Dealing with Fleas is a Marathon not a Sprint

Here’s a great post from my friend Chrissie at the Pupcycled blog.  She says everything I know to be true – there’s no effective quick fix to a flea infestation!  Chrissie runs a great site full of information for dog owners – check it out – the link is at the bottom of the page.

Everyone's a winner!

Everyone’s a winner!
Used with permission of Chrissie Klinger

Anyone that has ever had to deal with fleas on their dog wants the fastest and easiest way to get rid of the fleas. However, what most people fail to realize is that dealing with fleas is like running a marathon not a sprint. As a runner and dog owner, I can identify with this analogy very easily.

 

When runners sprint they work hard and push their hardest for a few minutes and when the sprint is over they feel relieved and accomplished within an hour of putting on their running shoes.  If only fighting fleas was this simple! Unfortunately, it is more like a marathon due to the fact that flea eggs and larvae can stick around even after the adult fleas are destroyed. A marathon runner, unlike a sprinter, paces themselves and varies their running regimen when preparing for a race. The same mentality has to be applied to fighting fleas. What you do each day and each week varies, but eventually you finish the race and do feel that same sense of accomplishment that a sprinter feels.

 

I have found you have to get rid of the fleas, either through natural or chemical means, and then move onto a schedule of prevention. During that prevention time, you may have another major outbreak and need to address it, but will still have to do several more weeks of prevention. When it comes to deciding on chemical or natural or a combination of both, the real question is do you want to spend more money and less time, or more time and less money? Doing things naturally takes a little more time, but saves you a lot of money. Using chemical treatments saves some time, but still requires weeks of prevention activities as well.

 

As an loving dog mother to three dogs on five acres of wooded and open land, I can tell you firsthand, running the flea marathon is not a fun race. (I would much rather run from Zombies…Which I have done by the way). When we adopted our one dog two years ago,  he brought fleas into our house, and my hard work and time commitment paid off. I was able to get rid of the fleas, without any chemicals, completely within about 3-4 months. Through natural preventative measures, I have kept the fleas off my dogs and out of my home ever since. Now, for those people who still prefer to sprint, 3-4 months may sound too long, but keep in mind, I have not had to deal with it over and over again. When it comes to flea fighting, I am all about the marathon versus several sprints a year.

So are you the sprinter or the marathon runner? Are you willing to keep fighting major flea outbreaks over and over with tiny breaks in between, or are you up for a few long months of a flea marathon and then a really nice long break? If you are up for the flea marathon challenge, visit my blog for great natural flea fighting and preventing tips, recipes, and more. www.pupcycled.blogspot.com

 

Halti Head Collar Review

The Halti Head Collar for Dogs

A few years ago my family decided the time was right to expand. We thought long and hard about our new member and eventually chose an Airedale Terrier. Airedales are known for being intelligent, bold and energetic. Energy we could cope with; three long walks a day are no problem. However, Emmy had a problem with the “heel” command. It wasn’t that she couldn’t learn it, indeed she was our dog trainer’s star pupil for her “heel” work, it was more that she chose not to put it into practice once outside the dog training hall.

Her tendency to surge on ahead, occasionally punctuated with an enthusiastic jump at a passer-by, quickly resulted in stronger arm muscles and slightly sore shoulders. I put up with it until I broke my finger – not due to dog walking, I hasten to add. Drastic measures were needed to ensure that she stuck by my side. The lady at my local pet store suggested a Halti. I bought it immediately.

Was the Halti the answer to my prayers and could it be the answer to yours?

 

Emmy modelling her Halti - read on for tips on how to get your dog into a Halti!

Emmy modelling her Halti – read on for tips on how to get your dog into a Halti!

Get the Right Size

Like most dog collars, one size doesn’t fit all. Getting the right fit is important for the Halti since if it is too tight it will cause discomfort and if too loose, the dog will get out of it. The manufacturer has a size guide on the packaging, based on popular dog breeds.

There is a safety link that attaches to the neck collar so that if the Halti comes off, your dog is still attached to the lead.

How the Halti Works

The Halti head collar resembles a horse’s bridle and, in some respects, that’s how it works. The collar fits across the dog’s nose and under its jaw and so it is being “steered” at a point around it’s face rather than its neck. If the dog pulls on the lead, it pulls its own body around to follow its head, so it goes backwards rather than forwards. Hence, there is no point in pulling.

