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Distinguishing Between Fleas and Lice: A Homeowner’s Guide

Posted on June 18, 2024

Estimated Reading Time : 4 Min.

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Distinguishing Between Fleas and Lice: A Homeowner’s Guide

Pests like fleas and lice will make any homeowner’s life miserable. These tiny bugs not only cause you discomfort but can also pose serious health risks. 

But to ensure that you effectively combat these unwanted little creatures, you’ll first need to identify which one you’re dealing with accurately. Why? Because both of them, though small in size, differ a lot and require different methods to remove them. 

In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of distinguishing between fleas and lice, arming you with the knowledge you’ll need to take the appropriate action.

But before we move ahead in the lice vs. flea debate, let’s first cover what they are. 

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are tiny, wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans and pets. They are excellent jumpers and can easily move from host to host, making infestations difficult to control. Adult fleas lay eggs that hatch into larvae, which then spin cocoons and emerge as new adults, continuing the cycle.

What Are Lice?

Like fleas, lice are also small and wingless. But these are insects that feed on human blood and live close to the scalp. The main area where lice dominate is in hair. Lice spread through close personal contact or by sharing personal items like clothing, hats, or combs.

Lice vs. Fleas: The Signs You Have An Infestation

Let’s start with the different signs that indicate you either have a lice or flea infestation. The signs of lice and flea bite are somewhat similar but there are a few distinctions. 

Lice and  fleas

Signs Of Lice

  1. Itching: The most common symptom of a lice infestation is an itchy scalp or skin, caused by an allergic reaction to the lice’s saliva.
  2. Visible Lice or Eggs: Lice eggs, or nits, appear as small, white, oval-shaped specks firmly attached to hair shafts near the scalp. Adult lice may be visible as well, moving quickly through the hair or on clothing.
  3. Rash or Sores: In severe infestations, lice bites can cause a rash or sores to develop on the scalp or skin.

Signs Of Fleas

  1. Itchy Bites: Flea bites often appear as small, red, and itchy bumps on the skin, particularly around the ankles, legs, and waist.
  2. Visible Fleas: You may notice small, brownish-black insects jumping or crawling on your pets, furniture, or carpets.
  3. Flea Dirt: Fleas leave behind small, black specks of dried blood, known as “flea dirt,” which can be seen on pet bedding or in areas where your pets frequent.

Key Differences Between Fleas and Lice


Fleas are smaller (about 1/8 inch long), brownish-black, and have a laterally flattened body shape.

Lice are slightly larger (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch long), grayish-white or tan, and have a more elongated body shape.


Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of mammals. They typically live on the skin of their host, where they use their sharp mouths to pierce the skin and suck blood. 

 Lice are also parasites, but they feed on the blood of humans. They live on the scalp or other hairy areas of the body and use their mouths to pierce the skin and suck blood. 

Habitat and Lifespan

Fleas live on the host (pets or humans) but also in carpets, bedding, and other areas where the host spends time. On average, an adult flea has a lifespan of about 100 days.  

Lice live exclusively on the human host, either on the scalp (head lice), or body (body lice). Unlike fleas, they do not last for a long time and can die in a few days when removed from the host. 


As we covered, fleas are excellent jumpers and can move quickly from host to host. They are known to jump over 200 or 300 times their body size. 

Lice cannot jump or fly and rely on close personal contact or shared personal items to spread. 


Flea bites appear as small, red, itchy bumps, often around the ankles, legs, and waist.

Lice bites can cause intense itching on the scalp or skin, and in severe cases, may lead to a rash or sores.


Fleas can be more than just a nuisance, and their bites can also transmit diseases, such as typhus and plague.

Fleas vs. Lice: Treatment 

Suppose you or your pet has suffered from lice and fleas, so what’s the way forward? Here are the treatment methods, specific to these creatures.  

There are a variety of treatments available for fleas and lice. Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Topical Treatments: Topical treatments are applied directly to the skin or hair. They typically contain insecticides that kill fleas and lice.
  • Oral Treatments: Oral treatments are taken by mouth. They typically contain medications that kill fleas and lice in the bloodstream.
  • Environmental Treatments: Environmental treatments are used to kill fleas and lice in the environment. They typically involve the use of insecticides or other chemicals.

It is important to note that the treatment for fleas and lice may vary depending on the species of pest and the severity of the infestation. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional or veterinarian for the best treatment option.

Prevention Tips 

There are a number of things you can do to prevent fleas and lice infestations. Some of the most common prevention tips include:

  • Keep Your Home And Yard Clean. Fleas and lice can live in dirt and debris, so it is important to keep your home and yard clean.
  • Wash Your Pets Regularly. Fleas and lice can be spread from pets to humans, so it is important to wash your pets regularly with a flea and lice shampoo.
  • Use Flea And Lice Repellents. There are a number of flea and lice repellents available that can help to keep pests away from your skin and hair.
  • Avoid Contact With Infested Animals. If you know that an animal is infested with fleas or lice, avoid contact with the animal.

Best Fleas Exterminator In Tennessee 

As we have seen in this blog post, lice and fleas are completely different species. Both of these can cause problems for you and your pets and should be taken care of. However, while you can treat lice with home treatments, this is not the case with fleas. 

Fleas can hurt your pets and can cause a wide range of diseases which can be serious. This is why you need the help of a strong flea extermination company like Jamison Pest and Lawn. Our team has years of experience and knowledge that helps us to get the best results. Contact us today at (901) 452-1505 to rid your home of fleas and protect your pets. 

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