Difference between Ticks and Lice

Key Difference: Ticks are arachnids that feed on blood from their host and change hosts after feeding. Lice are parasites that attach themselves to the host’s hair and feed on blood, particles and skin.

Ticks and lice are parasitic infestation that can cause problems for humans, animals and other creatures. These two creatures survive on the blood of the host they attach to. Lice are commonly found in the hair, while ticks can be found all over the body, including hair, arms, stomach, clothes, etc. Ticks and lice are often confused as the same due to their similarities in appearance; however they differ from each other in many ways.

Ticks are tiny, wingless, ectoparasites that belong to the Arachnida class, the same class that spiders belong to. There are various different types of ticks such as the American deer tick, sheep tick, and cattle tick. Ticks can be classified into three families: Ixodidae (hard ticks), Argasidae (soft ticks) and Nuttalliellidae. The hard ticks often have a small hard shell on the back of their mouths. They are often found all over the world, commonly in warm, wooded and humid conditions. Ticks require a certain amount of moisture in the air for metamorphosis. Ticks do not spend their whole lives on one host and depend on a variety of hosts from a variety of species for nutrition.

Ticks are divided into two primary sections: the anterior capitulum and the posterior idiosoma. The anterior capitulum contains the head and mouth of the ticks, while the posterior idiosoma contains the legs, stomach and reproductive organs. Like all arachnids, ticks have eight legs. They have a two year life cycle, during which they can infect up to three hosts. In order to attach to a host, the ticks climb to the ends of leaves, plants and shrubs and wait for the host to pass by them. They then attach themselves to the host and find an appropriate place to feed, which include travelling all over the body. They also like shaded areas such as the ears, hair, the inside of the arms, etc. After the ticks are full, they drop from the human and hide until they require another feeding for metamorphosis.

The ticks feed by inserting their pincers into the host and excreting an anticoagulant to keep the blood from clogging. The anticoagulant is what often causes the bumps and the itchiness. The ticks cannot jump or fly and are usually crawl to get anywhere they want. Their legs also contain a unique sensory organ known as the Haller's organ, which can detect odors and chemical changes to the host’s skin. Ticks are considered dangerous because they are known to spread diseases and pathogens to the host. Also since they do not spend their whole lives attach to one host, they can often spread germs and diseases from one host to another.

Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from your scalp. There are other types of lice, including body lice, which affects the body and pubic lice, which affects the pubic area. The head lice are the most common form of infestation that most humans face.

They commonly affect preschool and elementary school-aged children, who unknowingly infect each other and others close to them, such as family members. However, getting a head lice infestation is not a sign of bad personal hygiene or an unclean living environment. It is an itchy infestation commonly spread through close personal contact and by sharing personal belongings. The louse has six legs and scuttles very fast, like a crab, as oppose to jumping. The louse had has pincers at the end of the legs, similar to crabs, which allow them to hold on the hair. Hence, lice are harder to find and dislodge from the hair.

Lice can survive on blood, dead skin particles, among other things. Lice also do not usually leave bite marks in the skin. They just cause itchiness in the scalp. Some types of lice are known to leave small, red bumps on the scalp, neck, and shoulders, which may become crusty and ooze. However, these are rare occurrence. Furthermore, lice spend their entire lives linked to human beings, usually a single human. Lice are also not able to carry and spread diseases.























Tick species are divided among three families: Ixodidae, Argasidae and Nuttalliellidae. Ixodidae has around 700 familes, while Argasidae has over 190 speices. Nuttalliellidae only has one speices.

Over 3,000 species


Parasite – living organism

Parasite – living organism


Ticks’ bodies are divided into two sections: the anterior capitulum and the posterior idiosoma. The former contains the head and mouth parts, while the latter holds the legs, stomach and reproductive organs.  Ticks have eight legs like all arachnids. Ticks have four live stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult.

Head lice are tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from the scalp. One louse can lay as many as 100 eggs. A louse can live up to 30 days on a human scalp, and up to 2 days without food or nutrition. The nits (eggs) can live up to 2 weeks without nutrition but are susceptible to temperature.



Ticks only attach them to hosts when they require feed and fall of after the feeding is complete. They often attach and feed on animals, birds and mammals.

Head lice are a very common problem, affecting millions of people each year, especially preschool and elementary school-aged children and their close contacts.


Ticks attach themselves to leaves, plants, shrubs etc. waiting for the arrival of a host. Once the host brushes past the tick, it firmly attaches itself to the host before finding a good place to feed. They are often found on arms, stomach, behind ears and hairs. They can also be spread from clothes to skin or from animals to humans.

Spreads through close personal contact, especially head to head contact and by sharing personal belongings, such as caps, hats and scarves, brushes and combs, hair decorations, such as barrettes, and headphones. It may even rarely spread through home furnishings, such as towels, clothing, blankets, pillows, upholstered furniture.

Risk factors

The greatest risk of getting ticks in addition to loss of blood is that ticks can spread diseases fast. When they attach themselves to the host, they insert their mouth into the skin and can also leave behind pathogens. They may also secrete a substance that would keep the host from knowing that it is being fed on.

Females of all ages get head lice more often than males do.

The greatest risk factor for getting head lice is coming into contact with someone who already has lice. Cleanliness and personal hygiene have little bearing on whether one gets lice.



Their bites can cause irritation, serious discomfort and loss of blood.

Intense itching, adult lice on scalp, lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts.


Ticks can leave behind pathogens inside the body, making the body vulnerable to diseases. They may also result in a huge loss of blood if the infestation increases.

Lice may cause one to scratch the head so vigorously that the skin breaks. These scratches may get infected.


Avoid going to tick-infested areas. Be fully clothed if you are required to go out. Wear light color clothing as ticks can be more visible on them. Preventive clothing also includes socks, sturdy shoes and head coverings.

Avoid sharing combs, hats, headphones and any other piece of clothing. Also avoid going people near lice. If the scalp starts to itch, wash thoroughly and start treatment to avoid having an infestation.


Apply insect repellent containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET primarily to clothes. Thoroughly check clothing, skin and hair for ticks. If ticks are crawling on clothes, use tape to remove them, do not touch them with bare hands. If tick has started feeding, using tweezers grasp it as close to the head as possible and pull it up straight do not wiggle or move side to side. Wash and clean the bitten area and apply antiseptic.

Comb wet hair with a fine-toothed or nit comb to remove lice from wet hair. Repeat every three to four days for at least two weeks. Nonprescription shampoo that's specifically formulated to kill lice.


Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, African tick bite fever, tularemia, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Tick paralysis and tick-borne meningoencephalitis and bovine anaplasmosis.

Lice are associated with Rickettsial diseases.

When to see a doctor

If the itching and redness persists or any other symptoms show up after tick bite. It is best to show a doctor incase pathogens have been released into the system.

If nonprescription shampoo doesn't kill the lice, the doctor can prescribe a stronger, prescription shampoo. If scratches are infected.

Image Courtesy: petcaregt.com, raphaelsharon.com

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