Symptoms of Flea Bites on Humans

Symptoms of Flea Bites on Humans

The bite of a flea has certain features:
- It is extremely itchy.
- A red, swollen wheal develops within half an hour of the bite.
- After a day or so, the wheal (lump) may develop into a blister or small wound.
- The legs and feet are often targeted.
- Secondary infections caused by scratching are common.
- Flea bites are easily infected as scratching can introduce nasty bacteria into the open sores. Infected flea bites become painful, red, pussy and swollen.
- Some people may become hypersensitive (very sensitive) to bites.
- If you have a hypersensitive reaction to the flea bites, large welts may form that are painful and hot to the touch.

Blood Feeding:

Adult fleas can survive for some months without feeding. The flea uses its saw-like mandibles (jaws) to cut through skin, usually on accessible parts of the body such as the legs or feet. Flea saliva contains anticoagulants to encourage the blood to keep flowing. Female fleas are prompted to lay their eggs after feeding. The eggs are light coloured and oval shaped. The larvae cocoon themselves within weeks of hatching. Vibration, such as footsteps, prompts adult fleas to emerge from their cocoons. This is why you may be bitten after entering a house that has been unoccupied for some time.

Only adult fleas feed on blood, which they obtain with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Flea larvae feed on organic debris in bedding or in sleeping areas, and in dust and lint debris in carpeting. However, they are commonest in areas where animals sleep. Female fleas lay eggs in these areas. The eggs take about two weeks to hatch, depending on the temperature. Larval fleas look very different from the adults, having long body hairs, and appearing caterpillar- or worm-like, without eyes or legs. Larvae spin a silken cocoon before transforming into adults. The complete life cycle from egg to egg takes 3-4 weeks depending on food availability and temperature; the warmer the temperature the faster the flea's life cycle.

Adult fleas are capable of living long periods, particularly at cold temperatures, without feeding. In a few instances fleas have been known to live one or two months without a blood meal.

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