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Fleas


Definition:

Fleas are small insects that feed on the blood humans, dog, cats, and warm-blooded animals.

Alternative Names:

Dog fleas; Siphonaptera

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Fleas prefer to live on dogs and cats. They may also be found on humans and other animals.

Pet owners may not be bothered by fleas until the pet is gone for a long period of time. Fleas look for other sources of food and begin to bite humans. Bites often occur around the waist, ankles, armpits, and in the bend of the elbows and knees.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of flea bites include hives, itching and rash.

The rash:

  • Has small bumps often groups of 3 that may itch and bleed
  • May be located on the armpit or fold of a joint (at the elbow, knee, or ankle)
  • Turns white when pressed
  • May develop in skin folds, such as under breasts or in the groin

You may also have swelling around a sore or injury.

 
Signs and tests:

A skin biopsy is sometimes done.

Treatment:

The goal of treatment is to get rid of the fleas. This can be done by treating your home, pets, and outside areas with chemicals (pesticides). Small children should not be in the home when pesticides are being used. Birds and fish must be protected when chemicals are sprayed. Home foggers and flea collars do not always work to get rid of fleas. If home treatments do not work, you may need to get professional pest control help.

You can us an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone to relieve itching. Antihistamines you take by mouth may also help with itching.

Expectations (prognosis):

Getting rid of fleas can be hard and may take many tries.

Complications:

Scratching can lead to a skin infection.

Prevention:

Prevention may not always be possible.Use of of chemical sprays may be helpful if fleas are common in your area. Professional pest control may be needed in some cases.

References:

Habif TM. Infestations and bites. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 15.


Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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