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Can Fleas Live on People?

Updated March 23, 2017

If you've ever had a pet, you're probably familiar with those tiny little parasites called fleas. What you may not know, however, is whether or not fleas can live on people. Read more to learn all about the elusive human flea.

History

During the 16th century, infestation from the pulex irritant, or human flea, was quite common due to poor hygiene. Regardless of class, virtually everyone who lived during this period had an occasional flea outbreak. The wealthy often worm fur collars in an effort to trap the small insects, while others placed ivory or bamboo traps between their sheets in order to prevent bites during the night hours. Fortunately, thanks to our modern standards of hygiene, the human flea is rarely seen today.

Identification

Most people have little difficulty diagnosing a flea infestation. When they bite, the enzymes contained in flea saliva lead to intense itching and an occasional rash. Some individuals may even have allergic reactions to flea bites, which unsurprisingly, increases their itchy feeling as well as their potential for a rash. Fortunately, however, today's fleas usually prefer blood from other warm-blooded species such as dogs, cats and pigs.

Effects

Although the human flea is rarely seen today, when its presence was common, the species was the cause of many serious illnesses. While the human flea was not the primary source of the bubonic plague that afflicted Europeans during the Middle Ages, the species can indeed transmit the deadly disease. In addition, they are also capable of spreading murine typhus, tapeworms and tularaemia. Though not as deadly as the bubonic plague, these diseases can cause many unpleasant symptoms such as headache, loss of appetite, nausea and fever.

Prevention/Solution

Today, the human flea is most often seen in people who often have contact with pigs. Should you become infected with fleas, there are now many flea removal products available. In addition to using such medication, it is also important to prevent future flea infestations. The best way to do this is by cleaning all areas of your home, treating your pets and thoroughly washing all bedding. If your flea problem is severe, you should contact a professional exterminator for help.

Warning

Despite the elusiveness of the human flea species, it is nevertheless important to take appropriate measures to avoid infection. Female fleas suck more than 15 times their weight in blood each day. Over time, that amount of blood loss can grow quite severe. Female fleas lay about 25 to 50 eggs per day, and many of those eggs will hatch and develop into yet more female fleas that will also feed on your blood. Human fleas are normally seen during hot, wet summer months. They also tend to hang around other animals and feed off of them. However, because they prefer the blood of people, they will move to a human host if one becomes available. Luckily, today's hygienic standards reduce the presence of human fleas and, chances are, you will never have to suffer through an infection.

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About the Author

Jessica Saras is a professional editor and copywriter. After earning an English degree from Reinhardt College, Saras completed the summer writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. A natural-born writer, she has more than six years of experience in web content development. In addition to being a full-time copywriter, she writes articles for Demand Studios, wiseGEEK.com, Examiner.com, and Suite101.com.