 

Did the Halti Stop My Dog Pulling?

The Halti definitely stopped Emmy pulling and we used it for several months, on and off. However, the experience wasn’t a resounding success.

She didn’t like the feel of the strap across her nose and pawed at it to try to get it off at regular intervals during the walk.

She found that she could get out of it if she faced me and shook her head whilst pulling backwards (I adjusted it to try to avoid this happening again).

Eventually, she deployed her favourite method of dealing with something she doesn’t like; she simply lay on her side and played dead until it was removed.

I used the Halti with Emmy when she was still quite young. Since then she has not only calmed down but is more willing to “heel” when we are out, so the Halti has more or less gone into retirement.

Encouraging Your Dog to Wear the Halti

Most dogs won’t like wearing a Halti, or any head collar, immediately. Even getting it one can be a challenge!

I found the easiest way to put it on was by holding it open, having a treat in my fingers and letting Emmy follow the treat into the Halti. The photos on the right show how you can put a Halti on. I was taking my own photos with one hand and putting it on her with the other, so as you can see, it’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it (although the photos are a bit blurry!) As with any new activity, rewards and praise work better than forcing and shouting.

Halti Head Collar

The Halti Head Collar – surprisingly complicated!

When walking with the Halti I ignored Emmy’s attempts to paw it off, but praised her when she walked well. Basically, I used it to reinforce our “heel” work, using the same command and occasionally rewarding her when she stayed close. It paid off, because she now knows our “heel” command well and will fall into line with me when told.

Halti Head Collar

Luring Emmy into the Halti with a treat!

Halti

Emmy in the Halti

Is it a Muzzle?

The Halti is designed as a head collar, but it does have a muzzling action too. If the dog pulls, the strap tightens under the jaw, creating a muzzle effect. Great if you have a dog that jumps and mouths, but not needed by all users.

Many people unfamiliar with head collars on dogs also assume that the Halti is a kind of muzzle and you can find that they give you a wide berth, thinking that you have a dangerous dog.

Precautions with the Halti

In general, the Halti is a gentle way to encourage your dog to walk at “heel”. However, you should only use it with a fairly short fixed lead. Don’t try using it with a retractable lead. If your dog went running ahead and either reached the end of the length of the lead, or you applied the brake, its neck could be wrenched back, causing pain and possibly injury.

Clever dogs, like Emmy, can find a way out of the Halti, particularly if it’s the wrong size or you haven’t fitted it properly. I always took Emmy out with her neck collar on, and attached the Halti’s safety link to it so that if she did get out of the Halti, she was still attached to the lead.

Pros and Cons of the Halti

This is Great! This is not so Good!
Stops pulling on walks Can be tricky to put on initially
Can be used to help training Not suitable for dogs with short noses eg pugs
Has a muzzle action, if you need it Very energetic dogs can find it irritating and become frantic
Danger of wrenching the neck

A Short Term Training Aid

These days I don’t find much call to use the Halti. Emmy can walk to “heel” if I insist and isn’t quite so prone to expressing her enthusiasm for admirers by jumping on them. However, after she was spayed recently I did put the Halti on her, just to be doubly sure she remained close and with all paws on the ground. She accepted it, albeit with a fairly bad grace.

The Halti was a good short-term training aid for us, but I doubt we could have continued using it in the long-term – Emmy’s stubborn nature simply wasn’t going to put up with it! If you are looking for a training aid to help while you teach your dog some better manners, I think the Halti ideal.


Update

I’ve taken a long break from the blog.  Following my posts about Fronntline, which as far as I was concerned were unbiased – I gave my view and reported the manufacturer’s view, as well as publishing the comments of people on both sides of the argument – I received a number of very unpleasant emails.  Apparently some people think that I am in some way defending Frontline and shouldn’t be.  I’m glad to have given people the opportunity to debate the issue, but I have removed the contact facility as I don’t appreciate the tone of some of the emails.

Hope to be posting something more positive soon!

Frontline Not Working?: Information from Frontline Manufacturer

This post has come about because I posted an article about reasons why people might find that Frontline wasn’t working and in that article I basically put any perceived ineffectiveness down to the product perhaps being used incorrectly.  Since posting the article I’ve received comments on the blog and emails from people who have successfully used Frontline for years and who now find that it doesn’t work for them.  They raised the point that if it used to work, but doesn’t now, the product must have become ineffective.

