Flea Bites: Are They Signs of a Serious Problem?

EDITORS NOTE: Many of our readers who are looking for our price comparison chart of the leading flea treatments (e.g. K9 Advantix II vs. Frontline Plus) for cats and dogs.

Flea bites can be a major annoyance and a sign that you have a serious problem in your home or with your pets.  Rest assured we will give you solid information based in facts and research and will not resort to using scare tactics to make you fearful or to convince you to buy anything.

Flea Bites 101 will strive to be your comprehensive source for news and information about all things related to fleas and flea bites.  Over time We will thoroughly examine a variety of issues and subject matter pertaining to flea bites, treatment and prevention. These subjects include, but are not limited to, the following:

Identifying Flea Bites on People – Knowledge is Power

We are presuming that you have a flea infestation of some sort or perhaps you have flea bites on your body because you are after all at a website about fleas. However, you cannot solve a problem unless you definitively understand and identify the problem.  There are a lot of different insects that bite humans and leave markings (e.g. mites, mosquitoes, etc.) – and quite often the irritation, bumps and discoloration from these attacks appear similar and can be confusing.

Although fleas can and will bite humans anywhere on their body, they are more apt to nibble and feed on lower extremities like the feet and ankles.  To a lesser extent, individuals attacked by fleas will see bites on their abdomen and wrist/forearms.

What does a flea bite look like?

The tell-tale signs of a flea bite are the following:

  • Tiny, raised bumps red in color (usually smaller than a pimple)fleabites
  • Small rash appearance around bite that turns white when pressure is applied
  • Bumps are hard
  • Single puncture wound in center of bump
  • Scabs over after being scratched
  • Itches for about a week with significant irritation that is constant
  • Itching causes bite marks to bleed and often results in minor infections
  • Itch may turn into a blister within a couple days of the flea bite
  • Allergic reactions include development of a larger skin rash
  • Allergic reactions in rare circumstances can result in chest pains, hives and breathing problems

Still Not Sure?

Self-diagnosis can be very stressful and confusing.  We being to see things that aren’t there or question what we do see.  Maybe you have looked at your bites and you think you see two puncture wounds inside the bump or you think the bumps are too big to be flea bites.   There are additional ways to confirm your suspicion.

Flea bites are generally going to appear in groups of more than one.  It is quite common for there to be multiple bites from a horde of feeding fleas seeking to devour your blood.  This is especially true if you notice the bites in the morning after waking up.

However, the most effective confirmation will be from inspecting your cats and/or dogs to see if they are infested.  Please note, though it is uncommon you can still have fleas in your house and suffer from flea bites even if you do not have cats or dogs.  Because human beings are not suitable hosts for fleas and prefer the cozy confines of cat and dog fur, their feeding on humans is primarily a crime of opportunity or desperation.  Consequently, many people report a spate of flea bites on their person after their dog or cat has been out of the house for an extended duration since the fleas are desperate to eat and proactively search out food sources.

Identifying Flea Bites on Pets

There are more than a dozen antigens in flea saliva and each one of those pose a potential allergic reaction to your cat or dog.  Antigens are foreign proteins that the body’s immune system attempts to remove.

Most people mistakenly assume that cats and dogs will vigorously scratch themselves whenever they are being bit by fleas. Therefore, we kind of assume that if we do not see our pet repeatedly itching, scratching or nibbling on themselves to get at the fleas that they are not infested.  This is wrong.

Even when infested with fleas, it is quite possible that your animal will not noticeably scratch themselves out of the ordinary unless they are allergic to these pests.  Also, your pet does not need to be infested with fleas in order for it to start itching uncontrollably.  An allergic reaction to one flea bite can cause considerable discomfort in your animal. When your pet has an adverse reaction to one of the pathogens in the saliva, they will itch in a noticeable manner.

Signs of an Allergic Reaction

Besides itching, there are other indicators that suggest your cat or dog is having an allergic reaction to being bitten by fleas.  The little critters will generally feed in the lower region of your animal near the groin, anus, the base of the tail and the tender underbelly. After they pierce the skin red bumps will appear. Aggressive and repeated itching exacerbates the symptoms and may result in hair loss and drying out of the skin.  Eventually, these scratched and irritated wounds will become infected and scabbing in the form of crusty lesions will manifest themselves.

What Causes Fleas to Bite Animals and Humans?

Fleas are parasitic insects that must feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals and humans in order to reproduce and survive.  Adult fleas live entirely on a diet of fresh blood and will consume up to 15 times their body weight in blood each day. Although mature fleas can go months without sucking blood out of a host and survive, they are rabid feeders when nestled within the cozy confines of your animal’s fur or have access to human beings.   The entire lifecycle of the flea is blood dependent.

Transmission of Disease and Illnesses

Since fleas must pierce the skin with a bite to access your bloodstream to feed, this is how they transmit diseases and illnesses to animals and humans.  For this reason, parasitic insects and reports of flea bites are watched very carefully by local, state and national governments across the world to prevent the massive outbreak of diseases and plagues.  In the United States, many local governments (especially at the county level) have vector control departments tasked with monitoring insect activity.  During the real estate bust we heard a lot of reports in the news about abandoned homes with mosquito infested pools and so forth.  Insects that spread disease are called vectors, hence the name vector control.

Fleas are capable of transmitting numerous different types of diseases.  The most well-known is “plague” and it has been responsible for killing more than 200 million people throughout human history.  The Black Death that ravaged Europe was the most likely the result of flea infestation and transmission from China via the Oriental rat flea feeding on black rats.  Fleas can also transmit tapeworms to dogs and humans.  The subject of disease transmission will be discussed in greater detail on other pages of this website.

It is important that you make a quick, decisive decision to mitigate a flea infestation in your household. But, you need not live in panic or be terrified that you will contract a disease because the odds are incredibly low even if you have been bitten by fleas.