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What causes Body Lice?

Updated on October 20, 2013
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Types Of Lice

The three common types of lice are the body lice, head lice and pubic lice.

Body lice are caused by the parasite Pediculus humanus corporis and attaches to the skin of humans and feeds on their blood.

The bites cause the skin to become red and itchy.

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Pediculus Humanus Corporis - Body Lice

Body lice acts as vectors for its responsible for infecting humans with the bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii.

The bacteria Rickettsia causes the disease typhus.

Symptoms of typhus include fever, chills and headaches.

Where Do Body Lice Live

A female louse can lay up to 300 nits (eggs) throughout its life span.

It gives birth to around 8 to 9 nits per day.

Body lice live in the seams of clothes and the nits can survive for up to 30 days without feeding on the host (human).

It hides away in the seams of clothing and only comes onto the skin to feed.

The lice like to feed on areas of the body where the clothes fit tightly to the skin such as around the waistline, under the arm pits, bikini and underwear region and along the upper thigh.

People Prone to Body Lice

The bugs are commonly found on people who:

  • Live under unhygienic conditions and do not bathe regularly.
  • Live in poverty.
  • Live in overcrowded areas and are homeless.
  • Do not wash clothes, towels and bed linen regularly.

Tips to prevent getting body lice

  • Refrain from direct skin-to-skin contact with persons having body lice. Do not use their clothes, towels or bed linen.
  • Bathe regularly.
  • Wash clothes, towels and bed linen regularly.
  • Wear clean clothes and underwear.

Tips to treat body lice

  • Make sure all members in the family are treated for body lice.
  • Refrain from sharing towels, bed linen and clothes.
  • Wash the body in hot water and use a medicated soap.
  • To control and stop itching use Benadryl.
  • Soak clothes for 30 minutes in hot water which has been mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil or laundry soap. Discard the water and soak the clothes again in plain hot water for another 30 minutes. Then rinse and dry completely. For severe lice infestations on clothing it’s recommended the clothes be thrown out.
  • People with excessive body hair suffering from body lice should consult a doctor and request for a body wash or shampoo containing tea tree oil to be used when bathing. Some sufferers wash the entire body using a pediculicide shampoo but this form of treatment can be harsh on the skin.

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Neem Leaves To Treat Body Lice

Some people use Neem leaves since it has antiseptic properties to soothe the skin and kill germs and bacteria including body lice.

Take 2 handfuls of neem leaves and make a thick paste by grinding with a little water. Apply on skin and leave till it dries. Then rinse with warm water and gently scrub with a soft bristle brush while you wash off the neem paste from the skin.


Neem leaves for washing clothes, towels and bed linen:

Take a handful of Neem leaves and immerse in hot water and soak the clothes in this for about 1 hour.

Discard the water and rinse the clothes thoroughly in hot water and dry completely.

Get Rid Of Body Lice By Bathing with Neem leaves

Take 2 handfuls of Neem leaves and put this in a tub of hot water.

Soak in the tub of hot water for 15 minutes.

Discard the water and rinse the whole body under the shower.

Home Remedies To Treat Body Lice:

  • Rubbing the body with vinegar and vegetable oil in a ratio of 1:2 and leaving it on for 10 -15 minutes before washing off with hot water.
  • Washing the body with tea tree oil and water in a ratio of 1:2. Don't towel dry the skin after washing but let the water dry off naturally on the skin.


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