Body Lice vs. Fleas: How to Tell the Difference

Body lice can be a scary experience for anyone who has had them or who has known someone to have them. While they are certainly troublesome, what makes matters worse is when there is a debate as to whether they are fleas or lice. Fleas can often look the same as body lice, causing much confusion over what the suggested course of treatment should be. In many cases, if a person is not familiar with the skin concerns on sight, the wrong course of treatment may be taken, causing a delay in a cure.

By learning precisely which bugs are which, a person can ensure a quick recovery.

What Are Body Lice?

Lice are creatures which can infest themselves in various areas of an animal body, including a human. By attaching to body hair, the lice will be able to access the skin and begin to feed off the blood of their host animal. These creatures are small and wingless, often resembling small pieces of rice. They will produce eggs which will then attach to the hairs as well, causing a new group of lice to be born onto the skin. The eggs for the lice will be tan to coffee colored.

Lice don't tend to move around as much as fleas, so this can be a way of telling them apart. Lice are generally dark gray in color and are oval shaped. Lice are also much more likely to stay on one host, sometimes even for their entire lifetime without proper treatment. Lice can be spread through direct contact with a person who also has the lice infestation or has eggs which transfer to the body hairs.

What Are Fleas?

Those patients who have animals or who are exposed to the outside world. Fleas are also parasitic in nature, which means they enjoy feeding off of their hosts. Fleas will feed on blood or on living skin tissues, while lice typically feed on blood or dead tissues. Fleas are much more active than lives, often jumping around from skin patch to skin patch to find the best spot to feed. In addition, fleas are not as committed to their host, moving from animal to animal as necessary.

The compressed body of the flea causes them to be able to move quickly from place to place, host to host. Fleas also prefer living in warm places on the body, including armpits and behind the ears. The flat body of the flea is typically a dark reddish brown, helping them to be easily visible to the naked eye. Fleas have polished bodies with short spines and are very tough to injure. At times, fleas can simply choose to bite an animal or a human at the ankles before moving on to a new host.

When a person is unsure as to whether they have lice or fleas, it's a good idea to visit a health care professional. While the treatments are similar in nature, stopping the lice cycle can require stronger and more specific medication therapies.

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