Body lice are a part of a family of three types of lice which also includes pubic and head lice. They are generally gray-white in color, just as their family member the head lice, but that is where the similarity ends. They are larger than head lice, and, rather than living directly on the human host, they live in their clothing, coming out of the seams long enough to feed on the human. The primary symptom of body lice is itching, or red bites or bumps where the host has been bitten. Once it is definite that someone in your household has body lice, there are a number of steps you need to take to treat the problem and prevent reinfestation.
Good personal hygiene is perhaps the single most important step you can take in treating body lice. While many doctors recommend medicated shampoos for the treatment of head lice, medication is generally not required for body lice because they live primarily in their host's clothing. Washing your body thoroughly in hot water will kill any moving lice and should become part of your daily routine.
Body lice are commonly found on those who have poor personal hygiene habits, or on those who live in overcrowded households. Therefore it is necessary to check all members of the home for any signs of bites on their bodies, as well as their bedding and clothing for eggs or adult lice. You also need to warn any close friends or contacts who may visit your home so they may take the same precautions.
Though this may be difficult to do, destroy as many pieces of clothing as possible belonging to any infected household members. Again, this is because body lice live primarily in clothing. Doing this ensures you are ridding your home of the problem.
Gather all remaining clothing and bedding from everyone in the household and wash them in a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit; this temperature will kill an adult louse (lice) in five minutes, and an egg in 10 minutes. This is the next best thing to destroying the clothing and bedding. Once washed, place the items in the dryer on the highest heat possible as a measure of precaution.
Once you have washed yourself and your bedding, use a disinfectant and wipe down everything from bedposts to doorknobs. You also need to vacuum your furniture and floors, since these cannot be washed nor dried. After vacuuming, throw the bag away immediately.
Though in most cases a medicated wash is not required, in severe cases you may want to consult with your doctor to ensure you are treating the body lice thoroughly. Over-the-counter antihistamines or allergy medications such as Benadryl can be used to help relieve the itching that results from the bites. In addition, be sure to change every piece of clothing on a daily basis to help prevent an infestation of body lice.