Body lice

Skin | Dermatology | Body lice (Disease)


Lice are small, wingless insects (Pediculus humanus corporis) that feed on human blood. There are three species: the head lice, the body lice, and pubic lice. The condition of being infested with head lice, body lice, or pubic lice is known as pediculosis. Lice feed on human blood and live in the seams and folds of clothing for up to 1 month. They lay their eggs and deposit waste matter on the skin and clothing.

Causes and Risk factors

Body lice are contagious. One can catch body lice if comes in direct contact with someone who has lice, or with infected clothing, towels, or bedding. Poor hygiene or living in close and overcrowded conditions increase the risk of getting lice. Infestation is unlikely to last on anyone who bathes regularly, and who has at least weekly access to freshly laundered clothing and bedding. Placing clothes in a hot dryer helps kill any lice on clothing.

Lice cause severe itching. It is usually worse around waist, under the arms, anywhere clothing is tighter and closer to the body. Red bumps on the skin may be present. The bumps may scab or become crusty after scratching. Scratching can make the skin more likely to become infected. Rarely, lice may carry uncommon diseases, such as trench fever.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Improving the personal hygiene of the infested person is the main goal in lice infestation. Also a regular (at least weekly) change of clean clothes. Clothing, bedding, and towels used by the infested person should be laundered using hot water (at least 130 °F or 54 °C) and machine dried using the hot cycle. Medicine treatment is pediculicide, a medicine that kills lice.