What Do Lice Look Like?

The head louse is a very small, wingless insect. It lives among your hair and thrives on human blood drawn from the scalp. This parasitic insect can cause several problems, especially for kids. Lice (the plural of louse) are very irritating and quite tough to get rid of. The good thing is that lice cannot spread disease. Interestingly, many people don't know what the head louse looks like, and they ask questions, "What do lice look like?" and "What are the best ways to get rid of them?"

Your child may complain about itchy scalp, but lice aren't dangerous. The only consideration is that the bites of lice will make your child's scalp itchy and they may scratch their scalp for relief, which may lead to infection. It is therefore a good idea to take some steps to treat head lice as soon as possible.

What Do Lice Look Like?

As mentioned, lice are wingless parasitic insects. They can be 1-3mm long, but are usually less than 1/8 inch. Even though lice are tiny, it is easy to see them with naked eye. Some lice are called crab lice because they look like tiny crabs. They look grayish in color and have six legs. Lice can affect people of every age, but they are more common among kids. Even though lice are not airborne and cannot fly, live, or swim without their host, they can be highly contagious. Here's a bit more to answer your question, "What do lice look like?"

You can find three forms of lice, including nits, nymphs, and the adult.

  • Nits are basically lice eggs. They are not easy to identify mainly because they look like dandruff. They are very small and oval shaped. They attach to your hair shaft and take a week or so to hatch.
  • Once hatched, you will have baby lice in your hair. Also called nymphs, these baby lice are like the adult lice but are smaller. They feed on blood and take about 9 to 12 days to become adults.
  • The full-grown adult lice look more like a sesame seed. An adult louse may look darker if you have dark hair. Adult male lice are smaller than adult female lice. Female lice can give six eggs a day. These adult lice live on your scalp, especially on top of your head, behind the ears, and near the neckline. They sometimes are found on brows and eyelashes. An adult louse can live up to a month on your head, but it will die in a couple of days if it falls off your head.

Below are what nits, nymphs and a louse looks like respectively:

How Do I Know If My Kid Has Lice?

What do lice look like? Once you have the answer to this question, it will be easier for you to know your kids have lice. However, there are some other typical signs confirming your kids may have lice. For instance:


Lice bite the scalp to feed on blood and leave saliva on the surface of your head, which will lead to itching and scratching. It means that if you're noticing your child to scratch his/her head often, it could be due to those pesky lice. You need to bear in mind that how soon the itching starts usually depends on how sensitive your child's skin is. Your child may already have lice but the itching and scratching may take a few weeks to start.

Red Bumps and Sores

They are the outcome of scratching. As mentioned, some kids won't have that sensitive skin, so the irritation is mild. For others, it will be difficult to resist the temptation to scratch, which will eventually lead to rashes and red bumps. In fact, your child may develop a bacterial infection due to excessive scratching. Go see your child's doctor if you find any swollen lymph glands. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.

How to Check

Even if your child isn't scratching that hard, you may still consider parting his/her hair to check for lice and nits. Use a fine-tooth comb, especially behind the ears and around the nape of the neck to see if it catches something. Using a bright light may also help find a nymph. If your child has lice infestation, you should consult your doctor to find a proper treatment. Also, go meet your child's school nurse to see if other kids have the same issues. You should also inform them about your child's problem, so they could take measures to protect other kids.

How to Get Rid of Lice on Head

Once you have the answer to your question, "What do lice look like?" you'd want to know some ways to get rid of them. If an infection has developed due to scratching, you may want to see your doctor for a solution. However, you can take some homecare measures to help treat lice. For instance:

  • Try OTC Lice Killing Treatment 

You can find a number of over-the-counter treatment options to clear a lice infestation. These treatments are made using extracts of chrysanthemums, which are safe to use for most kids except for very young children. Talk to your doctor first to confirm if lice in your area are resistant to these treatments. Always follow the instructions mentioned on the label for better effects.

  • Keep Your Home Lice-Free

It's true that lice cannot live without its host, but you will be better off washing the bedding for anyone who's currently undergoing a lice treatment. Also, be sure to wash the clothing and quarantine all of your child's stuffed animals, especially if they sleep with their favorite plush toys.

  • Try Some Home Remedies

You can use some home remedies to get rid of lice. Some parents have found good results from white vinegar, mayonnaise, and tea tree oil. Applying mayonnaise thickly in the scalp will smother lice. Many people believe that vinegar can dissolve the glue that allows nits to stick to the hair. There is no scientific evidence to back these remedies, but you can try them since they don't cause any harm.

  • Use Fine-Toothed Combs

You can make use of some fine-toothed combs to eliminate lice and their nits. It is an effective option, but it takes time and patience to clear every nit out of your child's hair.

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