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 waist, groin and armpits — places where clothing seams are most likely to touch skin.
Body lice are most common in crowded and unhygienic living conditions, such as refugee camps and shelters for the homeless. Body lice bites can spread certain types of diseases and can even cause epidemics.
Body lice bites can cause intense itching.
See your doctor if improved hygiene doesn’t eliminate the infestation, or if you develop a skin infection from scratching the bites.
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
Body lice infestations usually cause minimal problems. However, a body lice infestation sometimes leads to complications such as:
Secondary infections. When body lice scratch and dig to feed on your blood, they may irritate your skin. If you scratch to alleviate itching, this also can irritate your skin. If your skin becomes raw from these irritations, other infections may develop.
Skin changes. If you’re infested with body lice for a long time, you may experience skin changes such as thickening and discoloration — particularly around your waist, groin or upper thighs.
Spread of disease. Although this rarely occurs, body lice can carry and spread some bacterial diseases, such typhus, relapsing fever or trench fever
Body lice are primarily treated by thoroughly washing yourself and any contaminated items with soap and hot water.
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.
To prevent body lice infestation, avoid having close physical contact or sharing bedding or clothing with anyone who has an infestation.