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Body Lice


What are body lice?

Body lice are tiny bugs that hide in soiled clothes and bedding. They crawl onto your body to bite you and feed on 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. They lay eggs in the seams and folds of clothing and bedsheets.

How are body lice spread?

Body lice are spread in crowded or unclean living areas. You can get body lice if you touch the skin of someone with lice. You can also get body lice by wearing clothes or lying in beds infested with lice.

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?

Your caregiver will ask you about your signs and symptoms and examine you. He can usually see that you have lice by looking at your skin and clothing.

How are body lice treated?

  • Lice medicine: You can buy lice shampoo, lotion, or cream without a doctor's order. Apply these medicines to your body. Use them as directed. Do not use these products on children under 2 years old. Throw away all lice medicine that you do not use. Keep it away from your eyes.
  • 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.

What are the risks of body lice?

You can scratch your skin so much that it becomes raw or breaks open. This can lead to a skin infection. If you are infected with body lice for a long period of time, you can develop thick, dark skin patches.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are dizzy or have nausea and vomiting after you use lice medicine.
  • You have areas on your skin that are red, swollen, warm, or tender, and you have a fever.

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 caregivers 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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