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Fleas are tiny bugs. They don’t grow much larger than the tip of a pen, and they range from light brown to almost black in color.
They don’t have wings, so they get around by jumping from place to place.
Their thin, flat bodies and hard shells mean you often need to squeeze them between fingernails or two hard surfaces to kill them. Even then, where there is one, many often follow.
Fleas reproduce quickly, especially if you have pets in the house. But even if you don’t have pets, your yard can potentially play host to fleas, and you may end up with a bunch of mysterious bites.
They’re almost impossible to get rid of without a pesticide treatment.
Fleabites have several common symptoms. They are very itchy, and the skin around each bite may become sore or painful. You may experience hives or develop a rash near the site of a bite.
Scratching a lot can further damage the skin and potentially cause a bacterial infection in the area of the bite.
Avoid scratching if you can. Monitor your bites for signs of an infection, including white-topped blisters or a rash.
Fleabites are pretty distinctive. They look like small, red bumps in clusters of three or four or a straight line. The bumps remain small, unlike mosquito bites.
You might notice a red “halo” around the bite center. The most common places to find these bites are around the legs or ankles. Fleabites are also common around the waist, armpits, breasts, groin, or in the folds of the elbows and knees.
For humans, the risk of contracting another disease from the flea is very small. Yet bacteria can get into your body through the bite and cause an infection, especially if you scratch it. An infected bite will turn red, warm, and it may release pus.
Fleabites can also cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to them. Symptoms can range from raised welts on the skin to difficulty breathing.
Fleabites can also cause complications in pets, such as allergic reactions and even anemia from blood loss. That’s why it’s important to take animals to a vet if they have fleas.
If you have a four-legged furry animal in your home, you’ll probably know exactly where you have fleas.
Fleas prefer to live on your dog or cat, but they can also take up residence on another animals, or on you. If the population grows, fleas can branch out and begin living in carpets, bedding, or your yard.
A bad flea infestation can be very obvious. Try walking on your carpet wearing white socks. Look at your socks afterward. If you see tiny black bugs, those are likely fleas.
Fleabites in dogs look a lot like they do on human skin. They form tiny red bumps, sometimes with a red circle around them.
It can be harder to spot these bites underneath your pet’s thick fur. One telltale sign that your dog has been bitten is a lot of scratching. You may also see missing areas of fur or redness on the animal’s skin.
A hunt through your dog’s fur with a flea comb will reveal these tiny critters. You’re most likely to find them on your pet’s neck, belly, lower back, and on the base of the tail.
If you don’t see the actual fleas, you may spot their droppings, or “dirt.” They look like tiny specks of black pepper on your dog’s skin.
Yes, fleas will bite pet-less humans, too. If you don’t have a pet, your fleabites could be coming from your yard or another person’s animal.
Fleas prefer tall grass and shaded areas near decks, woodpiles, or storage buildings.
Just as pet owners have to treat their homes if they become infested, getting rid of an outdoor flea infestation may require you to treat your yard.
If you find yourself battling tiny red bites after a day in your yard, consult a pest control expert.
Larger itchy bumps are a sign that you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, not fleas. You might see one bite, or a cluster of several bites.
Female mosquitoes leave these bumps behind when they feed on your blood. Usually, mosquito bites are harmless, but in people with a weakened immune system they can cause symptoms like a fever or headache.
To treat a mosquito bite, wash the area with warm water and soap. If the itch bothers you, hold an ice pack to the bites, take an antihistamine, or rub on an over-the-counter anti-itch medicine.
Mosquitoes can also transmit diseases such as West Nile virus. Using a few preventive measures around your house can help you avoid the itch of mosquito bites, and reduce your risk of getting a more serious infection.
Bedbugs are another tiny critter that feeds on human blood. Unlike fleas, bedbugs only come out at night. They hide in mattresses and carpets, and bite humans while they’re sleeping.
Unlike fleabites, which are most commonly found around the feet and ankles, bedbugs bite the upper body. You’ll see small dark red spots on areas like your face, neck, arms, and hands. Like fleabites, these spots often pop up in a cluster or line.
Bedbug bites should disappear on their own within a week or two. If they bother you, try using a steroid cream.
Not sure if you have a fleabite or a bedbug bite? See how to tell the difference.
Fleabites will go away without treatment. However, in order to stop being bitten you have to get rid of the fleas themselves.
To relieve the symptoms of fleabites, try over-the-counter anti-itch creams and antihistamines.
Avoid scratching the area. If you notice signs of an infection at the bite site, such as a white pocket or rash, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Any fleas in your home that bite you or your dog can also bite your baby. Fleabites aren’t dangerous in young children, but they are uncomfortable.
The bites will look like little red bumps on your infant’s skin. They may turn red, swell up, and blister.
Ask your pediatrician the best way to treat the bites based on your child’s age. Treatments may include:
- washing the area of the bites with water and a mild soap
- giving your child an antihistamine cream or liquid to stop the itch
- cutting your child’s nails to prevent them from scratching the bites
Call your pediatrician if your baby:
- runs a fever
- has bumps that swell up, feel warm to the touch, or leak fluid
- develops hives or shortness of breath — signs of an allergic reaction
Ridding your home of fleas is a two-step process:
- treat your pets
- treat your home
Check your pet to see if they are the source of your flea problem. Move back their fur to look for fleas or fleabites on the skin. If they have been scratching more frequently, this may be a sign they’ve got fleas.
Use an anti-flea shampoo and powder to get rid of the fleas your dog currently has. Then, consider using a flea collar to prevent fleas from moving in again.
Consult your veterinarian for advice on using topical or oral medications for your type of pet. Many treatments are available without prescription, while others must be prescribed by your vet.
Regarding your home, you’ll want to vacuum your carpets, which is where fleas like to hide. Throw out the bag or dump the vacuum’s contents outside.
Washing all bedding (yours and your pet’s) in hot water, and drying it on the highest heat setting, may help kill fleas.
Otherwise, to totally rid your home of fleas, you may need to use insecticides inside your home, which typically involves having to leave the house for a time until the spray has dried.
A pest control company can help you determine a best course of action when it comes to pesticides.