Since I could only gather people’s views on the subject I decided to pass their  concerns on to Merial, the makers of Frontline and ask if they are aware of any issues with Frontline not working.  I don’t have any agenda here, I am just passing on your concerns and reporting back Merial’s reply.

Merial told me that they are aware of speculation on the internet that Frontline  has ceased to be effective. However, their own clinical studies, and those of their competitors, which have been carried out since the product’s launch through to the present, show that Frontline still works as effectively as when introduced.

In the manufacturer’s view, the “myth” of flea products not working is actually the result of three factors:

  • a lack of understanding of who the flea cycle works
  • misconceptions about how flea products work
  • misconceptions about what flea products can achieve.

Merial suggest that if you find that Frontline is not working, you should ask yourself whether you have

  • treated all animals in the home
  • consistently treated them every thirty days
  • treated your home as well as your pet
  • given it enough time; a flea infestation will probably take at least three months to shift.

If you take a break from treatment, even during winter, it is possible for “hitch-hiker” fleas, to survive and lay eggs around your home.  Whilst these might not hatch when the weather is cooler, when summer arrives you will have an infestation in your home without even realising it is developing.  Once you have an infestation, you can’t leave it to treating your pet alone; you need to tackle the flea population living in your house too (remember that only 5% of the fleas live on the pet, the other 95% are secreted around your house).  The eggs and cocoons around your house won’t be affected by you treating your pet; only when these hatch into adult fleas and jump onto your pet will they be killed.  Whilst this will mean that the number of cocoons in the house will gradually diminish, you really need to speed the process up by treating the house to get rid of fleas, which I’ve discussed in earlier posts.  It took me several months to completely eradicate the flea infestation I had; several months of daily vacuum cleaning plus using flea treatments.

Here is a video, recommended by Merial, that discusses the issue of perceived ineffectiveness of Frontline:

Steve Dale: Flea Control

Merial have also sent me an information sheet for pet owners which I may post as a downloadable file.  In the meantime, here are some further information sources passed on by Merial:

UK Customer Helpline (0870 6000 123)

Frontline Webpage www.frontline.com

Many thanks to all the people who have commented and emailed; I hope that you have found this post interesting.

 

 

Frontline Not Working? Update!

A while ago I wrote a post about Frontline and the fact that many people aren’t finding it effective.  My suggestion was that it was a good idea to check that the product was being used properly.  Since writing that post I’ve had an increasing number of emails and comments from people who are using Frontline properly, and have been doing so for many years, but who now find that it isn’t doing the job.

My own experience with Frontline has been mixed. I’ve used it on my dog in the past and it has been fine.  However, when we did our usual thing of leaving off the flea treatment for the winter and due to the mild winter, she got fleas, Frontline didn’t shift them (nor did Stronghold).  My sister-in-law reports that Frontline is no longer working for her cats and that her neighbours are experiencing the same thing.  I have a contact who is a dog trainer in the US and she reports that her network of colleagues across the US  say that the product is now ineffective in many areas (though not all).  If you check the comments on my original post, you will see that a vet has commented that she believes that fleas have become immune to Frontline.  I’ve also asked the question “Is Frontline working” on one of my social networks and the response I’ve got is almost unanimously “no”.

So, it looks like there is a problem that goes beyond a failure to follow instructions on using the product.  It’s interesting that vets are still selling the product when so many people are reporting problems.  I wondered if the vets, and indeed the manufacturer, are aware of people’s misgivings.  I decided to find out; I emailed Merial, the company which manufactures Frontline, and passed on the information that’s come into me and asked for their comments.  They were super quick at acknowledging the email and, I hope, I will be able to give you their take on what’s going on with Frontline soon.

I’ll keep you posted – in the meantime, keep those emails and comments coming, and many thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write to me.

Finally Getting Rid of a Flea Infestation

I’ve been really lucky since our flea infestation.  It took a couple of months to finally get rid of them, but since then we have been clear.  However, I was talking to a friend last week and she is having a real problem with her ongoing battle.  Despite her best efforts, which have involved all my best advice as well as her vet’s, she just can’t shift them.  I really feel for her, because I know that a flea infestation not only eats into your time and your budget, but it wears holes in your self esteem too.  It’s a gross feeling to share your home with a horde of fleas, it makes you feel dirty and messy.  So, I’ve been doing my best to see what she and I did differently to find out why I got rid of them, but she didn’t. [break]

Emmy, my dog, enjoying a flea-free Spring day!

