Human Hair and Fleas

Human flea
I was recently contacted with the following question: “Fleas in human hair, is that possible or can humans only get lice? How do you get rid of fleas in your hair?” Since this is a multi-part question, it deserves a multi-part answer. And since I find the question interesting, I’ll give as much information as I can. Yes, humans can get fleas, and there is even a flea that prefers humans to feed from. But before I get off on a tangent, let’s start with the basics.
Fleas have existed for at least 55 million years, and this we know because they have been found stuck inside of 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.
There are over 2,000 species of fleas. Only one species lives on the blood of humans. This species of flea is called Pulex Irritans, and it certainly can live in human hair. Many other species of fleas can hitch a ride in human hair in order 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 in order to transport dog fleas from one dog to another. Human fleas also infect other species of animals that live around people.
Don’t mistake the “preferences” of a flea species with a limitation of whom it might bite. 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. In addition, fleas that have evolved to live on other species will still take a bite out of you. It seems common sense to realize that most of the people who deal with flea problems are those who are exposed to other animals.
How to Identify the Human Flea
People will probably want to know how you can identify the “human flea” as opposed to the fleas that prefer other animals. 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.
This means that in order to be certain of the specific type of flea you may be dealing with you often need a microscope, or a magnifying lens and very good vision. In general descriptions, adult fleas are about 1 to 4 mm long with a tear-shaped body, extremely long hind legs and a very dark brown or black color. Flea bites in humans tend to not be on the head, but on the arms or legs.
The simple fact is that since some fleas that infest and prefer other animals will still bite humans (and vice versa) the specific breed of flea is less important than knowing how to deal with them when they become a problem. 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.
How to get rid of the Flea
Although some people may want to think otherwise, it is next to impossible to prevent fleas. Getting fleas takes no more effort than the misfortune to simple come into contact with an animal or person who has come in contact with a flea. And since these critters breed quickly and in great numbers, you can find yourself with a problem in a very short period of time, and often before you notice any intrusion on your person. In fact, some people may get bitten by fleas several times and not notice, while another person may be sensitive to the flea (allergic) and react strongly to a single bite.
The good news is that it is possible to get rid of fleas. If you want a direct traditional medical approach, (which is encouraged if you are sensitive) you need to work with your doctor in order to not only remove fleas from yourself, but 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.
If you prefer a more homeopathic treatment process, there are natural treatments that will do the trick, although you may need to repeat the processes a few times to get the permanent removal of the pests. (WARNING: NEVER use any flea medication designed for dogs, cats, birds or rodents on yourself. They can get your sick or, at the least, just not work.) Here are a few steps for getting rid of fleas from your person:
First, draw a hot bath. The water should be as warm as can be tolerated. For a standard size bathtub, place 1 cup of plain dish detergent, along with 1 cup of lemon extract. The fatty acids in the dish soap and the limonene from the extract will kill both adult fleas and flea larvae alike.
Soak in the warm water for a half-hour. Be sure to keep the water as hot as is tolerable by reheating it periodically with more hot water. Lather your hair with standard shampoo, and leave the shampoo in your hair for the duration of the bath.
Scrub your skin and hair thoroughly with an abrasive cloth or sponge. Pay special attention to the areas between the toes and the back of the neck. The area of skin and the hairline immediately above the ears should be scrubbed thoroughly, too. After soaking in the tub, you can rinse yourself thoroughly in the shower.
After you get out of the shower, fill a bowl with soapy water and set it nearby. Comb your hair slowly from root to tip using a fine-tooth comb while the hair is still wet. Place any fleas that appear on the comb inside the bowl of soapy water. Repeat the bathing steps twice per week until no more fleas are found. When you combine this process with products designed to kill fleas on bedding and carpet, the insect invasion should be gone in no time.
Stacy - Hair Stylist     ©
Image: Dreamstime
See also:
Head lice treatments
Home remedies against lice