Can Fleas Live in Human Hair?

By Rena Sherwood

There are more than 2,000 species of fleas. Only one species lives on the blood of humans (Pulex irritans), and it certainly can live in human hair. Many other species of fleas can hitch a ride in human hair to get to a species of warm-blooded creature with blood it prefers to eat. For example, you and your hair can be a bus to transport dog fleas from one dog to another. Human fleas also infect other species of animals that live around people.

History of the Human Flea

Fleas have existed for at least 55 million years, and they have been found stuck inside ancient amber. It's thought that fleas used to exist on tree sap and decaying plants, and then moved to specializing in the blood of specific kinds of warm-blooded creatures, such as birds, dogs, cats or humans. The oldest species of flea (the snow flea) still has wings, but most gave up wings in favor of an incredibly powerful hop.

Misconceptions: Human Fleas

The human flea is not too discriminating in what species' blood it eats. Along with humans, they also like to feast on dogs, cats, monkeys, birds, rodents, rats and bats. Fleas that evolved to live on other species (such as dog fleas or cat fleas) will still take a bite out of you.

Identification of Human Fleas

Human fleas look very much like other kinds of fleas. The only difference is in the number of mouth bristles they have, which are very few in comparison to other species. Adult fleas are about 1 to 4 mm long with a tear-shaped body, extremely long hind legs and are a very dark brown or black color. Flea bites in humans tend not to be on the head, but on the arms or legs.

Treatment for Human Fleas

It is next to impossible to prevent fleas, but it is possible to get rid of fleas. You need to work with your doctor to not only remove fleas from yourself, but from your home as well. You may have to treat a few times for one infestation, because flea eggs are usually impervious to any insecticides and can't be killed until they hatch.

Warning: Flea Products

Do not use any flea medication designed for dogs, cats, birds or rodents on yourself. They can get you sick or, at the least, just not work.

Effects of Human Flea Bites

Human flea bites tend to be two or three right in a row instead of just one bite from other species. They make a red lump that itches intensely. Sometimes a red halo forms around the lump. Some people are very allergic to flea saliva. Human fleas have also been known to transmit diseases.

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