Body lice are small insects that live on the clothing or bedding of humans and feed on human blood. People who live in crowded, unsanitary conditions and do not shower or have access to clean clothing are more likely to get body lice. Body lice can cause intense itching and a rash caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of the lice. Scratching can cause sores, which may lead to bacterial or fungal infections. Body lice can spread diseases to humans, including epidemic typhus, trench fever, and louse-borne relapsing fever, but these diseases are rare in the United States.
The signs of body lice include finding lice and their eggs (nits) in the seams of clothing, or sometimes crawling or biting and feeding on the skin. To prevent or get rid of body lice, clothing, bedding, and towels should be washed at least once per week in hot water and then placed in a clothes dryer on the hot cycle. It is also important to shower or bathe regularly and avoid sharing clothing and other items with someone who has body lice.