Flea Bites: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

May 2023

Have you ever noticed a red bump on your skin that is itchy and painful? If so, you might have been bitten by a flea. Fleas are tiny insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals, and their bites can cause discomfort and irritation. In this article, we will explore the topic of how flea bites happen, how to identify them, and how to prevent them.

Flea bites are caused by adult fleas that use their proboscis to bite and feed on human blood. These bites can result in bump that can be painful and take time to go away. The severity of the reaction can vary from person to person, with some people experiencing only mild symptoms while others may develop an allergic reaction.

Fleas are part of the insect family, which also includes mosquitoes, bed bugs, and ticks. Their life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adult fleas can live for several months without feeding but require a blood meal before they can reproduce.

In recent years, flea bites have become a fad topic with many people sharing their experiences and remedies online. However, it’s important to note that not all information found online is accurate or safe. It’s crucial to seek advice from qualified professionals if you notice any concerning symptoms after being bitten by fleas or other insects. It’s also important to get pest expertise from a pest control provider with experience treating fleas to avoid any form of outbreak or infestation.

Treatment for Flea Bites

Flea bites can be annoying and painful, causing itching, swelling, and redness on the skin. Fortunately, there are various ways to treat flea bites that can help relieve discomfort and prevent infection.

Over-the-Counter Creams and Ointments

One of the most common treatments for flea bites is using over-the-counter creams and ointments. These products contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone or calamine that help reduce inflammation and itching caused by flea bites. They come in different forms, including lotions, gels, sprays, and sticks.

When applying these products to the affected area, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully. Wash your hands before and after use, avoid getting the product in your eyes or mouth, and don’t apply it on broken skin or wounds.

Some popular brands of over-the-counter creams and ointments for flea bites include Benadryl Itch Relief Cream, Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion, Cortizone 10 Intensive Healing Formula, and Gold Bond Rapid Relief Anti-Itch Cream.


Antihistamines are medications that block histamine receptors in the body. Histamine is a chemical released by the immune system in response to allergens like flea saliva. By blocking histamine receptors, antihistamines can reduce itching, swelling, and redness caused by flea bites.

Antihistamines come in two types: first-generation (sedating) antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), which can cause drowsiness; and second-generation (non-sedating) antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec), which are less likely to cause drowsiness.

Antihistamines are available over-the-counter or by prescription, depending on the type and strength. They can be taken orally in the form of tablets, capsules, or syrups. It’s important to follow the dosage instructions provided by your healthcare provider or on the label.

Cold Compresses

Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area can also help relieve itching and swelling caused by flea bites. The cold temperature can numb the nerve endings in the skin, reducing pain and inflammation.

To make a cold compress, wrap some ice cubes or frozen vegetables in a towel or cloth and place it on the bite for 10-15 minutes at a time. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin as it can cause frostbite or damage.

Alternatively, you can use a cool bath or shower to soothe your skin. Avoid using hot water as it can worsen itching and dryness.

Prescription-Strength Corticosteroids

In severe cases of flea bites, where there is intense itching, swelling, and infection, prescription-strength corticosteroids may be necessary. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that work by suppressing the immune system’s response to allergens like flea saliva.

Corticosteroids come in different forms such as creams, ointments, injections, pills, or inhalers. They should only be used under medical supervision due to their potential side effects such as increased risk of infections, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis (bone loss), cataracts (eye problems), and mood changes.

Examples of corticosteroids commonly used for treating flea bites include hydrocortisone valerate cream (Westcort), triamcinolone acetonide cream (Kenalog), prednisone oral tablets (Deltasone), dexamethasone injection (Decadron), and betamethasone dipropionate lotion (Diprolene).

What Do Flea Bites Look Like?

Flea bites are a common problem for both pets and humans. These pesky insects can cause itchy red bumps on the skin, which can be quite uncomfortable. In this article, we will discuss what flea bites look like and some important facts about these tiny pests.