Spraying the House [break]

I used Indorex spray for my house, and following my recommendation, so did my friend.  It worked for me, it should have worked for her.  I stand by it.  Either she didn’t do it correctly or there’s another reason why her house still harbours fleas. [break]

Cleaning the House [break]

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am fanatical about the need to vacuum clean your home.  Not just once a week, not a couple of times a week, every day!  The humble vacuum cleaner is the unsung hero of flea management – it sucks up not only the adults but some of the eggs too.  Don’t forget, your pet only  has a small percentage of the flea population living on him – the rest are hiding around you house, in the carpet, under the sofa, in the cushions.  Vacuum everything and get rid of the bag. [break]

My friend and I both did this, religiously, so this is not where she fell short.

Treating the Dog [break]

In the past both my friend and I have treated our dogs with Stronghold.  We both have the same vet too, and in the past we have both not treated our dogs through the winter months – it’s usually too cold for fleas.  This was our downfall.  A mild winter didn’t kill off the fleas, a flea infestation was upon us by Christmas.  [break]

We both immediately treated our dogs.  The fleas didn’t go.  Nor after the second month.  My dog was suffering with flea allergy dermatitis so she got a dose of Nitenpyram (ie Capstar* or 4Fleas) which kills fleas instantly, although it doesn’t provide any long term protection.  She still got the fleas again though, so another visit to the vet who agreed that we needed a new strategy – and this time it worked. [break]

(*You can find out more about Capstar and its side effects here)

This is the only difference between my friend’s strategy and mine – the vet not only changed our flea treatment but put the dose up.  We changed to Advocate and instead of the dose for a large dog, we got it for extra-large.  For some reason, he advised my friend to keep on with the Stronghold, although she may ask him to reconsider.  We are now flea free, her dog isn’t.  [break]

So, if you are doing all the right things, but still suffering with a flea infestation, it may be time to ask you vet to reconsider your treatment and/or reweigh your dog. It could make all the difference.

 

Get Rid of Bed Bugs with a Mattress Protector

Bed bugs like to live in your mattress.  It’s not the only place they live, they can also secrete themselves in nooks and crannies around your bed, but the bed is the main place.  If you are experiencing a bed bug infestation, a mattress protector is an important part of your war on bed bugs.  It won’t kill them on its own, but a mattress protector can certainly help to get rid of bed bugs.

Sleep more soundly with a bed bug mattress protector

This post is about:

  • How mattress protectors can help get rid of bed bugs
  • How to choose an effective mattress protector

How Mattress Protectors Deal with Bed Bugs

If you have bed bugs in your home, the probability is that 80% live in your mattress or box spring.  The idea of the mattress protector is that it seals in the bugs already in the mattress and keeps out any new ones from entering.  So, if you put a good mattress protector on your bed, you will immediately cut 80% of your problem.  These bugs will no longer be able to emerge from the bed at night and bite you and, cut off from their food supply (you!) they will die off.  It usually takes around 2 weeks for the bugs to die.
Once you have taken care of the bed bugs in your mattress, you would deal with the other 20% around your bedroom.  Insecticides, hoovering or steaming can all play their part in eradicating bed bugs.  Although any bugs in your room will not be able to enter your mattress, they can still emerge from their hiding places at night and make their way onto the bed to bite you, so don’t overlook this step.
Mattress protectors are particularly effective if you use them after treating the mattress for bed bugs.  For instance, you may choose to use a steam cleaner, which will kill off many bed bugs, then encase any survivors in the protector.
Of course if you don’t have bed bugs, a mattress protector is a good precautionary measure to ensure that you don’t suffer an infestation.  The United States in particular is seeing ever increasing numbers of bed bugs and, with people travelling abroad more frequently, it is likely that bed bugs are set to travel with them.  Check out our tips for keeping bed bugs out of your home for more advice.  

