Fleas are generally found in furry animals like cats and dogs. Humans generally suffer from flea bites. The only known flea that lives on humans is the species called Pulex irritans. They live in the hair areas of the human body, especially in pubic hair. It may be noted that these flea species are rare in dogs and homes and often tend to affected wildlife.
Ctenocephalides felis, or cat fleas are the ones that most commonly invade the homes. Ctenocephalides canis or dog fleas cause home infestation to a lesser extent. It may be noted that dog fleas can also suck blood from cats as well as humans.
Fleas can also transmit vector borne or blood borne diseases to human; they may act as transfer agents of bubonic plague, tapeworm larvae, murine typhus, and stomach flu.
Fleas are tiny parasitic insects with bristles. The physical appearance and count of bristles tend to vary as per the flea species.The bodies of these wingless creatures are compressed and feature six legs, which allows them to crawl and jump onto the body of the host.
A flea bite can cause skin irritation and severe itching in dogs. It can sometimes cause allergic reactions in dogs that are allergic to flea saliva, thereby resulting in flea bite dermatitis.Continuous scratching of the area with the flea bite to alleviate the itching can cut the skin and cause open sores to develop. As fleas feed on blood, severe flea infestation, especially in puppies, can cause anemia.
Symptoms of flea bite on humans
Fleas usually reside in the floorboards and carpets in the house. Hence, flea bites are often observed on the feet, lower legs, and skin folds.Fleas can use their tiny bristles and craw up to the armpits, waits, knee joints, and elbow joints. They may also crawl and stick to scalp hair. Fleas often opt for areas where clothes are the tightest.
Adults may suffer from flea bite symptoms in about an hour after the bite, while children may experience the symptoms in a few days. In most cases, flea bite on humans are marked by itching hives formation.
As per the sensitivity of a person, different people may elicit different reactions and symptoms to a flea bite. In some humans, flea bites may be asymptomatic. A few common symptoms of flea bites on humans are listed below:
- Occurrence of a tiny bump with a minor puncture/dot in the center; the dot is indicative of the flea bite spot. The bump may be surrounded by a halo.
- Flea bites tend to bleed, thereby causing the development of a scab.
- Fleas defecate when biting. Hence, scratching them can cause spread of the bacteria and other germs presence in flea stool.
- Flea bites in humans cause a lot of itchiness. Scratching to alleviate itching can cause open wounds which can then be infected by bacteria. Further scratching will not only spread the infection but also increase flea infestation.
- More than one flea bite is often seen in the same place on the skin. Sometimes, such areas may suffer from painful welts formation.People with hypersensitivity to flea bite may suffer from big welts which are painful as well as warm to touch.
- Excessive scratching of such areas with many flea bite marks and welts causes worsen it and result in swelling and pus formation. Bacterial infection of such sores can take a long time to heal.
- Allergic reactions to flea bites may cause itchiness on not just the area with the flea bites, but all over the body as well. Subsequently, the hives that develop may deteriorate to become itchy blisters. Scratching them may result in bleeding.
Treatment of flea bites on humans
Treatment of flea bites on humans involves the following:
- Use an antiseptic lotion or soap and wash the flea bite area with cold water. Avoid warm water as it may trigger itchiness.
- Use cold compresses or apply an ice pack to reduce swelling of the affected area.
- The affected area can also be cleaned using black or green tea, or tea tree oil. Placing a used tea bag can also help alleviate itching.
- In case of redness and excessive swelling, use hydrocortisone or other mild topical steroids to reduce the inflammation.
- Calamine lotion is also good for soothing the inflammation and suppressing the severity of itchiness
- Oral antihistamines may be taken to alleviate extreme and unbearable itching.
- The healing process can be hastened by taking an oatmeal bath in tepid water.
- Aloe vera gel purchased from a drug store, or aloe juice obtained from the house plant, can be applied on the flea bites to decrease itching and soothe the area.
- Take the leaves of calendula and basil, crush them, and then apply on the affected area to promote healing.
- Add lemon juice to a liquid soap bath and soak for some time to get rid of the fleas which may be on the body. Check the toes, hair, behind ears, nape, back of knees, and under breasts, etc. for the presence of fleas during the bath.
- Make a paste of water and plain baking soda. Apply to find relief from the flea bite symptoms.
- If a flea bite is accompanied by body ache, fever, nausea, headache, and rash, then visit a doctor for treatment, as they may symptoms of murine typhus. Patients may also consult a doctor if the above listed home remedies do not work.
Treatment of fleas on dogs
Dog fleas can be easily eliminated by using flea control topical products, flea collars, and flea shampoos. Consult a vet before using any of these products as they have very strong chemicals.
- Use of tea tree oil, or lavender, eucalyptus, or cedarwood essential oils, and/or citrus repellents or vinegar in baths or by spraying them around the house as well as keeping the lawn finely mowed can help prevent flea infestation in dogs.
Getting rid of fleas from the house
Vacuum the furnishings and carpets on a regular basis to remove fleas as well as their larvae and eggs.
- Use flea repellants on clothes, carpets, and around the house.
- Dehumidify the house
- Sun the blankets, carpets, etc. to prevent re-infestation
- Wash all clothes, bed sheets, etc. which you think may be infested with fleas.
- Take the dog to a vet for regular flea checkups
- Call pest control if all else fails