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Body Lice

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What are body lice?

Body lice are tiny bugs that attach to your skin and live on tiny amounts of blood. Body lice like to bite soft skin areas where clothes fit tight to the body, such as the groin, waist, or armpits. Body lice are light gray and about the size of a sesame seed. Body lice are spread through contact with contaminated clothes or bedding.

What are the signs and symptoms of body lice?

  • Severe itching
  • Rash or swelling near the hair strands

How are body lice diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your signs and symptoms and examine you. Lice medicine is used to kill body lice and is available without a doctor's order. Lice medicine usually comes as a lotion or cream. Use it as directed. Throw away all lice medicine that you do not use. Keep it away from your eyes. Other medicines may also be given to decrease itching and inflammation.

How can I manage or prevent body lice?

  • Take a hot shower and wash all clothes, towels, and bedding in hot, soapy water. Dry them on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. Items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned should be sealed in an airtight plastic bag for 2 weeks. Do not share towels and sheets with others. Vacuum furniture, rugs, carpets, car seats, or other fabrics.
  • Do not have close body contact with anyone until all your lice are gone.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your body lice do not go away, even after treatment.
  • The lice bites become crusty or filled with pus, or your skin has a bad smell.
  • Your skin burns, stings, swells, or is numb after you use lice medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.