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Body Lice


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 and rash are the most common symptoms of body lice.

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. Apply lice medicine to your body. 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 bath or shower and wash clothes and bedding. This will usually get rid of body lice. Wash all clothes, towels, and sheets 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. Wear clean clothes and use clean towels and sheets. Do not share towels and sheets with others.
  • Avoid contact to prevent the spread of body lice. Do not have close body contact with anyone until all your lice are gone.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are dizzy or have nausea and vomiting after you use lice medicine.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your body lice do not go away, even after treatment.
  • The lice bites become filled with pus or crusty, 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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Further information

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

Learn more about Body Lice

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference