For most of us, the first sign of a flea infestation in our homes is courtesy of a flea bite. Flea bites on humans can cause various reactions. For some people a flea bite may unnoticed, for others there is a mild itch, while for others there is a severe allergic reaction.
In this article we will cover everything you need to know about flea bites. This includes why fleas bite, as well as ways to treat and prevent them.
How to Identify Flea Bites on Humans
- Fleas will mostly bite below the waist (waist, feet, and ankles)
- Flea also like warm, moist areas (arm pits, waistline, under breasts, under socks, scalps)
- Flea bites are very tiny, and will look like little red rashes or hives
- Multiple flea bites will appear in a the same area
- The bump caused by a flea bite has a small puncture mark in the middle
- Immediately after the bite, there is a red “ring” surrounding the bump
- Later, the bump may turn into a deeper color and it may increase in size.
- If you scratch the area it will get inflamed and red
- After a few days, the bite becomes a hard and will diminish
Why Fleas Bite Humans
Like other blood sucking parasites, fleas need a blood meal to enable them to reproduce. Without the nutrients and proteins found within blood the female flea cannot produce eggs. Fleas also need to eat blood for sustenance. Even the male flea will drink blood for food, although not as much as the female. The cat flea, human flea, rat flea, and dog flea are the main species that will seek a blood meal from a human host.
Why Flea Bites Itch
Before fleas begin drinking blood, they will first inject their saliva into the host. The saliva is an anti-coagulant and blood thinner. This means that it will prevent blood from clogging, so it will flow freely into the flea’s abdomen. Mosquitoes do the same thing.
As soon as your body detects the foreign substance (saliva) in your system, it will send out histamines as a defense. The histamines will cause the blood vessels in the area to swell up, preventing the saliva from spreading. These swelled blood vessels are what cause the itchy sensation. So, it is not the flea that is causing you to itch, it is your body’s defenses.
While it is much more prevalent in dogs and cats, people can also be allergic to flea bites. Essentially allergies are a result of a faulty defensive mechanisms. A person’s body with allergies will overreact by sending out too many histamines to the intrusion. This results in excessive swelling, redness, rashes, and itchiness. In dogs and cats this is known as flea allergy dermatitis.
Try Not to Scratch
Flea bites can be very itchy, and it can be very tempting to scratch the area. Try to avoid doing this though. It will only make things worse. Scratching will cause the area to swell up more, and will result in more redness. You may also spread the flea saliva further into your system. Finally, you could end up scratching bacteria into the area, causing an infection. To ease the urge to catch, use some flea bite treatments to reduce itching.
Can Fleas Transmit Diseases to Humans?
Other than causing serious allergic reactions, flea can also transmit diseases between hosts. Some of these diseases are tapeworms, typhus, cat scratch fever, and tularemia. These is also the notorious bubonic plague, which is no longer prevalent. Read more about these flea diseases.
Treating Flea Bites
As mentioned, do not scratch the flea bites. This can be made easier by using flea bite treatments that stop itching. The first step to treating flea bites is to wash the area with an antiseptic soap and cold water to prevent an infection. Warm or hot water will just cause more itching by irritating the area.
To relieve the itching and swelling:
- Calamine lotion
- Tea tree oil
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Oral Anti-histamines
Preventing Flea Bites
The best way to stop flea bites is to eliminate fleas from your home. However, there are also some topical repellents that will keep fleas off of you. These can give you some relief from bites while you work on ending the flea infestation. Some effective flea repellents are DEET, low concentration permethrin, and Avon Skin-So-Soft oil.