Head lice and body lice are different in their appearance, place of infestation, survival abilities and health effects on humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to head lice, body lice are larger, live on clothing, thrive in poor hygiene conditions, survive longer and carry diseases.
Head lice are approximately 2 to 3 millimeters long. They thrive in the head and neck regions and lay eggs at the bottom of the hair shafts. Infestation caused by head lice spreads through close person-to-person contact and sharing of personal items such as combs and towels with an infested person. These lice don't transmit diseases, reports the CDC.
Head lice depend heavily on the warmth of the human body and can't survive for more than 24 hours if separated from humans, states Inside Science. A head lice infestation can be treated using nonprescription and prescription drugs, says the CDC.
In contrast, body lice are 2.3 to 3.6 millimeters long, thrive and lay eggs on clothing and feed on nearby skin. Body lice infestation spreads by direct contact in overcrowded areas with poor hygiene, reports the CDC. These lice can survive for as long as one week without human hosts and carry diseases such as trench fever and typhus, states Inside Science.
Medication is not required to treat body lice. Maintaining hygiene and changing to clean clothes regularly is adequate, states the CDC.