Difference Between Lice and Fleas

It’s easy to confuse between lice and flea because they both cause itching and infest hairy areas of the body. They might seem similar from a distance but as you take a closer look, their differences become obvious. Let’s start off with the similarities. They are both flightless parasites affecting animals and humans. They also cause constant skin irritation after a certain amount of infestation. This is where the similarities end between the two. Following are the differences between lice and fleas in terms of their diet, appearance, and how they affect their hosts.

Diet: Fleas survive by feeding on the blood of different animals, commonly dogs, cats, cows, sheep, and sometimes even humans. This habit of feeding directly from the body of their host makes them purely parasitic. Head lice on the other hand kind of has a hybrid diet as they feed both on blood and dead tissues depending on what’s readily available.

Host: Lice mostly affect human hosts and can get transferred from humans to pets. Fleas on the other hand prefer animal hosts and can sometimes get transferred to humans. As the name suggests, head lice affects the head of the host while pubic lice infest the pubic area. Fleas however are pretty mobile and do not affect any particular area.

Body Structure and Appearance: Both lice and flea are very tiny and may look similar to the naked eye. However, if you look at them closely, you’ll notice the stark differences. Lice are usually pale white or yellow whereas fleas are darker. They also have different body structures. A flea is mostly flat while lice are roundish oval.

Mobility: Compared to fleas, lice are sluggish and slow. They usually stick to one host and only get transferred through close personal contact or sharing personal belongings such as towels and hats. Armed with pincers at their backs, head lice can easily grip on to the hair making them extremely hard to remove. They cling on to the hair whenever you try to comb or brush them out. Fleas use their strong hind legs to jump into the air moving rapidly from one area to another. In fact, fleas are so fast that they can easily move from one host to another spreading diseases and illnesses. The great bubonic plague that killed over 25 million in Europe was supposedly circulated from rats to humans via fleas. Fleas usually don’t live on their host and prefer moving around. They live in close proximity to the targeted host mostly in crevices, mattresses, cracks and invade the host’s body only during feeding time. Lice live and breed on their host their entire lives unless they are transferred to another host through close contact.

Treatment: Thanks to their excessive mobility there is no one area you can cure when there is a flea infestation. You might need to treat the entire house with insecticide in order to get rid of them. Lice on the other hand provide a much more compact area of attack. There are tons of over the counter shampoos and hair products available in the market that kill them.

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