The lices found on human body can be divided into those that affect:

  • Body and head
  • Pubic area

They are long-shaped insects with little difference. Those affect body and head have more activity, while those affect the pubic area cling to the pubic hair with crab-like claws and do not move much.

Head Lices

This mainly affects school children and only rarely happens in adults. The way of transmission is through sharing hats or combs, or close personal contact.


The head lices make the scalp itchy. They can be seen easily with a simple magnifying glass when they move. The eggs appear as small yellow nodes tightly stuck on the hair shafts.

The back of the neck may have some red spots due to the lices bites.


The diagnosis is usually easy. The lices and their eggs can be seen by magnifying glass. The hair can be painted with Gamma Benzene Hexachloride or Malathion. These have unpleasant smell, but still need to be left on for about 12 hours before washing them off. The eggs can be combed off with a fine comb. The other family members and fellow schoolmates need to be screened and treated for if necessary, otherwise there is a high chance of cross transmission again.

Body Lices

Under normal circumstances, humans do not have body lices. It may happen only when the personal hygiene and the living environment are in an appalling situation. Sharing beddings in a low budget temporary accommodation is a major source of being infested.


Usually there are a large number of lices, which will bite and suck blood from the skin. There is intense itching with a lot of scratch marks, sometimes leading to secondary bacterial infection.

The lices are usually found not the body, but only in the beddings and clothing, where they lay eggs and hatch. The diagnosis may be missed if the doctor does not examine the clothing.


In theory once the sufferer leaves the infested environment, the condition will improve. The beddings and clothing will need to be disinfected. The itchy skin can be treated with simple calamine lotion. If the inflammation is more severe, topical steroid cream can be used. Secondary bacterial infection will be treated with oral antibiotics.

Pubis Lices

This is usually transmitted through sexual activities, although it can happen through sharing under-wears.


The lices are found on the pubic hair, but they may be present on other body hair such as the chest or the underarms. They and their eggs are clearly seen with the naked eyes. The infested area is itchy and there may be signs of biting.


Gamma Benzene Hexachloride or Malathion lotion is applied on the area and washed off after 24 hours. It can be repeated once again after 7 to 10 days, to kill the newly hatched lices. It helps but is not necessary to shave off the hair. Used under-wears need to be disinfected.

This is a very contagious and itchy skin condition, caused by tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei, which dig their way under, into the superficial skin layer

The transmission is from person to person. It needs close contact for a long period. Simple handshakes for example will not pass on the mites. Sharing the beddings and clothing with a person having scabies may contract the infestation although the chance is not very high

Some animals also have scabies caused by a different kind of mites. This can be passed onto humans through contact. When this happens, it is a lot more itchy than the human category.

The mites dig a tunnel into the skin and live there. Female mites lay eggs there, which will hatch after 2 to 4 days. The young mites will mature after a few days, leave the tunnel and dig a new tunnel elsewhere on the skin.

The eggs and excreta of the mites in the tunnels cause an irritation or allergy reaction, which is very itchy and there are some tiny red pimples. The first time sufferers will get these symptoms after they get sensitised in a few weeks, whereas repeated sufferers will have these very quickly in a few days.


The main problem is the intense itch, which intensifies after a hot shower and during sleep. It spreads very quickly to different parts of the body from the initial site. The common areas affected most are the finger webs, wrists, underarms, buttocks, groins, elbows, and breasts. Except in babies, the face and the scalp are not usually affected.

The sufferer may scratch hysterically and there are lots of deep scratch marks. There may be secondary bacterial infection.

The tunnels are seen as short burrows on the skin, and are most noticeable on the palms and soles because of the thick skin. Sometimes there are small blisters along the burrows.


Lotions containing Gamma benzene hexachloride, Benzyl benzoate, or Malathion can be applied on the whole body surface below the face. In order to kill the mites effectively, it is left for 12 hours before washing off. Used beddings, clothing and towels need to be disinfected.

Even after all the mites are killed off, the itch will not subside very quickly because there are still the excreta of the mites. The itch may slowly disappear after 2 to 4 weeks, and this does not mean treatment failure.

Anti-histamines such as Chlorpheniramine or Hydroxyzine will help to reduce the itch and promote sleep because of the drowsiness they cause. Calamine lotion will also help to relieve the itch.

It is important to treat the whole family household and those who have had close contact with the index sufferer, otherwise there is a chance of cross transmission again and the infestation will recur.

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