Difference between Body and Head Lice—A Discussion

One question that we’ve received time and again regarding head lice is whether or not they’re the same as body lice. After all, they both suck blood from their host, they both stay on the person’s body, and are small to boot. There can’t be that much of a difference between the two, right? But the truth is that while they do share similar blood-sucking, infesting, and other annoying qualities; that is where the similarities stop. In fact, head lice and body lice are quite different in not just structure, but also with regard to origin!

Learning about Head Lice

About 2–3 mm in length, as big as a sesame seed, head lice are minute and brownish in color, with no wings and six legs. Head lice attach themselves to the hair shaft at the base, and lay their eggs down the shaft near the scalp. Mostly transmitted from person-to-person contact, head lice can also crawl (they cannot fly or jump) to other heads if they attach themselves to any hair accessories or clothing such as combs, hats and clothing. If they cannot find a source of human blood, head lice die in a few days. In addition, head lice infestations are not associated with a person’s hygiene or socio-economic status. On the contrary, head lice prefer clean hair because it’s easier for them to roam around on a clean scalp. Head lice also cannot transmit disease. As for outbreaks, most occur in primary or elementary-grade children and among girls because they have longer hair, which is easier to access.

Learning about Body Lice

Body lice, on the other hand, are a whole other type of bug in terms of their nature. Small in size, body lice are typically 2.3–3.6 mm long. Similar in body shape to head lice, body lice also have six legs and no wings. Also brownish in color, body lice have the addendum of two antennas on their head. They also transfer through direct contact among people. However, this is where the similarities end. Unlike head lice which lay their eggs at just the hair shaft, body lice lay their eggs on furnishing, clothes and bedding. They also don’t just stay on their host. Body lice seek new sources and move from one to another to feed. They mostly bite people around the midriff, groin and armpits, i.e. areas where the seam of one’s clothing comes in contact with the skin. Also, unlike head lice which are generally considered a cosmetic inconvenience, body lice actually spread disease. In fact, epidemics of relapsing fever and typhus have been reported as something spread due to body lice infestations. Additionally, body lice outbreaks connect with one’s socio-economic condition and hygiene. People living in unruly conditions—poverty-stricken areas, locations experiencing severe climate changes or any sort of social upheaval that does not allow for them to follow basic hygiene or regular bathing—are more likely to have body lice. This is why many cases of body lice are often reported among war refugees, natural disaster victims and the homeless.

Dealing with Lice Infestations

For each, it’s important that you seek proper treatment. Whereas body lice can be dealt with through basic hygiene and regular washing, head lice should be handled via professional help. Lice Troopers in Orlando and Winter Park in Florida offers professional lice removal service to all in need. If you think you have head lice, contact us today at 1-800-403-5423 and book an appointment.