About Body Lice
About Body Lice!
In the United States, the body louse is the least common of the three types of Lice (Head, Body, and Pubic), occurring populations living in communal conditions, such as nursing homes, hospitals, prisons and dormitories. Worldwide, Body Lice cases total hundreds of millions each year. They are transmitted through direct contact or by sharing infested bedding or clothes.
Body Lice are very small and are best identified by careful inspection, such as under a microscope. Body Lice are about the same size as Head Lice, but are more difficult to see. They spend the majority of their lives in the seams of your clothing (not in your hair) and bedding, moving to your skin only to feed on your blood.
Body Lice tend to feed while humans are asleep and that is why the itching is usually worse at night than any other time. This also leads many people to believe that they have Bed Bugs. If you think you may have Bed Bugs, please click here. Scabies are also similar to Body Lice but are caused by skin mites rather than the louse. For more information on Scabies, please click here.
Itching is the first symptom of Body Lice and this leads to scratching the affected area. This itching is specifically caused by a toxin (poison) secreted by the Lice through its saliva as it bites you. The bites of Body Lice will first appear as small red spots and, if left untreated, will progress into a rash similar in appearance to German measles, aka Rubella. Your skin will become inflamed as the biting continues and you may experience fever and/or headaches. Long-term infestations may result in thickening of or discoloration of your skin and you may even develop lesions from secondary infection due to continuous scratching.
Body Lice are extremely sensitive to change in their environmental temperature and humidity. Normally they are also sensitive to light and seek shelter when disturbed. They are rarely seen on the outside surface of infested clothing. If Body Lice are visible, this is an indication of a severe infestation. However, in hot weather, Body Lice have been known to move to the outer layers of clothing, where the temperature is cooler.
The Life Cycle of Body Lice
There are three stages that complete the life cycle of Body Lice: nit, nymph, and adult.
Nit: Nits are the eggs of the body louse and are usually found in the seams of clothing. Particularly, these nits are usually located near the waistline of garments and seams of underwear. However, occasionally they may also be attached to your body hair. They are oval, approximately 1 millimeter in length and yellow to white in color. The hatching of the nit is sensitive and dependant upon temperature. If clothing is left on the body, hatching occurs within 5-10 days. If clothing is removed nightly, this time may increase up to 2 weeks. Nits can stay alive for up to 14 days once removed from its host.
Nymph: Upon hatching, the baby louse is considered a nymph. The nymph looks similar to an adult body louse but smaller. Nymphs range from 1.5 millimeters to 2 millimeters in length and mature in about 7 days after hatching. In order to continue life, the nymph must feed on a blood meal from a human host.
Adult: Adult Body Lice are approximately the size of a sesame seed, ranging from 2.3 millimeters to 3.6 millimeters in length. Adult Lice are dependant upon blood meals. If a louse is removed from its host, it can survive up to 48 hours. The adult body louse is tan to grayish-white in color. This louse is generally larger in size compared to the head louse with the female being larger than the male. A mature female can lay up to 200-300 nits within her life span, laying about 6-9 eggs a day for a total of approximately 30 days.
Diagram of the Life Cycle of a Body Louse