How to Get Rid of It

Home Remedies and Tips to Solve Common Problems

How to Get Rid of Body Lice

Body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis) are small wingless insects, slightly larger than head lice. As parasites, body lice reside on the human body causing a condition called pediculosis. Body lice hide in clothing and bedding, especially along seams, and they move by crawling. Once they infest an area, they tend to spread to all family members although they don’t bother the family’s pets.

Taking up Residence

On their human host, body lice move onto the skin a few times daily to feed off the body’s blood. They also lay their eggs and leave their waste matter on the skin and clothing. Their presence can cause intense itching, bug bites, scabbing, crusting, and rash.

Because they nest along seams and parts of clothing that adhere to the body, the skin near waistbands, on the shoulders, buttocks, abdomen or under bra straps are most often affected. Scratching the affected areas can lead to infection. Rarely, body lice can act as vectors, transmitting other diseases, including relapsing fever, typhus, and trench fever.

How Body Lice Spread

Body lice spread through contaminated clothing and through direct contact with infected persons. They’re more common in crowded conditions and in conditions of poor hygiene. Robust, body lice can survive for up to 30 days without contact with a human host. An adult female louse can lay as many as 10 eggs daily and 300 or more eggs during her lifetime. Having a short life cycle, freshly hatched lice can reach adulthood within 9 days. When female adults begin reproducing, the infestation can worsen. For this reason, it can be difficult to get rid of body lice without thorough cleaning and scrutiny. Insects as well as their eggs and larvae must be destroyed.

Getting Rid of Body Lice

In infestations with body lice, affected individuals must shower with hot water and soap. Clothing and bedding must be thrown out or washed in hot water, drying these items in a hot clothes dryer (more than 122 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes) or by pressing the suspect clothing or bedding with a hot iron. Alternately, the clothing and bedding can be boiled for 5 minutes or dry cleaned.

When clothing and bedding are thoroughly washed, no further treatment may be required.

Chemical Lice Removal

In areas difficult to clean, such as mattresses, chemical powders can be used. Effective dusting products include 10 percent DDT, 1 percent malathion or 1 percent permethrin. These products should be used cautiously, and inhalation should be avoided. Direct contact with DDT should also be avoided.

Commercial Topical Preparations

Several over-the-counter and prescription products are used to eradicate body lice. After mites are destroyed, symptoms and lesions can take up to 3 weeks to resolve. Treatment can fail because of drug resistance, incompletely applied therapy, poor absorption, and re-infection. The following treatments are available:

  • Elimite cream, Nix, or Rid Spray (permethrin 5 percent) may be used in children over 2 months of age.
  • Ovide lotion (malathion 0.5 percent) may be used in children over 6 years of age. Ovide can cause stinging when open sores are exposed to the lotion.
  • Kwell shampoo or cream (lindane 1 percent) is generally reserved for stubborn cases resistant to other treatments due to the possibility of central nervous system toxicity, especially by absorption through open sores or excessive application. Guidelines recommend that Kwell only be used in individuals weighing at least 110 pounds.
  • Precipitated sulfur, 6 to 10 percent in petrolatum, applied daily for 3 consecutive days.


Older children and adults should apply permethrin to the entire body from the neck down; allow to dry and wash off after 8 to 14 hours. Repeat treatment in 7 days.

For infants and young children, permethrin should be carefully applied to the head and neck, avoiding the mouth and eyes, and then to the rest of the body, particularly body creases, fingernails, toenails, and umbilicus. Mittens can be put on infants to help prevent them from getting permethrin in the mouth or eyes.

Treatment Precautions

Treatments can injure the eyes. Avoid getting lotion in the eyes or rubbing treated hands over the eyes.
Lindane can cause neurotoxicity, including dizziness and seizures, in individuals weighing less than 110 pounds.


  1. A lot of people think lice is something pest control can treat. That’s so wrong. Lice is a health issue. The only person who can help is the nearby pharmacist. Don’t call pest control, call the pharmacy! They will help.

  2. Under the section, Commercial Topical Preparations, you say “•Elimite cream, Nix, or Rid Spray (permethrin 5 percent) may be used in children over 2 months of age.”

    The RID Spray MAY NOT BE USED ON THE BODY! Spraying a young child would probably cause an agonizing death, certainly serious nerve damage. (I don’t know about the other products–check the instructions.) The RID spray is for things like shoes, furniture and mattresses ONLY, things that cannot go in the laundry and will not directly contact the skin. Accidentally breathing the fumes while spraying can cause serious nerve damage. Spraying a child or an adult with RID Spray will cause serious and permanent injury to the nerves. RID Spray is NOT FOR USE ON THE SKIN. This is not an optional point, it is against the directions for the product and extremely dangerous. I know, I got nerve damage from this product: READ THE LABEL AND INSTRUCTIONS.

    When the Rid spray is used on mattesses, furniture or shoes etc. the spraying must be in an area that can be well ventilated with fresh air for six hours or more until the scent is gone. Never allow someone to use a mattress that is not completely aired out and free of fumes, especially a child. If spraying outside, do so only in an area sheltered from the wind because the wind will blow the spray back into your face and you will breathe it, or it will get into your eyes. Wear protective glasses while spraying, if you have to use the spary at all. Better to vacuum the items or isolate them for 30 days. Avoid contacting still wet surfaces with skin. Use gloves when spraying.

    RID Spray is very dangerous and continued use will probably cause nerve damage due to inadvertent breathing of fumes or absorption through the skin from contact with wet surfaces. If you notice stiffening or cramping of the muscles, never use it again; the damage will only get worse. READ THE INTRUCTIONS WITH ALL PRODUCTS! Your child’s life and health depend upon it.


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