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Body Lice - Symptoms, Causes and Prevention in Pakistan

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Dr. Umer Mushtaq

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Experience: 12 years

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Summary about Body Lice

Body lice are tiny insects the size of a sesame seed. Body lice live in your clothes and bed linens and feed on your blood several times per day. Bite sites are most common around the neck, shoulders, armpits, waist, and groin areas where clothing seams are most likely to touch the skin.

Body lice are common in highly crowded and unsanitary living conditions, such as refugee camps and homeless shelters. They can also be transmitted through contact with an infected person's clothing. Body lice bites can spread certain diseases and cause infestation. A body lice infestation occurs when a specific type of lice infests the body and clothing.

Body lice come in three stages: the egg (also known as a nit), the nymph, and the adult.

  • Nit: A nit is a lice egg. They are usually visible in the seams of an infected person's clothing, especially around the waistline and under the armpits. Body lice nits are occasionally found attached to body hair. They are oval and typically yellow to white. It may take 1–2 weeks for body lice nits to hatch.
  • Nymph: A nymph is a young louse that emerges from the nit. It resembles an adult body louse but is much smaller. Nymphs reach adulthood 9–12 days after hatching. They must feed on blood to survive.
  • Adult body louse: The adult body louse has six legs and is tan to greyish-white in color. Females conceive and lay eggs. Lice must feed on blood to survive. When a louse falls off a person, it dies in 5–7 days at room temperature.

If your case of body lice becomes severe, contact a healthcare professional immediately for medical assistance.

Symptoms of Body Lice

The bites of body lice cause itching. At the sites of their bites, you can see small areas of crust and blood. Other symptoms are:

  • red bumps on the skin
  • a burning rash caused by an allergic reaction to the bite
  • darkened and hardened skin if lice are in contact for a long time
  • sores due to excessive scratching that may become infected
  • excessive itching, also called pruritus

Causes of Body Lice

Body lice are like head lice, but they behave differently. Body lice, unlike head lice, usually live in your clothes and bedding and feed on your scalp. They feed on your blood several times a day by travelling to your skin. Body lice lay their eggs most commonly in your clothing seams.

Following are the causes of body lice:

  • living in unsanitary conditions such as slums
  • by coming in close contact with an individual who has body lice
  • coming in contact with infested clothes or sheets

Risk Factors of Body Lice

The risk factors for body lice infestation are:

  • people who live in crowded areas
  • homeless people
  • refugees of war
  • people affected and displaced due to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes

Body lice may transmit diseases such as trench fever and typhus. They also carry bacterial infections.

Preventive Measures of Body Lice

It is imperative to keep safe from body lice as they are a menace. The preventive measures for body lice are:

  • avoiding contact with people with body lice
  • avoiding unhygienic living conditions
  • taking a bath daily
  • washing your sheets with warm water
  • sun drying all your clothes and linens

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