Body lice


Body lice, tiny oblong-shaped insects, thrive in clothing and bedding, making frequent visits to human skin for blood meals. Commonly found in areas where garment seams come into contact with the skin, such as the neck, shoulders, armpits, waist, and groin, these parasites are particularly prevalent in crowded and unclean environments like homeless shelters and refugee camps. Body lice can easily spread through clothing contact, potentially leading to outbreaks and the transmission of various diseases.

Humans are vulnerable to three distinct types of lice: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice (crabs). As blood-feeding parasites, they call the human body their home, equipped with six legs, a sizable abdomen, powerful leg claws for clinging to their host, and pointed teeth for penetrating the skin during blood feasts. Incapable of flight or jumping, these insects move by crawling, and their presence poses health risks, especially in conditions that promote close human contact and unsanitary living environments.

There exist three developmental stages of body lice:

  • Nit: Oval-shaped and yellow-white, nits are lice eggs often found in clothing seams. Though difficult to spot on the skin, they hatch within one to two weeks.
  • Nymph: Emerging from a nit, a nymph is an adolescent louse smaller than an adult but matures into one after feeding on blood for nine to 12 days.
  • Adult: Yellow-gray or brown-red in color, adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed (3 millimeters). Female lice, larger than males, can lay over 300 nits during their 20-day lifespan. If an adult louse is unable to feed on blood, it will perish within one to two days.

To address an infestation, contaminated clothing and bedding should be laundered in hot, soapy water and machine-dried using the hot cycle.


Body lice bites can present in various ways, with symptoms varying in intensity. When body lice serve as carriers of diseases or trigger allergic reactions, symptoms can become more noticeable.

Typical indications of body lice bites include:

  • Sensations of tickling on the skin.
  • Skin becoming itchy and irritated.
  • Presence of clusters of small, discolored dots or bites, which may exhibit red, purple, or brown hues, sometimes accompanied by an expanding lighter ring.

In more severe cases, symptoms may include:

  • Formation of sores.
  • Elevated risk of infections.

Persistent biting or long-term infestations in specific areas may result in skin thickening and darkening. It is crucial to monitor and promptly address these symptoms for effective management.


Body lice, distinct from head lice in their habits, typically inhabit clothing and bedding rather than residing in hair. Unlike head lice, which feed on the scalp, body lice travel to the skin multiple times a day to feed on blood. The seams of clothing are the primary locations where body lice lay their eggs (nits). Infestation can occur through close contact with an individual carrying body lice or by coming into contact with clothing or bedding infested with these parasites.

Risk factors

Individuals who are more likely to contract body lice typically reside in dirty, crowded areas. Among them are:

  • Refugees (War/ Camp)
  • Homeless.
  • Individuals displaced by natural calamities

Body lice could not be transmitted by pets such as dogs, cats, and others.