Body Lice FAQ

Body Lice FAQ

What are Body Lice?

Body Lice, also known as Pediculus humanus corporis, are parasitic insects that live on the body, clothing or bedding of infested humans. They are related to the head louse however Body Lice are longer in length and rarely infest the head. The body louse spends most of its time on the infested person’s clothing, only making contact with the person’s skin when feeding. It is believed that the body louse actually evolved from the head louse and simply moved to the body.

Are there different types of lice?

There are 3 types: Head Lice, Body Lice and Pubic Lice.

Who is at risk of developing Body Lice?

Anyone who comes in contact with an existing infestation is at risk of developing Body Lice. You are particularly at risk if you live in close quarters with a large general population, practice poor personal hygiene and change your clothing or bedding infrequently, or are traveling to foreign countries where the above are present.

Are Body Lice contagious?


How do I know if I have Body Lice?

Itching is the first symptom of Body Lice and this leads to scratching of the affected area. This itching is specifically caused by a toxin (poison) secreted by the Lice through its saliva as it bites you. The bites of Body Lice will first appear as small red spots and, if left untreated, will progress into a rash similar in appearance to German measles, aka Rubella. Your skin will become inflamed as the biting continues and you may experience fever or headaches. Long-term infestations may result in thickening of or discoloration of your skin and you may even develop lesions from secondary infection due to continuous scratching.

How do you get Body Lice?

Body Lice are transmitted through direct contact or by sharing infested bedding or clothes. Other risk factors include:

  • Crowded living conditions
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Infrequent changing or laundering of clothing
  • Traveling to foreign countries where the above are present

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Does everyone in the house need to be treated for Body Lice?

Not necessarily. If one person in the household catches Body Lice, then that means that your entire household environment is infested. You should treat any family members who are experiencing symptoms on their body but you should be especially thorough when treating the rest of your home and your car, including bedding, furniture, carpets, clothing, etc., since, contrary to their name, Body Lice live mostly in the seams of clothing and other fabrics.

Can I catch any other diseases from Body Lice?

Yes. Body Lice are notorious for transmitting serious diseases such as relapsing fever, trench fever, and epidemic typhus fever.

Can I catch Body Lice from my pet?

Pets do not transmit Body Lice nor can Body Lice live on pets.

I am a clean person, so how did I get Body Lice?

Body Lice are transmitted by person-to-person contact, shared clothing or bedding, thus even someone who considers themselves very clean can contract Body Lice through simple contact with an existing infestation.

Why aren’t over-the-counter body lice treatments working for me?

Doctors have used the same chemicals, such as pediculicides, for years to treat all types of Lice. Healthcare Professionals and Entomologists reported as early as 1985 that lice have become resistant to pediculicides.

What is a pediculicide?

These are the dangerous pesticides that are sold to treat all types of Lice. Most over-the-counter remedies contain an insecticide called permethrin or pyrethrin. Even more dangerous is a pediculicide that contains Lindane. These products are neurotoxins and, when used excessively and incorrectly, can lead to seizures and death. They are especially dangerous to small children, infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

When do I know that I am not contagious anymore?

The general rule of thumb is after you have completely treated yourself and your environment and have no more nits. Body Lice have a life cycle of about 21 days but the nits can lay dormant for up to 30 days. You should continue to check in order to make sure that there is no re-occurrence or outbreak.

How long can Body Lice live in my home?

The adult body louse can only survive for 48 hours without its host to feed upon thus any Body Lice in your environment should die off in about 2 days.

How can I remove the Body Lice in my house?

You can wash all sheets, pillows, bedding, stuffed animals and clothing in hot water and then dry them on high heat. The heat will combat any Body Lice that are living on these objects. You also need to treat all carpets, furniture, brushes, combs, hats and hair accessories.

Where can I go for Information on Body Lice?

The internet is a great source for information on Body Lice but why spend hours searching when DermaTechRx™ can provide you with all the same information? Our informational eGuide is full of answers, suggestions and tips that we’ve collected from books, articles, customers and numerous other sources.

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How can Body Lice be prevented?

Hospitals can improve their risk by checking homeless people, elderly patients who are unable to care for themselves and other high-risk individuals before they are admitted to prevent an outbreak of Lice among their population. The same can be said for dormitories, prisons, and nursing homes.

Are there any home remedies for dealing with Body Lice?

There are no home remedies that will cure your case of Body Lice but there are some measures that you can take that may temporarily serve to ease your suffering.

  • Thoroughly wash your entire body
  • Wash all of your clothing and linens in extremely hot water and dry on high heat.
  • Thoroughly vacuum your furniture and floors, immediately throwing out the vacuum bag afterward.
  • You may use an over-the-counter antihistamine to control itching but remember that these medications will typically make you drowsy

What research is being done?

In recent years, scientists have been studying the genes of the body louse in efforts to better understand how this louse feeds off of the human blood source. It is their belief that understanding exactly how this louse nourishes itself will help to determine future studies on how to control and prevent the occurrence of Body Lice. To read more about one of these studies, click here.

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