You or your doctor can usually confirm a body lice infestation through a visual examination of your body and clothing items. The presence of eggs and moving lice confirms infestation.
Body lice are primarily treated by thoroughly washing yourself and any contaminated items with soap and hot water and drying clothing and bedding in a machine dryer using the hot cycle. Dry cleaning and ironing clothing that cannot be washed also is effective.
If these measures don't work, you can try using an over-the-counter lotion or shampoo that has 1% permethrin (Nix) or pyrethrin. If that still doesn't work, your doctor can provide a prescription lotion. Lice-killing products can be toxic to humans, so follow the directions carefully.
You can usually get rid of body lice by cleaning yourself and any personal belongings that may be contaminated. Wash infested bedding, clothing and towels with hot, soapy water — at least 130 F (54 C) — and machine dry them on high heat for at least 20 minutes.
Clothing that can't be washed may be dry cleaned and ironed.
Items that can't be washed or dried should be sealed in a plastic bag and stored in a warm area for two weeks. Mattresses, couches and other upholstered furniture items should be hot ironed or sprayed with lice-killing products to eliminate eggs from seams. Exposure to infested items should be avoided for two weeks.
Preparing for your appointment
If you can't get rid of body lice on your own, you may need to talk to your family doctor.
What you can do
Before the appointment, you may want to write the answers to the following questions:
- How long do you think you've had body lice?
- What are your symptoms?
- How were you infested with body lice?
- Have you been in contact with others since noticing the body lice? What treatments have you tried?
- Do you have any chronic health problems?
- What medications and supplements do you take?
What to expect from your doctor
During the physical exam, your doctor will examine your skin and the seams of your clothes.
Nov 16, 2022
- AskMayoExpert. Lice. Mayo Clinic; 2020.
- Lice (pediculosis). Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/parasitic-skin-infections/lice. Accessed Nov. 25, 2020.
- Kang S, et al., eds. Scabies, other mites, and pediculosis. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology. 9th ed. McGraw Hill; 2019. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Nov. 25, 2020.
- Parasites: Body lice. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/body/index.html. Accessed Nov. 25, 2020.