Flea Bites Appear as Red Bumps on the Skin

The most common symptom of flea bites is the appearance of small red bumps on the skin. These bumps may be surrounded by a red halo and can become quite itchy. In some cases, the bite may develop into a blister or pimple-like bump. The location and severity of the bite can vary depending on the individual’s sensitivity to flea saliva.

Flea Larvae Are Not Capable of Biting Humans

While adult fleas are known for their biting behavior, flea larvae do not have mouthparts that are capable of biting humans. However, they can still cause irritation and discomfort if they come into contact with human skin.

Chiggers Are Not Fleas but Can Cause Similar-Looking Bites

Chiggers are another type of mite that can cause itchy red bumps on the skin. While they are often mistaken for fleas, chiggers do not have wings or jump like fleas do. Instead, they crawl onto their hosts from tall grass or other vegetation.

Fleas Have Flat Bodies That Allow Them to Move Easily Through Hair and Fur

Fleas have flat bodies that allow them to move easily through hair and fur. This makes them difficult to spot until after they have bitten their host. They also have strong legs that enable them to jump up to 150 times their own body length.

Fleas Typically Bite on the Legs, Ankles, and Belly but Can Also Bite on Other Areas of the Body

Fleas tend to prefer areas where clothing fits tightly against the skin, such as the legs, ankles, and belly. However, they can also bite on other areas of the body, including the arms, neck, and face. In children, flea bites may be more common on the head and neck.

How a Flea Bite Forms a Bump

When a flea bites its host, it injects saliva into the skin to prevent blood from clotting. This saliva contains an anticoagulant that can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. The body’s immune system responds by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and itching. Over time, this can lead to the formation of a red bump or welt.

Tips for Preventing Flea Bites

To prevent flea bites, it is important to take steps to control fleas in your home and yard. This may include vacuuming regularly, washing bedding and pet bedding in hot water, and using flea treatments on pets. When spending time outdoors in areas with tall grass or other vegetation where chiggers may be present, wearing long pants tucked into white socks can help prevent bites.

Sources of Flea Bites

Flea bites are a common problem for pet owners and those living in areas with high flea populations.

Flea Saliva: The Culprit Behind Flea Bites

Flea saliva is the primary cause of flea bite irritation. When fleas bite, they inject their saliva into the skin to prevent blood from clotting. This anticoagulant allows fleas to feed on their host’s blood without interruption. However, it also causes an allergic reaction in many humans and pets.

The severity of a flea bite reaction depends on several factors, including the individual’s sensitivity to flea saliva and the number of bites received. Some people may experience only mild itching and redness after a single bite, while others may develop more severe symptoms after multiple bites.

To minimize the risk of flea bites, it is essential to identify and eliminate any fleas present in your home or on your pets.

Pets as Sources of Flea Bites

Pets are one of the most common sources of flea infestations in homes. When pets spend time outdoors or come into contact with other animals that have fleas, they can easily pick up these unwanted hitchhikers.

Once inside your home, fleas can quickly multiply and spread throughout your living space. They prefer warm, humid environments like carpets, bedding, and furniture upholstery.

It is crucial to keep your pets clean and groomed regularly to reduce their risk of picking up fleas. You should also vacuum carpets frequently and wash bedding in hot water to kill any eggs or larvae that may be present.

If you suspect that your pet has fleas or notice signs like excessive scratching or biting at their skin, consult with a veterinarian for treatment options.

Homes as Sources of Flea Bites

Fleas can also infest homes without the presence of a pet. These tiny insects can enter your home on clothing, shoes, or other items and quickly establish themselves in carpets, bedding, and furniture.

If you live in an area with a high flea population or have recently traveled to such an area, it is essential to take precautions to prevent fleas from entering your home.

One way to reduce the risk of flea infestations is to keep your living space clean and clutter-free. Vacuum carpets and floors regularly and wash bedding in hot water weekly. You may also consider using flea control products like sprays or foggers to kill any existing fleas.

Identifying and Treating Flea Bites on Humans

Symptoms of Flea Bites on Humans

In some cases, flea bites can cause an allergic reaction in humans. This may result in more severe symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face or tongue. If you experience any of these symptoms after being bitten by fleas, it is important to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider immediately.

