Lice

Lice are tiny insects that live on humans and survive by feeding on blood. Although they cannot jump or fly, they spread easily from one person to another through close contact or shared personal items.

Head lice, pubic lice, and body lice are the three main types that live on humans. When a large number of lice collect and reproduce on a person's body, it is called an infestation. Lice can infest people from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The main symptom of lice infestation (pediculosis) is itching in the affected areas. The nits (eggs) of hair and pubic lice may be seen on hair shafts, while nits of body lice are most often found in the seams of clothing. Scratching affected areas can make the skin raw, and these areas may become infected. Bites from pubic lice can cause small bruiselike marks on the torso, thighs, or upper arms.

Treatment usually begins with application of a cream, shampoo, or lotion to kill lice. Prescription and nonprescription medications are both available. Washing clothes and linens in hot water is generally recommended.

Last Updated: November 24, 2008

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.