When you think of fleas, you probably associate them with your pet. Fleas generally live on dogs, cats, other warm-blooded animals and birds because their fur and feathers make it easy to hide and reproduce. Fleas are very small, wingless, brown-colored parasites that bite skin and suck blood to survive.
But fleas can also bite you. While they won’t live on your body, you can still experience potential side effects. A flea can jump up to 13 inches, so it’s possible a pet or other animal can transfer them to you.
Fleas do not live on humans, but they can still bite us. In the United States, the most common fleas are cat fleas. These can live on both cats and dogs, so don’t let the name confuse you. There are also dog fleas, but they are less common in the U.S.
Fleas can live on other mammals and birds, such as rodents and livestock. There are 2,500 different types of fleas around the world.
Fleas are attracted to some animals because of their fur or feathers. They can burrow into these fluffy bodies to hide and feed. They then lay eggs that eventually hatch after the larva and pupa stages. This cycle can cause a flea infestation on your pet that will need to be treated.
Fleas do not live on humans because they lack substantial hair like animals, and it’s very difficult to reproduce without the protection of fur or feathers. One lab study observed that a flea would have to feed on a human for 12 straight hours to have the chance to lay viable eggs. It would be very rare for a flea to be able to feed on a human for that long without getting found and removed.
Fleas do not live on humans. They generally bite down at the feet, ankles, and legs by jumping from an infested pet or other animal, but it is most likely to be from an infested pet bed.
It is very unlikely that a flea will stay on your body for any substantial amount of time. Humans do not have fur or feathers like other animals and birds, which allow them to lay eggs and repopulate on a regular cycle. You’re likely to wash or scratch off a flea well before they can breed.
It’s rare that a flea will transfer from one body to another. It’s more likely that an animal or person will get fleas from areas where animals live and sleep. It’s possible that bringing an infested pet bed into a new home could spread fleas to another source.
Fleas can bite people, most often on the feet, ankles, and legs. They may bite three times in a row. This is known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Typically the initial bites do not cause a lesion in the skin, but once an individual is exposed to the fleas for a longer period of time, they develop a hypersensitive reaction.
The visual results from a flea bite may last a few days, but they may get worse if you are more sensitive to the bites or if the area becomes infected.
Fleas are more than a nuisance. They can actually cause several serious conditions and may be fatal to animals if the infestation is so severe that it interferes with their overall health.
Fleas can carry several different diseases that may be transmitted during a bite. In the United States, the most common include:
Both of these diseases are from bacteria and require medical treatment like antibiotics.
A flea bite may cause an allergic reaction on your skin because your body reacts strongly to the flea’s saliva.
An allergic reaction to the bite can cause
- irritated, red skin
- extreme itchiness
Allergic reactions to flea bites can also occur with animals. An allergic reaction can cause an animal to scratch bites to such an extent that their skin becomes raw or they lose hair.
Fleas may carry tapeworms. If you or an animal ingests a flea, it’s possible to get a tapeworm. Children may be more likely to accidentally ingest a flea.
Tapeworms may not be harmful to your overall health or the health of your pet, but if you notice something that is white and looks like a pumpkin seed in the feces of you or your pet, it may signal tapeworms. Talk to a doctor or veterinarian if you suspect this.
You will need to treat both your pet and home if you suspect a flea infestation. There are several methods to try to remove fleas.
To remove fleas from your pet
- Talk to a veterinarian about the safest and most effective method for flea removal.
- Use a flea comb when grooming your pet.
- Leave soap on your pet for at least 5 or 10 minutes when giving them a bath.
- Use a veterinarian prescribed flea medication that kills fleas.
- Follow the instructions very closely for over-the-counter flea products.
- Protect your pet by avoiding the application of flea removal in their eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Use gloves and other protective gear on yourself when applying flea removal products.
To remove fleas inside or outside your home
- Wash pet beds and other fabric toys or mats in hot water.
- Vacuum thoroughly and remove the vacuumed debris to a plastic bag, seal it, and dispose of it outside immediately.
- Apply insecticides to baseboards, but make sure they are not harmful to pets.
- Clean all upholstery (furniture, rugs, carpet, bedding window treatments) often.
- Close up holes where wild animals may get into or near your house.
- Remove debris surrounding your house.
- Call a pest control service if you suspect you have a serious infestation of fleas.
You can avoid a flea infestation in your home in several ways, including:
- checking your pet regularly for fleas
- cleaning your pet’s sleeping areas
- preventing your pet from entering spaces likely to have fleas from other animals, like crawl spaces or barns
Fleas can bite humans, but they live on animals and in their sleeping spaces. Flea bites may be irritating and cause a more serious health condition that requires a doctor’s treatment. Make sure you monitor your pets for fleas regularly, and keep your house clean to reduce the chances of a flea infestation.