How Fleas Are Dangerous To Humans

While fleas are usually associated with pets, they can actually be kind of bad for humans, too. Their bites can be itchy and unsightly, and, most important, they can spread disease. Sometimes serious disease. (Like the plague!)

There are a couple of unhappy truths about fleas. Like that a flea can live in your home — with no host! — for up to 100 days. And it’s not just pets that qualify as hosts (although they’re preferred). Humans can wind up with fleas, too — even without pets. If you have itchy bumps around your feet, ankles, and legs especially, you may want to look around for tiny, hopping bugs.

How do we end up with fleas? Well, they’re basically everywhere. They live in carpets, bedding, cracks in floors and hard-to-reach areas. Fleas also live outside in weeds, grass and sidewalks, so it’s easy to hitch a ride with you or your pet when you’re out for a walk or a run or a picnic.

According to the Centers For Disease Control, fleas can still carry the plague. Although the plague is a different kind of sickness than it was when it wiped out millions of people in the Middle Ages, you can still catch it today. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, weakness and one or more swollen, tender, painful lymph nodes.

Fleas can also spread tungiasis. The burrowing flea, Tunga penetrans, is known to cause lesions, a white patch with a black spot in the center. You’ll be happy to know these fleas don’t live around here — but if you’re heading to a beach in some tropical place, you might encounter them.

Another disease fleas carry is typhus. Typhus can be spread not just by fleas but also by mites, lice or ticks. When you scratch a bite infected with typhus, the skin opens and bacteria enters the bloodstream.

And of course you know fleas can be not just an irritant but a health danger to pets, causing flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, and hair loss. Also, if a pet has a large number of fleas, this can cause anemia, especially in puppies and kittens.

So if you’re here to find out if fleas are dangerous, we hope you found your answer. We get lots of other questions about fleas, too. People call all the time asking "What do fleas look like?" (they’re reddish brown, and about an eighth of an inch long); "How do we get them out of our home?" (with expert pest control! And a veterinarian you trust); and "How soon can you be here?" (As soon as you need us.) If you are wondering about these things--or you have any questions at all about pests--reach out to Dixon Pest Services for more information. We’re happy to help!