Red Lice: Why Are Some Head Lice Red?

If you’re finding red lice in your child’s hair, you are not alone. What does it mean? Discover why some head lice are red and what it means for you.

You’ve read online that lice can be tan or brown, but you’ve never heard that they can be red. Now, you are finding red lice in your child’s hair. What does it mean?

Types of Lice

There are three main types of human lice: Body lice, pubic lice, and the most common, HEAD LICE

Body lice are the least common. It is associated with poor hygiene, and it’s usually only seen in America in the homeless population. 

Pubic lice, also known as “crabs” live in pubic hair, are an STD and are usually only passed during intercourse.

Head lice stick solely to the hair of the head and near the head. Head lice are NOT associated with poor hygiene. 

An enlarged super lice bug

Head lice are a widespread problem in the United States. Around 12 million kids get head lice every year, the second most common ailment for kids after the common cold. 

Most head lice are passed directly from one individual’s head to another during head-to-head contact, such as hugging, snuggling, and sleeping together. Still, it can also be spread by inanimate objects that come in contact with hair such as brushes, hats, hair accessories, jackets, helmets, and other clothing.

Super Lice

The fourth type of lice that is making big news these days is a new strain of head lice, super lice. Super lice and regular head lice are virtually the same bugs, except super lice has mutations that make them very difficult to kill. These super lice are becoming the “new” strain of head lice.

Super lice and head lice look the same; the difference between them is that traditional treatments can not kill super lice.

Lice Change Colors

Arrow to _red_ lice

When lice first hatch, they are tiny, almost invisible to the eye. They have a translucent, almost clear body that is very difficult to see. As they age, they begin to take on a darker hue that usually matches the hair of the individual they are infesting. For instance, those with black hair typically have dark grey to black lice, whereas those with blond hair usually have tan to light brown head lice. But what about red lice?

What are Red Lice?

All lice frequently feed on humans. What do they eat? These lice are like vampires, feeding on human blood multiple times a day!

Lice need to feed regularly on human blood, or else they will quickly dehydrate and die. If lice fall off the head, they will usually die within 24 hours because they do not have a blood meal.

A translucent looking head lice bug on a blond hair strand

Especially in younger lice, you can see their intestine-looking stomach through their translucent skin. When lice haven’t fed in a while, the stomach is small and black.


After lice feed, their entire abdomen plumps up on blood.


But, the weirdest, creepiest part is that the red color seeps into every part of their body. Shortly after feeding lice look completely red. It seems like something out of a horror film, but it’s true.

So, how can you stop them from sucking your blood anymore?

How to Get Rid of Red Lice (AND all Lice)

Remember that most lice these days are super lice, which are lice that have mutations that make them difficult to kill. The old treatments we used 30 years ago are no longer effective on this new strain of lice, so be sure to use a lice treatment that kills BOTH lice and super lice. The most recent study showed that 98% of lice are super lice, so the chances of your child having super lice are very high.

In years past, the only places you could go to get a treatment that worked on super lice were at professional lice centers. But, fortunately, some of these lice centers have started selling their products on Amazon. If you’re dealing with head lice, these are the top products I recommend so that you don’t keep going around and around with lice. 

A quick disclosure. These are affiliate links, and I earn a commission from qualifying purchases, but I only recommend products that I know work.

These lice treatments are pesticide-free and safe!

Ladibugs’ lice killing serum will kill all lice in about 20 minutes, and it comes with an enzyme mousse that helps to loosen lice eggs, making them much easier to remove. 

Lice Clinics Lice Remover Kit comes with an easy-dispenser for its Lice Killing Liquid Gel and is probably the easiest treatment to use.

The best natural treatment at killing super lice is Head Hunters Pro WipeOut (make sure you get the kit with the Pro-Lice Comb).

Enzyme-based treatments can be the right choice as well. These take a little longer to kill head lice and work best if used multiple times, but in exchange, they break down the glue that holds lice eggs in place. The best enzyme lice treatment kit is Fairy Tales Lice Elimination Kit.

Lice Eggs

If you focus only on killing lice and not removing eggs, you will not get rid of lice because new lice will continue to hatch from the eggs that you didn’t remove from the head. Today’s lice eggs are incredibly resistant to all treatments as well, so don’t neglect them.

Your best option for killing today’s lice eggs is removing them from the hair and throwing them in the trash. Once lice eggs are pulled from the hair and thrown away, they will not be able to hatch. Lice eggs need to be on the head to grow and hatch because they need an exact climate, which is only available on your head.

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs permanently is with a professional-level head lice comb. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

If you ask any lice professional, they will almost certainly tell you this is the comb they use. The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals, creating a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits, catching them and dragging them down the entire hair strand and out of your child’s hair.


Clean your house using the following principles as a guide (or check out the article Lice Cleaning Checklist to Get Rid of Lice in Your Home):

Think 48 Hours

Focus on cleaning items that have been in contact with the lice-infested individual within the last 48 hours. Lice cannot live longer than 48 hours on household items.

Do Not Use Lice Sprays

Lice sprays do not work on super lice at all. Multiple scientific studies have shown that that almost all lice in the US are resistant to the pesticide found in lice sprays. The only lice sprays that work for killing super lice are enzyme lice sprays like LiceLogic Clear & Free All Purpose Spray.


You can vacuum surfaces such as couches and mattresses.

Clean Your Brushes

Soak hair brushes, combs, and hair accessories (such as hairbands, clips, and headbands) used by the person with lice in hot water (135° F or greater) for at least ten minutes. (I do not recommend boiling brushes and combs, however, because they will melt.)

Items in the Dryer

Put items in the dryer for forty minutes on high heat.

Bag Items for 2 Days

Lice can’t live without blood for very long, so anything that could have lice on it will be safe to use again after 48 hours. If an item is something that you cannot run through the dryer, like a favorite stuffed toy or delicate clothing, you can seal it away in a bag for a couple days.

Don’t Forget Carseats

Vacuum your car seats.

Summing it Up...

You shouldn’t be too freaked if you come across red bugs in your child’s hair. It is difficult to think about, but lice feed on your blood regularly, and if they’ve just fed, then they’re going to be red.

What you should freak out about is making sure that you get rid of them for good. Lice today are incredibly resistant, so be vigilant and use a product designed for both lice and super lice. With the right product, a good comb, and appropriate house cleaning, you should have red lice, and all lice, out of your hair in no time.

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)

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