What are fleas?


Knowing what are fleas and how they behave is very important if you want to get rid of them from you, your animals and your house. Fleas are wingless insect that cannot fly but have the ability to jump large distances. This allows them to move around from place to place and host to host very easily. Since they are external parasites and feed on blood, fleas’ primary target are animals, especially birds and mammals such as dogs, cats and humans.

Fleas prefer warm climates and humid environments to live and reproduce. This is because humidity and moisture are conditions necessary for their eggs to hatch. A single female can consume about 15 times its body weight and can lay 40 to 50 eggs every day. This means that in an entire lifetime they can lay up to 2,000 eggs. Looking at this number you can understand how easily is to could be to have a flea infestation if they settle on your animals or inside your house.

What do fleas look like?

Fleas are small insects approximately 2.5 mm long and have a reddish-brown color. Their bodies is very flattened and even if they are visible to the naked eye, they can be very hard to find and catch. Before they will reach the adult stage, they will go trough other 3 main stages: egg, larva and pupa. The flea life cycle takes from two weeks to eight months to be completed, depending on the environmental condition they are living in.

how to treat fleas

Even if they are classified as different species, all types of fleas are very similar to each other and it can be difficult sometimes to differentiate them. This happens also because for example, the type which is supposed to attack cats, can be found on either dogs and humans. For this reason, let’s see the most common types in details:

Dog fleas – They are also known with their scientific name Ctenocephalides canis. A dog flea has a dark red color and is different from other types because it has combs around the mouth and head. Despite their name, dog fleas are able to infest also other animals.

Cat fleas – Their scientific name is Ctenocephalides felis. Cat fleas have a dark color, usually black or brown. They are more common than dog fleas, because they are more resistant to flea repellents. They are usually infesting cats but can be found on other animals as well.

Human fleas – This particular type is also known as Pulex irritans. They are 2-3 mm long and their color is dark brown. They are quite rare in the cities but you can find them very easily in the countryside especially where there are farm animals.

Where do fleas come from?

Summer is the period when flea infestations happen more frequently. The reason is fleas love hot and humid weathers to live and reproduce. A flea life cycle is much faster when they find the right conditions and summer is the perfect time. Flea infestations are less frequent during winters but they are still possible, particularly inside the house. Carpets, pillowcases, curtains, moquette, couches and beds are the places where they commonly hide and you are going to find them.

In the case you have pets or a garden in your house flea infestation become very common. Domestic animals are the perfect host and plants in your garden or in your house are very good places for fleas to hide. If you have pets, you should check them regularly because as soon as they get infested, you are going to have fleas everywhere, especially if you let them inside the house.

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Human Fleas

Human fleas are a very particular type of fleas and they are also known as Pulex irritans. They are small external parasites which compared to dog fleas and cat fleas present some specific characteristics.

As you might know, we are not immune to fleas’ attacks and flea bites on human are very common. The type of fleas that generally attacks us is 1-3 mm long, and its shape is similar to a drop. Its color is black or dark brown and usually it does not jump too high.

humam fleas

You have to keep in mind that sometimes also dog fleas and cat fleas can attack us and bite us. Today, fleas on humans are very rare. This is because of the increase hygiene and sanitary conditions of our cities. However, it is still possible to encounter them in the countryside, especially near farm animals.

Flea bites on humans

The first symptom of an attack of fleas on human is itchiness and a burning sensation after the bite. The pain sometimes can last for few days or even a week. Usually, this type of fleas do not attack our upper body, since it is not able to jump too high. This is why they are going to bite you on your legs or ankles. Their bites do not cause isolated raised bumps on the skin like mosquito bites but more flat bumps. They usually will bite you two or three times in a very small area.

Flea bites causes itch, discomfort and the area around the bite can be sore or painful. I suggest you to not scratch it because you might irritate the skin and cause bacterial infections. Symptoms can be sometimes very strong especially if you are allergic to their saliva. If you are I strongly suggest to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Prevention and how to treat fleas on humans

Flea bites on humans can be treated in different ways. It is very important to make sure you will not irritate more the area of the bite while you are trying to cure it.

In case you fell itch, doctors usually prescribe hydrocortisone creams that can ease the it and cure the reddening of the skin. However, these creams have many side effects and even if they can alleviate the pain at first, they might cause in the future the same symptoms you were trying to fight.

Some people have a hot bath with dish soap to ease the pain of flea bites. This is because dish soap is known to be very effective in killing fleas. However, even if the soap is actually good for this, it is too aggressive for the skin. My suggestion is to NOT USE this method since it can cause irritation and worsening your problem instead of solving it.

On the other hand, I strongly suggest you to keep your house always clean. You should know that fleas prefer darker and humid places. This is why they will infest your carpets, couches, pillowcases and curtains. It is very important you clean these areas to prevent any infestation of your house.

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