When most people hear the word “flea,” they typically think of their pets. That’s because fleas generally prefer the warm confines of animal fur and feathers that make it easier to hide and reproduce.
But can fleas find a home in a human host?
The short answer is no, fleas won’t set up camp on your body. However, fleas can still bite you and cause serious discomfort. Learn more about how fleas can impact your wellbeing in the sections below:
- How do humans get fleas?
- What do flea bites look like on humans?
Can Fleas Live on Humans?
There are 2,500 different types of fleas around the world, and not a single one of them prefers to live on a human. In the United States, cat fleas are the most common type of flea. Unlike the name suggests, cat fleas can live on both dogs and cats.
Fleas can live on other animals as well, including birds, rodents, and livestock. They prefer animal hosts in large part because of their fur and feathers. Animals’ fluffy bodies (more about that below) offer fleas the perfect place to burrow, hide, feed, and reproduce. This vicious cycle is what can lead to a full-blown flea infestation on your furry friend.
There are two reasons humans are not suitable flea hosts. First,human skin is smooth and doesn’t have the cover fleas need to live on an animal. Second, human bedding is normally laundered regularly.
To start with smooth skin, humans lack dense projections from the skin known as excrescences. Excrescences are scales, feathers and hair that protrude from the skin. Because humans don’t have enough hair, fleas don’t find their bodies as attractive for long-term living. Fleas need the protection of fur and feathers to reproduce successfully. To survive and reproduce on a human host, one study found that a flea would need to feed on them for 12 straight hours for the chance to lay healthy eggs. That would be nearly impossible to do without being detected and removed by the host.
Unlike human bedding, animal bedding is dirty. Animal bedding contains shed skin cells, hair, bits of blood. All those materials are food for the larva stage of the flea. Fleas progress through four stages in a life cycle to go from egg to adult. The female adult can lay eggs after she takes a blood meal. Those eggs will hatch into larva which feed on material in the animal bedding (or in homes with pets the carpets and sofa if they get on them). Humans change to clean bedding regularly. Without the cast skin, hair and dried blood in the animal bedding, the flea larva have nothing to eat and cannot pupate to adults.
How do Humans Get Fleas?
Humans do not get fleas in the same way that animals do, but they can still fall victim to flea bites. Fleas can jump up to 13 inches, so it’s possible for a pet that’s been infested to pass fleas on to their owner.
Again, since humans lack fur and feathers, it’s unlikely that a flea will stay on your body for very long. You’re more likely to wash or scratch off a flea. For this reason, it’s not likely that humans can transfer fleas from one home to another. Fleas on humans are almost always attributed back to an infested pet.
What do Flea Bites Look Like on Humans?
Flea bites happen most often on people’s feet, ankles, and legs. However, if you have fleas on your pet and they jump onto you, it’s possible to get flea bites on other areas of the body as well.
Depending on your sensitivity, flea bites can be very painful and itchy. They can turn into irritated red bumps and may even appear in clusters. Because they can look similar to mosquito bites, they can be mistaken for this. The following are just a few signs of flea bites on humans:
- Soreness or pain
- Burning sensation at bite mark
If you’re concerned that your pet has become infested with fleas, it’s important to act quickly to remedy the problem. Put your hands down where your pets rest like beds or the furniture you allow them on. See if you notice small black or brown insects jumping up to your hands and wrists. If you see insects, your pet may have a flea problem. Severe flea infestations can take months to control, so it’s best to trust a professional with the hard work.
GreenHow is proud to offer the long-lasting flea removal services that Boston residents can trust to eliminate unwanted pests. Contact our team at (617) 964-4733 to request a free flea inspection to get started with flea treatment today!