The Pulex Irritans or human fleas, despite their name, are normally associated with many other mammals like skunks, foxes, coyotes etc. The human fleas have a life cycle similar to dog and cat fleas; they are capable of laying up to 400 eggs under favorable conditions.
Habitat and Physical description of Pulex Irritans
When it needs to feed, the adult Pulex Irritans is found on the host’s body. It prefers temperate, tropical and terrestrial habitats.
The life cycle of human fleas consists of eggs, larvae and pupa and these are commonly seen in human homes along with the adult fleas.
Human fleas are more or less similar to dog and cat fleas in physical description: The female Pulex Irritans is 2.5 to 3.5mm long while the males measure 2 to 2.5 mm but have complex genitalia. The bodies, in either case, are reddish brown or rust colored, wingless and laterally compressed. They have 6 legs and mouthparts that are equipped for sucking and biting.
Human flea eggs are typically white in color and oval shaped.
Human flea bite symptoms and treatment
Humans can get bitten by human fleas as well as cat and dog fleas. In all these cases, the bites can be painful, irritating and extremely itchy. Human fleas typically bite their hosts on feet, lower legs, arms, neck, back or other exposed areas of the body. Some people may not have any symptoms despite being bitten by human fleas; in other cases, following symptoms may be present:
- Swelling, burning or redness on the site of the bite
- Slightly raised, clustered and itchy blisters particularly at the edges of tight fitting clothes.
- Bleeding at the site of bite or the punctured skin.
- Excessive bites from the Pulex Irritans can lead to anemia in the host.
- Allergic dermatitis and pruritis are secondary skin infections that can occur due to the bites of Pulex Irritans. Scratching the site repeatedly can also lead to pus filled blisters that may require antibiotics or steroids for healing.
- The human fleas are also capable of carrying diseases such as the plague, murine typhus and Rickettsiosis.
Treating bites of human fleas
Most common cases of flea bites resolve on their own. It is important to not scratch the bite site as this can lead to infections.
- Soothing lotions and creams containing calendula, calamine, or Aloe Vera etc may be applied to reduce itchiness, pain and alleviate swelling.
- Applying an over-the-counter mild steroidal cream can help reduce swelling and pain.
- Tea tree essential oil can be applied on the bite site to prevent infections.
- Taking an antihistamine pill or syrup can help relieve itching associated with human flea bites.
- An effective homemade remedy for human flea bites consists of a paste made from baking soda and water. This can be directly applied to the bite to prevent itching and swelling.
Getting rid of human fleas
The Pulex Irritans fleas are commonly found in schools, offices, and other residential areas in the United States, even in the absence of pets. If you suspect an infestation of human fleas, it is vital that you treat the surroundings with effective flea killing chemicals.
Today, there is a wide range of flea exterminating products available in the form of powders, sprays and flea bombs. It is sensible to choose one that targets not only the adult human fleas but their larvae and eggs as well.
It is also important to first determine if the bites are caused by the human fleas or some other parasite. Many times, one might be allergic to certain products or may be having a skin ailment that appears exactly like the bite of the Pulex Irritans.