Home Remedies for Body Lice

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In the United States, an outbreak of body lice is a rare occurrence, but the threat is still a reality. The aftermath of a natural disaster to overcrowded conditions in a homeless shelter can become a target for the spread of the tiny insects that quickly transmit from person to person and their belongings. Home remedies for body lice can help combat the issue and ease common symptoms.

What are Body Lice?

Body lice (also known as Pediculus humanus corporis) are tiny parasitic insects that live on the body or the bedding and clothing of infested humans. While related to the head louse, body lice that are found on humans are longer in length and rarely make their way to the head. Body lice prefer to settle on the clothing of an infected person because it can have easy access to the skin whenever they need to feed.

Lice feed on a diet of human blood and lay their eggs on the skin of a victim and their clothing. There are three different types of lice, including public and head. Body lice are larger than the other kinds and can reach the size of a sesame seed when fully grown.

Body lice spreads from person-to-person or if someone comes in contact with infected items. While lice is a contagious medical concern, if the parasite falls off of an individual and has no place to go, it will die within 5 to 7 days at room temperature [1].

Causes and Symptoms

Body lice infestations are high in places where living conditions are cramped and overcrowded. When a group of people with poor hygiene live in close proximity to one another, body lice is more likely to develop, including situations with the homeless, refugees, natural disaster victims, and victims of war. The United States rarely sees an outbreak in body lice, but can arise in homeless shelters when bathing and lack of clean clothes is an issue.

Body lice are transmitted when someone comes in direct contact with an infected individual or with infected clothing, towels, or bedding. Symptoms of body lice include intense itching, red bumps that form on the skin, and the thickening or discoloration of the waist or groin when lice have been present for a long time. Body lice also bite, especially around the waist, groin, armpits, and any other places where clothing seams touch the skin [2]

Body Lice Home Remedies

It is important to treat a case of body lice quickly. Since scratching is a common reaction to the condition, some people develop a secondary skin infection as a result. In rare instances, body lice are carriers for uncommon diseases, such as trench fever. To fight the parasites, the following home remedies for body lice could become your first line of defense:

a) Hot Wash Cycle:

Since body lice like to live on clothing, it is important to discard or thoroughly wash infected clothing in hot water. The temperature should be at least 130 degrees when washing and set to the hot cycle with drying. Washing clothes is an important part of eliminating body lice.

b) Plastic Bags:

When there are items that cannot be washed, rid the lice by sealing in a plastic bag for two weeks. Body lice cannot live without a host for more than seven days. Therefore, keeping contaminated items in plastic for up to two weeks can help destroy lice and eggs.

c) Cold Soaks:

Ease the itching of body lice with a cold soak.

d) Vacuum:

When you initially start treating a case of body lice, make sure to thoroughly vacuum out your house and car.

e) Vinegar and Oil:

When red scaly bumps and itchiness emerge, body lice may have infested your skin. To combat the symptoms, mix one cup of white vinegar and one cup of oil (vegetable or olive). Make sure the mixture is well blended and with plastic gloves, smear the remedy on your affected skin. Allow the mixture to stay on the skin for at least 30 minutes. Rinse it off in the shower and if the itching continues, repeat the process.

f) Rubbing Alcohol:

Remove lice and their eggs from personal hygiene tools by soaking in rubbing alcohol for at least one hour. This is a home remedy used to remove eggs (called nits) and lice from expensive or favorite combs and brushes.

g) Coconut Milk:

It is said that lice are not fond of the smell of coconuts. Some people have bathed in coconut milk to rid their body of lice.

h) Calamine Lotion:

Treat the itching of body lice by applying calamine lotion to affected skin.

i) Listerine:

The antiseptic properties of this popular mouthwash contain essential oils and other ingredients believed to kill lice: eucalyptol, alcohol, thymol, menthol, and methyl salicylate. The mouthwash could become an effective addition to your body lice treatment when rubbed on the body.


[1] http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/body-lice/overview.html
[2] http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/body-lice/DS01073.html