The idea of tiny little bugs crawling all over the body will probably make many people feel disgusted. However, that is exactly what body lice are. Essentially, the only difference between body lice and head lice is where you find them, since it is next to impossible to tell them apart simply by looking at them.
Where Body Lice can be found
Body lice can be found all over the world. Their next of kin, head lice, are considered the most prevalent parasitic infestation among humans and are ever present in developing countries.
While head lice are usually seen on the head, with eggs attached to the hair shafts, body lice are usually found on the body and attach their eggs to clothing next to the skin. Since body lice do not need to feed as frequently as head lice, they tend to survive longer. They should not be confused with crab lice, which not only look different, but live mainly in the pubic regions.
Scabies may be called body lice in some situations, but are actually a different organism.
Who is likely to be infected?
In the United States, you will find that body lice are most prevalent among the homeless. Since the homeless do not have regular access to clean laundry and/or showers, they make an ideal habitat for body lice. They can spread easily through populations that have poor hygiene and live in crowded conditions.
The life of body lice
Female body lice will attach their eggs onto the clothing of the infested person. The warm temperature allows the eggs to hatch within a week, and it only takes another 10 days or so from hatching for baby body lice to become reproducing adults. Female body lice will lay about 300 eggs during their short life spans
How to know if you have body lice
The most common symptom of body lice is intense itching, which can lead to rashes and welts on the skin. Left untreated, severe infestations can cause the skin to become thicker and darker. Untreated infestations can also spread disease and infection.
You can also tell that a person has body lice if you find infestations and eggs inside clothing and/or bedding. Finding eggs, or nits, and adult body lice, particularly on a patient with poor hygiene, is enough to signal an infection.
Treatment of body lice
A hot shower and a fresh change of clothing will generally help treat and prevent body lice infestations. Whenever possible, the infested clothing should be burned or discarded to prevent re-infestation. If this is not possible, washing in strong detergent with hot water will kill the body lice nesting there.
In severe cases of body lice, a medicated shampoo may need to be used, particularly if the patient has large amounts of body hair. These shampoos should only be used under a doctor’s supervision and according to instructions, and contact with sensitive areas should be avoided.
Treatment for bacterial infections or diseases caused by the body lice themselves may also be needed.