There are thousands of flea species in the world and hundreds of those are found in the United States. The four most common types of fleas to present problems for American households include the cat flea, dog flea, oriental rat flea, and ground squirrel flea. Cat fleas are the ones most likely entering your home on the fur of your dogs and cats.
Those common flea species are known to spread serious illnesses to humans, including the plague and typhus. They can also pass a specific type of tapeworm to your cats and dogs. Disease transmission occurs when fleas ingest contaminated flea feces (flea dirt) and then feed on a human. They feed by sucking the blood of a host. While the preferred host is a dog or cat, they will feed on humans if needed for survival or protection.
The first sign of a flea infestation in your home is often a surprise attack. You walk through your home and suddenly feel a small bite on the top of a foot or the side of a leg. By the time you look down, the flea has disappeared into the carpeting or a corner of the room. They’re so small that it’s difficult to see them.
By the time you see or feel a flea, you can assume there are hundreds if not thousands already present in your home. They multiply quickly and become more difficult to eliminate the longer you allow the infestation to take root. Let’s talk about the dangers of fleas, what a flea bite looks like on a human, and what you can do about the problem.
Along with ticks and mosquitos, fleas are known for spreading disease through pet and human populations. Cat fleas are the most common type known to infest American homes, and they cause an immediate allergic reaction that causes itching. The severity of the response to the tick varies by person and is often quite severe in dogs and cats as well.
Some of the illnesses known to spread from fleas to humans and household pets include:
The more fleas you have in your home, the higher your risk of getting bit by fleas and potentially infected. Even if you’re unlikely to get the plague or another serious disease from flea bites, routine bites can easily lead to severe allergic reactions.
Fleas prefer to feed on the blood of hosts with at least a thin coat of fur because they can tuck underneath to stay warm while laying eggs in the fur. That’s why they’re common pests for dogs, cats, rats, and squirrels. These animals are easy hosts with limited ability to get rid of the pests without some help from human companions.
That doesn’t mean fleas won’t feed on humans. As a flea population grows within a home, there isn’t enough room for them all to feed on four-legged family members. Fleas will then start jumping anytime they detect body heat, movement, carbon dioxide from breathing, or even vibrations along the floor that predict nearby movement.
That is when you may start to get bit by fleas in your own home. They pick up on your movement or heat and find you suitable for the next blood meal.
Flea bites can look different, depending on the type of flea, frequency of bites, and the unique immune response released from individual bodies. There are still some common characteristics that you may detect. Let’s go over those possible characteristics now.
Fleas are small creatures, so they leave small bumps on the skin after a bite. They may look a little larger on some people if there is a strong immune reaction that leads to minor swelling, but in general, small bumps are expected.
Fleas may jump from flooring or corners and quickly bite only to come back for a second or even third round in a short period of time. Fleas can also jump in groups, leaving clusters of small bumps on a foot, leg, or arm.
Just one bump may result from a single bite, hinting at a smaller infestation that is just beginning. Lots of bumps presented frequently are signs of a more established infestation.
The bumps left by flea bites are typically red but may appear more purple or blue on some skin tones. A strong allergic reaction may leave a halo effect of additional color around the bump.
Flea bites often trigger immediate itching, or you may try to smack at your skin to catch the flea in the act. Itching leads to scratching, which can lead to small flecks of blood on your skin. Fleas may also leave behind small traces of blood, since their intentions when jumping on you are to suck your blood for a meal.
Flea bites can feel like a quick and sudden sting. The bite is often followed by immediate itching, which is more severe for some people than others. The itching can last only a few seconds or for a prolonged period. The more bites you have in one area of skin, the more inflamed and irritable the skin is likely to become.
If you have a light flea infestation and feel just that first bite, you may not know right away what just happened. That unexpected bite is fast and often subtle. Before you can look down, the flea has disappeared into the flooring or a corner of the room nearby. Looking for characteristic signs like small red bumps can help you determine that a flea did indeed just bite you.
Most flea bites require no medical intervention. If you don’t have a severe allergic reaction, then the bites become more of an annoyance and intrusion of your comfort than a health risk. Unfortunately, you can never guarantee that the next bite won’t transmit a disease to you or even your pets.
The following guidelines will help you treat minor flea bites:
If you’re feeling the bites, you can bet that your pets are feeling even more as the pests burrow into their fur and lay their eggs. The following are signs that your pet needs medical attention due to a severe flea infestation, spread of disease, or severe reaction to the fleas:
There are other potential causes for all of these symptoms. It’s best to have your pet checked for fleas and other possible causes if you notice any of these signs.
The following are signs that a human needs medical attention due to flea bites:
These are all signs of potential infection or an extreme allergic reaction. The risk of complications increases when large areas of the skin are inflicted with flea bites. That’s why treating your home for fleas at the first sign of an infestation is critical. Fast action can stop your home from becoming overwhelmed with pests.
If you haven’t experienced a flea bite but suspect they’re in your home, you can check for the following signs of an infestation:
If you notice even one flea in your home or your pet is showing signs of irritation, it’s time to act. Don’t wait for the first flea bite to get the problem under control.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following steps for anyone experiencing a flea infestation at home:
Once you eliminate all fleas from your home, maintenance is critical. Repeat applications of a pet-friendly pest control solution will discourage reinfestation, but you also need to visit your vet to discuss flea prevention options. If you live in the Houston, Texas, area and want help eliminating fleas from your home, contact Natran today. We’ll answer your questions about flea bites and walk you through the elimination process one step at a time.