Can Fleas Live on Humans?

When faced with a flea infestation in your home, you may be wondering whether these pesky parasites will pounce on you too. In theory, fleas actually can survive and even reproduce on a diet of human blood alone as our blood contains enough of the things a flea needs to live and breed. But in a normal everyday setting, fleas don’t live on humans. Fleas much prefer our pets as hosts. However, this is not to say that fleas will leave us alone entirely. This blog explains why fleas can’t live on humans for very long, even in your hair, but why they may still bite humans.

Why Fleas Don’t Live on Humans

We have three different types of fleas in the UK, the most common of which is the ‘cat flea’. Don’t be fooled by the name – they will happily feed off both dogs and cats. These fleas prefer their hosts to have fur. There is another type of flea which can live on humans, but these are much more rare.

Cat fleas need a furry host because they bury themselves in animal hair and cling onto this while your pet moves around. Humans have far less hair in comparison, making it a much trickier job for fleas to keep hold if they do jump onto us, and they are easily dislodged by a scratch or shower.

Human blood is also not as nutritious for fleas, and they can’t produce as many eggs on a diet of human blood. It’s also very difficult to reproduce without the protection of fur, so fleas will jump off us again soon enough in pursuit of a more suitable breeding environment – like your dog or cat.

Can Fleas Live in Human Hair?

The main reason that fleas don’t live on humans is because of our lack of fur. But what about our hair?

Although fleas are known for the ability to jump long distances, our heads are usually a bit too far for them to reach. And while they might make the leap while you’re lying down in bed for example, even if they do get onto a human’s scalp, they typically won’t stay there very long.

Human hair is not as thick as animal fur, so it’s still tricky for them to keep hold. It also doesn’t provide adequate protection in the way that your cat or dog’s fur does.

Do Fleas Bite Humans?

Even though fleas don’t live on humans since we don’t make good hosts, they won’t turn down a blood meal from us. So the answer to this question is yes, fleas do bite humans.

Most commonly, fleas will bite humans on the feet, ankles and legs. However flea bites on humans are incidental and once they’ve taken their blood meal, they leave in search of a preferred host.

What Do Flea Bites Look Like on Humans?

Flea bites usually appear as small red bumps. Often you’ll find three together as fleas often bite three times in a row.

Flea bites on humans don’t tend to cause any skin lesions and they don’t usually have any serious health effects. However, they can sometimes become infected, or you may develop an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to flea bites. An infected flea bite may appear swollen, excessively red, cause a rash or blisters, or feel painful.

How to Treat Flea Bites on Humans

If you are bitten, it will usually itch a lot – even more so if you are allergic. Because you are not being used as a host, there’s no need to take anti-flea medication – indeed, it would actually be dangerous to do this.

Instead, focus on treating the bites themselves and eradicating the flea infestation from your home. Our blog ‘How to Get Rid of Fleas’ details how to do the latter effectively.

In terms of treating flea bites on humans, it’s very important to try and resist the urge to scratch. Itching the bites can hinder the healing process as well as result in infection.

Instead, treat the flea bites using the following steps:

  • Wash the bites with a mild antiseptic soap to guard against infection
  • Apply an ice pack to help relieve itching and swelling
  • Visit a pharmacist for advice on suitable relief medication to soothe irritation, and antihistamine medications to reduce any swelling
  • See your GP if the bite gets worse, for example it shows signs of becoming infected

Wrapping Up

Rest assured that fleas cannot live on humans, as we simply make bad hosts for them. Without the thick, protective fur for them to burrow into, it’s very difficult for fleas to reproduce on us, and so they will always opt for their preferred host – a cat or dog. Despite this, fleas will still bite humans if they come across us. To prevent flea infestations in your home, make sure you give your pet year-round treatment to protect them against fleas. For more information on getting rid of fleas once they’ve taken hold, read our blog ‘How to Get Rid of Fleas’.

Shop flea treatment for your pet at Animed Direct

This blog was checked by Karin Volker, MRCVS

Biography of Animed vet, Karin Volker, MRCVS