Flea Bites on Humans

5/11/2015

Flea bites on humans are less common because most flea species prefer pets as their hosts. However, flea bites on people do occur. Sometimes a flea bites humans without turning them into hosts. This is the case with the cat flea. In other instances, fleas will settle on human hosts, particularly if there is no other source of nutrition available. Depending on the type of flea, this can cause different reactions in people.

Which flea species bite humans?

Human flea (Pulex irritans)

The human flea is found worldwide, but less commonly in the United States. It feeds on a variety of mammals, including humans, birds, dogs and chickens. Despite its name, its original host is believed to be either the peccary or guinea pig.

Chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans)

Also sometimes called a jigger, the female chigoe flea burrows into its host’s skin. It remains there permanently unless surgically removed. While not found in the United States, the chigoe flea is sometimes found on tourists traveling from tropical regions of Africa and Central and South America.

Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis)

Found worldwide, including throughout the United States, this flea commonly feeds on rats, house mice and cottontail rabbits. It readily bites humans and has been blamed for spreading a number of diseases.

Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

The cat flea is the most commonly encountered flea in the United States, making up 90 percent of fleas found on pets according to the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control by Arnold Mallis. Cat flea bites on humans can be common for those who have handled an infested animal, but these fleas are less likely to turn to humans as hosts.

Is a flea bite on human skin dangerous?

Human flea (Pulex irritans)

Human fleas are not effective carriers of disease according to the Centers for Disease Control. They can, however, serve as intermediate hosts of two types of parasitic tapeworms.

Chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans)

Chigoe flea bites on humans often result in infection and, in extreme cases, amputation. This is typically a result of the flea’s entrance wound. The fleas themselves, however, are not carriers of disease.

Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis)

Oriental rat flea bites on people can result in disease. Oriental rat fleas are commonly blamed for causing serious illnesses, including the bubonic plague.

Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

While cat fleas do not prefer to feed on humans, a cat flea bite on human skin can result in a number of diseases including plague, cat-scratch disease and typhus.

What do flea bites on humans look like?

A flea bite on human skin looks similar to a mosquito bite. It is often marked by a red bump with a halo. Most flea bites cause extreme itchiness, although the severity of a reaction depends on the person, how sensitive they are and whether or not they are allergic. Bites on people look similar across different flea species, with the exception of the chigoe flea. When a chigoe flea bites, the reaction is often delayed and might go unnoticed for long periods of time. The infected area eventually becomes swollen as the flea continues to feed.

If you are concerned about flea bites or break out in a rash, you should seek medical advice. To eliminate an infestation, call a pest management professional. Fleas can be found indoors and outdoors. Some fleas can infest homes quickly. With their ability to jump, fleas can move rapidly between various hosts. Identifying and eliminating a flea infestation can be a challenge. The best way to protect you and your family from an infestation is to call Terminix®.