Are Fleas Harmful to Humans?
Your pets are vital to a flea’s survival. Once they attach to the skin, they are inseparable and will start reproducing, inevitably causing a flea infestation in your home. Any pet owner knows that fleas are the enemy, and knowing the enemy is the best way to control and prevent them.
Facts About Fleas
Fleas are wingless insects that get to their hosts by jumping – they can jump approximately 970 feet. There are over 2,000 species of fleas, and in the U.S., the cat flea is responsible for nearly all of the fleas found on both cats and dogs. A female flea can consume 15 times its body weight in blood on a daily basis, laying eggs within 35 to 48 hours after its first meal.
Flea eggs are usually laid directly on a host, often falling off the host’s body, spreading the infestation to the surrounding environment. The average flea will have a 2 to 3 month lifespan.
Most adult fleas are visible to the human eye, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hide. They enjoy living in carpets, bedding, cracks in floors or other hard to reach areas. Fleas also live outside in weeds, grass and side walks, making it easy for them to hop right onto you or your pet during a daily walk.
They can live for about a month without feeding on your pet by surviving on dirt, debris and body waste. However, once a flea has found its host, it can migrate from pet to human.
Flea Warning Signs
Some typical warning signs for pets:
• Excessive licking to a certain area could mean to soothe a flea bite
• Scratching or rubbing excessively against objects to relieve itching
• Scabs or bumps on your pet’s back or neck could determine an allergic reaction to fleas, commonly called flea allergy dermatitis
• Raised, red, itchy bumps around the legs and feet
• Allergic reactions in some people, causing skin irritation
If your pet is showing warning signs, consult your veterinarian to discuss treatment options. Specially formulated shampoos and topicals are available that help control and prevent fleas. Applying a once a month topical or oral flea treatment on your pet will not only kill the fleas, but also prevent a possible re-infestation from occurring. At home, use cold water to alleviate any itching.
If you are the victim of a flea bite, wash the area, apply an antiseptic and ice pack to alleviate itching and prevent scratching. Consult a pharmacist for more treatment options such as lotions and antihistamines for possible allergic reactions. If the bites excrete puss, contact your doctor immediately.
Keep all of your pet’s favorite areas in your house and yard clean and free of debris. Vacuum and mop on a regular basis to clear out any fleas living in carpets or floor cracks. Be sure to frequently wash or change your pet’s bedding as fleas enjoy living and feeding on pets while the rest.
A bite is just one sign of a flea infestation. Contact your local extermination and pest control to discuss options to ensure eradication.