How to Treat Flea Bites on Humans

If you have been bitten by fleas, there are several steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms and prevent infection:

  1. Wash the affected area with soap and water: This will help reduce the risk of infection and remove any dirt or debris that may be present.
  2. Apply a cold compress: A cold compress can help reduce inflammation and relieve itching caused by flea bites.
  3. Use over-the-counter creams or ointments: There are several creams and ointments available that can help reduce itching caused by flea bites. Look for products containing hydrocortisone or calamine lotion.
  4. Avoid scratching: Scratching flea bites can lead to further irritation and increase the risk of infection. If you find it difficult to resist scratching, try covering the affected area with a bandage or cloth until it heals.
  5. Take antihistamines: Antihistamines can help reduce itching caused by flea bites, especially if you are experiencing an allergic reaction.
  6. Seek medical attention if necessary: If your symptoms are severe or do not improve with home treatment, it is important to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider.

Preventing Flea Bites on Humans

Preventing flea bites on humans is the best way to avoid the discomfort and potential health risks associated with these bites. Here are some tips to help prevent flea bites:

  1. Keep your home clean: Regularly vacuuming carpets, furniture, and bedding can help remove fleas and their eggs from your home.
  2. Treat pets for fleas: Fleas often enter homes through pets. Make sure your pets are treated regularly with flea medication to prevent infestations.
  3. Wear protective clothing: If you are spending time outdoors in areas where fleas may be present, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks to protect your skin.
  4. Use insect repellent: Applying insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin can help repel fleas and other biting insects.
  5. Avoid contact with wild animals: Wild animals such as raccoons, squirrels, and rabbits can carry fleas into your yard or home. Avoid contact with these animals if possible.
  6. Call a pest control provider: pest control experts like Aptive have experience with fleas and have the means of treating them and keeping your home protected.

Spotting Flea Bites on Pets

Flea bites on pets can be a major annoyance. Not only do they cause itching and discomfort, but they can also lead to serious health problems such as flea allergy dermatitis. In order to keep your furry friend healthy and happy, it’s important to know how to spot flea bites on your pet.

Female Fleas are the Most Likely Culprits for Biting Pets

Female fleas are the most likely culprits. These fleas need blood in order to produce eggs, so they are constantly searching for a host to feed on. Once they find a host, they will bite multiple times in order to get enough blood for their eggs.

The Cat Flea is the Most Common Species of Flea that Infests Family Pets

The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common species of flea that infests family pets such as cats and dogs. This type of flea is found all over the world and can cause a number of health problems for pets, including anemia, tapeworms, and flea allergy dermatitis.

Small Red Bumps or Scabs on the Skin are Signs of Flea Bites on Pets

Flea bites on pets can be identified by small red bumps or scabs on the skin. These bumps are often found on the neck, back, and tail of the pet where fleas tend to congregate. If you notice these signs on your pet’s skin, it’s important to take action immediately in order to prevent further infestation.

One way to check if your pet has fleas is by using a fine-toothed comb through their fur. You may see small black specks which could be “flea dirt,” which is actually dried blood from your pet that has been excreted by fleas after feeding.

Regular Checkups and Treatment are Key to Preventing Flea Infestations

It’s important to regularly check your pet’s fur for signs of fleas and treat them promptly to prevent further infestation. There are a variety of flea treatments available, including spot-on treatments, oral medications, and flea collars.

Spot-on treatments are applied directly to the skin on the back of the neck and provide protection against fleas for up to a month. Oral medications can be taken by mouth or added to your pet’s food and work by killing adult fleas. Flea collars release chemicals that repel fleas and ticks for several months.

In addition to treating your pet, it’s also important to treat your home in order to get rid of any fleas that may have infested carpets, furniture, or bedding. Vacuuming regularly can help remove flea eggs from carpets and furniture, while washing bedding in hot water can kill any remaining fleas or eggs.

