.

Secondary infections:

The skin may be irritated if the lice scratch and dig the skin to feed on the person's blood, or if the person scratches in order to alleviate the itching. Other infections may also develop in case the skin becomes raw from these irritations.


When someone has body lice, he/she should carefully wash themselves, as well as other infected items with soap and water.
Typically, killing lice is not a difficult job. The real challenge is to remove all the nits and avoid contact with other lice-carriers at home.
If these steps don’t prove enough, someone can use a nonprescription lotion or shampoo. If this does not work either, a prescription lotion may be prescribed by a doctor.


Nonprescription lotions:

These products are the battlefront procedures. Yet, if they are insufficient, the doctor might prescribe a stronger lotion or shampoo.


If nonprescription shampoos don’t work well, a Lindane lotion may be prescribed.  It’s typically prescribed when other treatments fail because it is toxic. Lindane should be applied to the infested areas and then washed off after 8 hours. lindane may not be recommended in case:


  • The person is younger than 2 years old
  • He/she has used lindane a few months earlier
  • The affected person is a pregnant or breast-feeding woman
  • He/she weighs less than 50 kilograms or less than 110 pounds.

Some of the side effects of lindane may be:


  • Skin irritation
  • Seizures
  • Death, which occurs only in some rare cases.

These medications should be used only as directed; for instance, applying too much lotion to the skin may irritate the skin and make it red. The risk of side effects from lindane increases when it is used for longer or in higher amounts than recommended.


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