The body louse

The body louse, Pediculus humanus corporis, is similar to the head louse. The differences that separate it from the head louse are small and uncertain. Even specialists may find it difficult to distinguish between the two subspecies. Body lice lay their nits in the clothes etc. we wear on the body. One can assume that lice on clothes are body lice.

Body lice can be frequent in soldiers, refugees, who aren’t well-groomed etc. In Denmark today, body lice rare. They are occasionally seen in vagabonds and other people who are badly off whom only uses one set of clothes that is never washed in hot water. Body louse bites are often grouped on the skin next to the seams of the clothes where the lice prefer to be. Symptoms of body louse bites are the same as those of head lice. If the body lice infection has been going on for a long time general thickening and graying of the skin may occur. The phenomenon is called “Vagabond’s disease”. Body lice can transmit a number of fevers, but none of them are common in our parts of the world.

Control. The whole body is treated with Permethrin shampoo, as with head lice. Dusting the clothes with insect powder may be a good idea. The clothes can also be discarded, washed in very hot water, placed in the freezer for a week or dry cleaned.