Diseases Spread by Flea Bites

Flea bites are not just itchy and annoying, but they can also transmit various diseases to humans. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common diseases spread by flea bites.

Cat Scratch Disease

Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. It is transmitted to humans through the bite or scratch of an infected flea or cat. The symptoms of cat scratch disease include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a small bump at the site of the bite or scratch.

In most cases, cat scratch disease does not require treatment and will go away on its own within a few weeks. However, in rare cases, it can lead to severe complications such as neuroretinitis (inflammation of the retina) or bacillary angiomatosis (a skin disorder).

Murine Typhus

Murine typhus is a bacterial infection caused by Rickettsia typhi. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea called Ctenocephalides felis. The symptoms of murine typhus include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and rash.

Murine typhus is usually treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline or azithromycin. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications such as meningitis (inflammation of the brain), endocarditis (infection of the heart valves), or pneumonia.


Plague is a serious bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea that has fed on an infected rodent such as rats or squirrels. The symptoms of plague include fever, chills, weakness, headache, and swollen lymph nodes.

Plague can be treated with antibiotics such as streptomycin or gentamicin. However, if not treated promptly, it can lead to severe complications such as septicemia (blood infection), meningitis, or gangrene (tissue death).

Papular Urticaria

Papular urticaria is an allergic reaction caused by the bite of an infected flea larvae. It results in itchy bumps on the skin that can last for several weeks. The symptoms of papular urticaria include redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the bite.

Papular urticaria can be treated with antihistamines or topical corticosteroids to relieve itching and inflammation. However, prevention is key. Keeping your pets and home free from fleas is the best way to prevent papular urticaria.

Signs of a Bad Flea Infestation

Flea infestations are a common problem for pet owners, and they can be difficult to control once they take hold. Here are some signs that you have a bad flea infestation:

Presence of Flea Dirt or Fecal Matter on Pets or in Their Bedding

One of the first signs that you may have a flea infestation is the presence of flea dirt or fecal matter on your pets or in their bedding. Flea dirt looks like small black specks and is actually dried blood from your pet’s skin. You can check for flea dirt by brushing your pet’s coat with a fine-toothed comb over a white surface. If you see any black specks fall onto the surface, then it is likely that your pet has fleas.

Adult Fleas Jumping on and off Pets

Another clear indication of an infestation is seeing adult fleas jumping on and off your pets. Adult fleas are about 1/8 inch long and reddish-brown in color. They are fast-moving and can be difficult to catch, but if you see them on your pets, then it is likely that there are many more hiding in your home.

Finding Flea Eggs in Carpets, Furniture, or Pet Bedding

If you find tiny white eggs in carpets, furniture, or pet bedding, then this is also a sign of a bad flea infestation. Flea eggs are only about 0.5 mm long and can be difficult to spot with the naked eye. However, if you look closely at areas where your pets spend time, such as their bed or favorite chair, you may be able to see them.

Itching and Scratching in Pets Due to Flea Bites

Finally, itching and scratching in pets due to flea bites can also be a sign of an infestation. When fleas bite, they inject saliva into the skin which can cause an allergic reaction in some pets. This can lead to intense itching and scratching, which can result in hair loss, skin infections, and other health problems.

Managing and Treating Flea Bites

Options for Managing Flea Bites

Flea bites are a common type of biting that can cause significant discomfort and irritation. there are several options available to help alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

One option is to use itch creams or lotions that contain ingredients like hydrocortisone or calamine. These products work by reducing inflammation and blocking the release of histamine, which is a chemical in the body that causes itching. Applying these creams directly to the affected areas can provide relief from itching and reduce redness.

Another option is to take oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Claritin. These medications work by blocking the effects of histamine in the body, which can help reduce itching and swelling associated with flea bites. It’s important to note that some antihistamines may cause drowsiness, so it’s best to check with your doctor before taking them.

The Dangers of Scratching Flea Bites

While it may be tempting to scratch flea bites due to their intense itchiness, doing so can actually make things worse. Scratching can lead to further irritation and increase the risk of infection if bacteria from your hands enters the open wound created by scratching. Scratching can also cause more histamine release in the body, leading to even more itching.

