Fleas are tiny, sturdy insects that feed off the blood of animals and humans. They flourish in warm climates, making them a year-round nuisance in much of the United States.

Fleas also remain hardy and active in indoor environments during cold weather, so there’s never really a time when flea protection isn’t needed for people and pets, including those who never go outside.

If you’re wondering whether your clothing protects you from fleabites, the answer is yes, in most cases.

In this article, we’ll clue you in on which types of clothing can protect you and which enable fleas to bite you. We’ll also provide solutions for repelling fleas and identifying fleabites.

Fleas can’t get through most types of clothing. They can, however, make their way through skintight, thin fabrics, such as stockings and tights. Thin fabrics that hug the skin also help keep fleas in place, allowing them to bite multiple times.

Clothing made from loose weaves, such as crocheted sweaters, can also let fleas through.

Fleas find it easier to hold onto fabric than to bare skin. They may not be able to work their way through a sturdy pair of jeans or sneakers, but they can jump onto them and snuggle into seams or stitching. From there, fleas can make their way to exposed areas of skin, such as sockless ankles.

In addition to hitching a ride on your dog, fleas can be transported from the soles of shoes indoors, where they may nest in carpets, pet beds, and upholstered furniture.

Fleas can jump up to 8 inches onto prey, but they can’t fly. Fleas living in rugs will often bite people on their lower extremities, instead of on arms, torsos, or faces.

If adult fleas are living in unused clothing or carpets without access to blood, they have a relatively short life span — just a few days.

Flea pupae, however, nest in cocoons while they develop into adults. There, they can wait for an extended period of time until a host arrives. Fleas detect carbon dioxide as well as body warmth and movement. These clues let them know a potential host is nearby.

A flea that has easy access to blood meals, either from pets or from humans, can live for as long as 100 days.

Once they’re able to take a blood meal, female fleas start to lay eggs. That’s why a flea infestation can be challenging to get rid of.

Keeping fleas off your skin and your pet is the only way to avoid bites or an infestation. Keep in mind that fleas may not only lurk outdoors but also in the homes of other people, even if they don’t have pets.

Having fleas doesn’t indicate a dirty house, only one that has, unfortunately, been infiltrated by these tough critters.

Wear long pants tucked into socks

Since fleas can’t bite through clothing, wearing long pants tucked into socks or closed-toe shoes is a good way to keep them off your legs and feet. If you sit on the ground, make sure your arms and torso are protected. You can do this by avoiding short-sleeved shirts, crop tops, or clothing that rides up and exposes bare skin.

Spray flea repellent onto clothing or skin

You can also spray flea repellent directly onto clothing or skin. There are several different types that work against fleas. These include commercial repellants that contain ingredients such as:

  • permethrin
  • DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide)

Natural flea repellents

You can also use natural flea repellents, including some essential oils, directly on skin. One small, human study found that thyme oil and myrtle oil were more repellent against fleas on people than either permethrin or DEET.

To use essential oils as a flea repellent, add 5 drops oil to 1 cup of carrier oil, and rub or spray onto skin.

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Launder clothing and bedding

If you suspect that fleas have already made it into your clothing or bedding, launder them with soap and water. This will be enough to kill the fleas. You can also dry clothing, dog beds, and bedding on a hot dryer setting.

Vacuum upholstered furniture and carpets

Upholstered furniture and carpets should be vacuumed thoroughly. Immediately dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag outside of your home, as it will contain fleas and flea pupae. Since flea pupae are sticky, several vacuuming sessions may be necessary.

You can also shampoo your rug with flea powder.

Fleabites are very itchy, small red bumps that sometimes hurt. They often appear in clusters or in a straight line on skin. In some instances, you may notice a dark red dot in the center of each bite.

Fleabites may be surrounded by a small area of inflamed skin. They typically itch for 1 or 2 days. If you scratch, they may also scab or bleed.

Some people are allergic to flea saliva. If so, the bites may swell and last for up to 2 weeks.

Fleabites are itchy, small red bumps that often appear in clusters or in a straight line on skin. Getty Images

Fleabites usually go away on their own, especially if you keep them clean and don’t scratch. Scratching may introduce bacteria into the bite, causing an infection. Using an antibacterial cleanser can help you avoid this.

To alleviate the itch, use a topical anti-itch cream or calamine lotion. Taking an antihistamine can also help reduce the itch and swelling.

Most fleas would rather feast on pets than people, so keeping them off your furry best friends is important. Fleabites can be very itchy for your dog or cat. It’s also hard to stop pets from scratching or biting fleabites, which can easily cause infections.

Try oral or topical medications

Ask your veterinarian which flea medications are best for your pet. These may include oral medications you get with a prescription or topical ones you purchase in stores or online.

Never use essential oils on cats. Many essential oils are also dangerous for dogs.

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Flea collars may also work

Flea collars may also be effective.

Always make sure that you know your pet’s weight before you purchase any type of flea repellent. Many of these are designed for animals based on their size and weight. Using the wrong dosage can be dangerous for your pet.

Keep an eye out for adverse reactions

Any flea repellent that contains chemicals, such as pyrethrum, may adversely affect your pet. When using flea repellents, keep an eye on your pet for adverse reactions. These can include:

  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • muscle tremors or weakness
  • difficulty breathing
  • falling over
  • small pupils
  • extreme salivation
  • extreme itchiness
  • lethargy
  • abnormal behavior of any kind

If your pet appears to have a reaction to flea medication, stop using it and call your veterinarian immediately.

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Bathe your pet regularly if they spend a lot of time outdoors

Make sure to bathe your pets regularly in warm, soapy water, especially if they spend time outside in grassy, wooded areas or on the beach.

Daily flea combing can be very effective

For cats and dogs, daily grooming with a flea comb can be very effective. Keep in mind that fleas jump quickly and have tough shells, making them hard to squash.

When you’re combing your pet, dip the comb in warm, soapy water between strokes. This will drown the fleas you extract and avoid reintroducing them to your pet’s coat.

It’s always best to groom your pet outside so that dislodged fleas don’t find a new home in your carpet or flooring.

Fleas are parasitic insects that live off the blood of animals and people. They can’t bite through most articles of clothing.

You can avoid their itchy bites by protecting your skin and by using repellents on your bare skin or directly on items of clothing.

Keeping fleas off your pet is very important for reducing the incidence of infestation in your home.