Head Lice Treatment Series Part 5
What Does Lice Look Like? Find Out With These Head Lice Pictures

When I suspected my child might have a lice infestation I wondered, what does lice look like? Here are some head lice pictures to help you determine whether you or your child has head lice.

I understand that normally you would say, what does a louse look like? But, you aren't really trying to see one little louse when you ask yourself a question like this. You are asking, what does a lice infestation, in my child's hair, look like?

In other words, does my child have head lice? How can I visually tell?

There are really two ways, look for moving lice or look for their eggs. This page is devoted to head lice pictures of the bugs themselves, while the next post will deal with their eggs, also known as nits.

Just to give you an idea of how small these bugs are, here is a picture of one on a q-tip, similar to how small it is when seen with the naked eye. This is one of the most realistic pictures I found to give you an answer to the question of "what does lice look like?," at least how you'll see them in your child's hair. The answer -- really small and dark looking.

head lice picture
Photo by Eran Finkle

As you can see, head lice are quite small. To make it even harder to tell when a child has lice in their hair, these little guys move, fast.

They don't like light, and scurry away from it when you, for example, lift up a piece of hair looking for evidence of lice.

And, to top it all off, they are brown, so they are really hard to see, because they blend in, especially if your child's hair is dark in color. You will see some more pictures of head lice below where they look almost white, but that is viewing them with a microscope, and you most likely don't have one of those in your home.

Here is another picture of lice, a little closer up, but gives you a perspective of how small they really are, compared with a match head and the head of a needle. This is why it is helpful to get a magnifying glass out, if you have one, when examining your child's hair for head lice.

male and female louse
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

close up picture of louse
Photo by Eran Finkle
Next are some up close pictures of head lice, just so you can know what they look like under a microscope. These pictures of lice are rather educational, but you obviously won't be seeing them this way outside a labratory.

These would be helpful pictures to show your child, if they want to know, "what does lice look like?" if they are scientifically minded. Of course, with other kids it might just scare them, so use your best judgment on this one.

close up picture of head louse
Photo courtesy of the CDC Public
Health Image Library
Gross, huh?

There are some differences between the way the adult male and adult female look, but frankly since you can't see the difference between the two when you are hunting through your child's hair, I did not include all those pictures.

If you are interested, check the CDC Public Health Image Library to see even more pictures of head lice.

By the way, this CDC Public Health Image Library was really helpful to me in answering the question of, "what does lice look like?" because it had lots of copyright free images you could look up. It was a great resource for other medical questions too, so keep it in mind for when your family has some questions about anything medical.

Next, there are pictures of head lice in their various life stages. This is more important to you as part your head lice treatment, because you need to know what you are looking for in your child's hair.

In the previous post in this series, regarding head lice information, I discussed the various life stages of head lice.

Obviously, the bigger the lice are the easier they are to see, except they all run really fast.

When trying to figure out what does lice look like, in your child's hair, from my experience you are more likely to see the nymphs, or at least the shed exoskeletons of the nymphs from previous stages before they grew larger, than anything else that resembles a bug. That is because the shed exoskeletons don't move. They look like tiny specks of brown dirt until you pick it up and examine it closely, and can barely see the little legs. Yuck!

First, here is a diagram of the various stages in the life cycle of head lice, to refresh your memory from the previous part of the series.

head lice lifecycle
Photo courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library

Next, here is a very useful picture for really understanding the answer to the question of "what does lice look like?," because it shows you what these little bugs look like at their various stages of life, like you will see in your child's hair.

Study this picture. Note how there are big and small ones, and also eggs.

The best way to see them is once you have used a lice comb, and removed them from the hair. Like I said, it is much more difficult to see them while they are in the hair itself. The other way you will be able to see them is once you have done either a commercial treatment (if it works) or a home remedy, and the lice are all dead and just need to be removed.

head lice lifecycle
Photo © Istock Photo (all rights reserved)

I hope these pictures have helped answer for you the question of, "what does lice look like?" for helping you determine whether your child has head lice.

Just to provide an additional helpful lice picture, here is a picture of body lice, in case you need to know what they look like. As the name implies, these types of lice live on your body instead of in your hair.

body lice pictures
Photo courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library

head lice treatment
This post, about "what does lice look like?," is part of my 14 part series on Head Lice Treatment. Start at the beginning of the series, and read it all if you need instructions on this right now. Don't panic -- learn the facts before you act!

Previous part of the series: Part 4: Head Lice Information - Know Thy Enemy So You Can Destroy Him!

Next part of series: Part 6: Head Lice Nits - What Do They Look Like And How To Get Rid Of Them

In addition, don't forget that you can share your stories and experiences about lice treatment here.

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Related Links At Household Management 101

Head Lice Treatment - How To Get Rid Of Head Lice Series

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