To avoid scratching flea bites, try using cool compresses on affected areas or applying anti-itch creams as mentioned earlier. Keeping your nails trimmed short can help prevent accidental scratching.

Seeking Medical Attention for Severe Allergic Reactions

In some cases, patients may experience severe allergic reactions to flea bites that require medical attention. Symptoms of a severe reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, rapid heartbeat, and hives or rash throughout the body.

If you experience any of these symptoms after being bitten by a flea, seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor may prescribe oral or topical medications to help manage symptoms and prevent further complications.

Comparing Flea Bites to Other Types of Bites

Flea bites are often compared to other types of bites, such as bed bug bites or mosquito bites. While all three types of bites can cause itching and discomfort, there are some key differences between them.

Bed bug bites tend to be more clustered together in a line or zigzag pattern on the skin. They also often appear on exposed areas like the face, neck, arms, and hands. Mosquito bites tend to be more random in placement and can occur anywhere on the body that is exposed.

In terms of treatment options, itch creams and antihistamines can be used for all three types of bites. However, it’s important to note that flea saliva contains a chemical that can make itching worse than with other types of biting insects.

Stopping Flea Bites by Eliminating Fleas

Flea bites are not only irritating but also dangerous as they can cause severe itching, rashes, and even transmit diseases. The best way to stop flea bites is by eliminating fleas from your pets and environment. Here are some effective ways to get rid of fleas and prevent them from coming back.

Use a Flea Comb to Remove Live Fleas and Their Eggs from Your Pet’s Fur

A flea comb is an inexpensive yet effective tool for removing live fleas and their eggs from your pet’s fur. It has fine teeth that can trap fleas and remove them from your pet’s coat. To use a flea comb, start at the head of your pet and work towards its hind legs, making sure you cover all areas of its body. Dip the comb in hot water or soapy water after each stroke to kill the fleas.

Pest Control Treatments Can Help Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home and Yard

Pest control treatments such as sprays, powders, foggers, and insecticides can help get rid of fleas in your home and yard. These treatments contain chemicals that kill adult fleas, larvae, and eggs. However, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully when using these products as they can be harmful if used incorrectly.

Wash Bedding and Vacuum Carpets Regularly to Remove Fleas and Their Eggs

Washing bedding regularly with hot water can kill fleas and their eggs that may have infested your beddings. Vacuuming carpets frequently can also help remove any remaining live fleas or their eggs on the carpet fibers. Make sure you vacuum all areas of your house where pets usually stay or roam around such as couches, chairs, carpets, rugs, etc.

Antihistamines Can Provide Relief from Itching Caused by Flea Bites

Antihistamines can provide relief from the itching caused by flea bites. These medications work by blocking the histamine receptors in your body, which reduces the allergic reaction to flea bites. Some common antihistamines include Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec.

Preventing Fleas from Coming Back

Preventing fleas from coming back is crucial to stop flea bites permanently. Here are some tips to prevent fleas from infesting your pets and environment:

  • Treat your pets with flea preventive products such as topical solutions, collars, or oral medications regularly.
  • Keep your home clean and clutter-free to eliminate hiding places for fleas.
  • Mow your lawn regularly and keep it free of debris to reduce the chances of a flea infestation.
  • Avoid walking barefoot on grassy areas where sand fleas may be present.
  • Wash pet bedding and toys regularly with hot water or replace them if they are heavily infested with fleas.
  • Consult a pest control professional if you have a severe flea problem that cannot be resolved by DIY methods.

Conclusion: Understanding and Dealing with Flea Bites

Now that you have a better understanding of flea bites, it’s important to know how to deal with them. Treatment for flea bites includes washing the affected area with soap and water, applying anti-itch creams or lotions, and taking antihistamines to reduce itching.

Knowing what flea bites look like is crucial in identifying their source. Fleas can come from pets, wild animals, or even infested furniture. Identifying and treating flea bites on humans involves keeping the area clean and dry while using over-the-counter treatments.

