Body lice bites can cause intense itching, and you may notice small areas of blood and crust on your skin at the site of the bite marks.
See your doctor if improved hygiene doesn't eliminate the infestation, or if you develop a skin infection from scratching the bites.
Body lice are similar to head lice, but have different habits. While head lice live in your hair and feed on your scalp, body lice typically live in your clothes and bedding. They travel to your skin several times a day to feed on blood.
The seams of your clothing are the most common places for body lice to lay their eggs (nits). You can become infested with body lice if you come into close contact with a person who has body lice, or with clothing or bedding that is infested with body lice.
People who are at higher risk of body lice tend to live in crowded, unclean conditions. They include:
- War refugees
- Homeless people
- Victims of natural disasters
Dogs, cats and other pets do not spread body lice.
Body lice infestations usually cause minimal problems. However, a body lice infestation sometimes leads to complications such as:
- Secondary infections. When body lice scratch and dig to feed on your blood, they may irritate your skin. If you scratch to alleviate itching, this also can irritate your skin. If your skin becomes raw from these irritations, other infections may develop.
- Skin changes. If you're infested with body lice for a long time, you may experience skin changes such as thickening and discoloration — particularly around your waist, groin or upper thighs.
- Spread of disease. Body lice can carry and spread some bacterial diseases, such as typhus, relapsing fever or trench fever.
Dec. 12, 2015
- AskMayoExpert. Lice infestation. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
- Lice (pediculosis). Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/parasitic-skin-infections/lice. Accessed Oct. 21, 2015.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Scabies, other mites, and pediculosis. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Oct. 21, 2015.
- Parasites: Lice. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/body/index.html. Accessed Oct. 21, 2015.