Pets are also susceptible to flea bites, so it’s important to spot them early. Look for excessive scratching or biting as well as small red bumps on their skin.

Flea bites can lead to serious diseases such as typhus and tapeworms. Signs of a bad flea infestation include seeing fleas on your pet or in your home, noticing an increase in scratching behavior from your pet, or experiencing multiple flea bites yourself.

Managing and treating flea bites involves not only addressing the symptoms but also eliminating the source of the problem – fleas themselves. This can involve using insecticides on pets and around the home, vacuuming regularly, washing bedding frequently, and seeking professional pest control help if necessary.

In conclusion, understanding how to deal with flea bites is essential in preventing further complications. By taking action against both the symptoms and source of fleas, you can ensure a comfortable living environment for both you and your pets. Don’t let these pesky bugs take over – take control today!

Recommended Reading

Pest Control: The Lifecycle of Pests

Pests are a nuisance to homeowners, and can cause a lot of damage to property, as well as health risks to humans and pets. To effectively control pests, it is important to understand their lifecycle and behavior. In this article, we will explore the lifecycle of...

Feb 17, 2023

Data, Patterns, and Pest Control

As a leading pest control provider, Aptive service professionals encounter all kinds of pest activity across the country. Our ability to monitor this pest activity has provided valuable insights into understanding the prevalence of specific pest types at different...

Aug 1, 2023

Jumping Spider Control: Effective Methods to Eliminate and Prevent

Jumping spiders may seem harmless, but they can quickly get out of hand. With their swift movements and sharp vision, jumping spiders can be a nuisance and even pose risks to you and your surroundings. That's where effective jumping spider control methods come into...

Jul 26, 2023

Brown Recluse Spider: Facts, Bites & Control

Did you know that brown recluse spiders, also known as violin spiders, are among the most common venomous arachnids found in the United States? These elusive creatures are famous for their distinctive violin-shaped markings on their bodies. Brown recluse spiders...

Jul 14, 2023

Ultimate guide to identifying, preventing, and treating earwigs

Did you know that there is an insect with a rather peculiar name that often sparks curiosity and even fear? Meet the earwig, a nocturnal creature belonging to the order Dermaptera. With elongated bodies and distinctive pincers called cerci at their rear end, these...

Jun 19, 2023

Carpet Beetles: Identification, Prevention & Control Tips

Did you know that there are tiny creatures lurking in your home that can cause significant damage to fabrics and other materials? These are carpet beetles, small oval-shaped insects with a varied color pattern. There are several species of carpet beetles, but the...

Jun 12, 2023

Get Rid of Silverfish: Your Ultimate Guide!

Silverfish are common household pests that can be found in dark and damp areas of your home, such as basements, attics, and bathrooms. They are named after their silvery, metallic appearance and fish-like movements. These insects have a three-stage life cycle: egg,...

May 25, 2023

The Short Lifespan of Flies

Flies have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for only a few weeks to a few months, depending on the species. Their lifespan is influenced by various factors, including temperature, humidity, and availability of food and water. Flies lay their eggs in...

Feb 15, 2023

What Attracts Ants to Your Home?

Ants are small, seemingly harmless pests, but without proper treatment they can quickly become a massive nuisance. Oftentimes, homeowners don’t know where to start with ants and typically try solutions that only temporarily fix the problem. It can be difficult to...

Nov 22, 2022

How to Pest-Proof Your Garbage Cans

Depending on where you live, you may be familiar with managing pest-ridden garbage cans. What many city-dwellers and suburbians don’t realize though, is how easy it is for their own trash cans to become home to opportunistic pests. Allowing bugs to live in your...

Oct 20, 2022

What to Do After a Pest Control Treatment by Aptive

Most homeowners know the importance of receiving routine pest control treatments each quarter, but not all know that the actions you take immediately following a treatment can directly determine its success. As the homeowner, make sure you’re taking full advantage...

Sep 15, 2022

Take back your home with pest control today.

Pin It on Pinterest