How to Choose an Effective Bed Bug Mattress Protector

Regular mattress protectors are not effective against bed bugs.  Bed bug mattress protectors need to totally encase the mattress, which means no gaps whatsoever.  This means that an effective mattress protector will not let even the smallest stage of bed bug (nymphs) escape (or enter), not even through the zipper teeth.

NB:  Some pest control professionals suggest that you don’t buy box spring encasements, but use a second mattress protector for the box spring because there is a view that the mattress protectors are stronger.  If you have a divan style bed with wheels, encasement isn’t going to work for you; the bugs can enter through the gaps around the wheels.

When choosing a mattress protector consider:

  • The strength of the fabric – it will be rendered useless if it tears, so go for a strong material.
  • How you will launder it – choose one that can be washed and tumble dried at high temperatures.
  • Its design – look for few, if any seams.  Bed bugs like to live in seams.
  • Zips – is there added protection around the zips to stop bed bugs emerging through the teeth or small gaps if the zip comes slightly undone.
  • Price – you generally get what you pay for – cheap products are generally inferior quality and although they may claim to be “bed bug” proof, they quite probably aren’t.  Choose high quality and expect to pay more.
When you fit your mattress protector:
  • Pad or tape over any hard edges on your bed frame (to prevent tears)
  • Treat your mattress before putting on the cover.
  • Continue to treat your bedroom and home.

Mattress Protectors Can’t Totally Eradicate A Bed Bug Problem

Mattress protectors are a great line of defence against bed bugs, but they can’t solve an infestation on their own.  It is vital that you get rid of all the bed bugs around your home.  A bed bug mattress protector will keep the bugs from colonising the inside of your mattress, but they can still live around the room and live on the mattress protector (or in its seams).  Keep vigilant and regularly hoover and launder your bed linen.
Summary:
  • Mattress protectors can help check a bed bug problem.
  • Mattress protectors can keep bed bugs from colonising new mattresses.
  • Not all mattress protectors are effective against bed bugs; choose one specifically designed for the purpose.
  • Use mattress protectors in conjunction with other bed bug treatments.

Natural Flea Treatments for Pets, Humans and Home

Often we think that we can only get rid of fleas if we use heavy duty insecticides.  However, not everyone likes using chemicals on their pets, around their home, or indeed on themselves.

Kill fleas, not the environment: natural flea repellents can help

Personally, I don’t think that you can shift a heavy duty infestation of fleas without some chemical use, but I do think that natural products can play a part in complementing conventional flea treatments by repelling fleas and soothing the effects of flea bites.  There is also one essential natural   thing that you can’t do without if you want to rid your home of fleas:  hard work!

This post is about:

  • Natural products that help get rid of fleas
  • Natural products that help soothe the effects of flea bites, on you and your pet.

Get Rid of Fleas Naturally

You don’t need to spend a fortune on flea products for treating your home.  Yes, you can go out and buy flea bombs and foggers which can help shift fleas from your carpet quickly (if used properly and effectively) but did you know that you probably have several effective flea treatments around your home already.

  • Baking Soda:  sprinkle it around your carpet and leave it for a few hours, then hoover up.  Find out more about baking soda and fleas.
  • Salt:  use it like baking soda above.  You can combine the two (this is what I do – in my opinion it works!).  Find out more about salt and fleas.
  • Diatomaceous earth:  OK, you may not have this around the house, but this naturally occurring rock can be sprinkled around on the carpets and pet bedding. Take care to buy the right kind and keep away from pets and children.
  • Water:  yes, water!  Fleas don’t like extremes of temperature, so kill them with boiling or frozen water.  Wash bedding at high temperatures.  Freeze fabric items (eg soft toys) for 24 hours.  Steam carpets, upholstery and drapes.
  • Vacuum cleaner:  It’s not 100% natural, but it is 100% chemical free and it is the best friend you have in getting rid of fleas from your home.  Hoover every day during a flea infestation, every few days to keep them at bay.  Dispose of your bags outside after each use.

Repel Fleas Naturally

Here are some ideas for repelling fleas from your pet, yourself and your home.  I don’t claim that these ideas will kill fleas; they may help to make things less attractive to fleas.

  • Garlic:  eating garlic regularly can help to make you or your pet less palatable to fleas.  Caution!  Garlic can be toxic to dogs and should not be fed to cats.  Find out how to give garlic safely to your pets.
  • Eucalyptus oil:  Fleas don’t like the smell of eucalyptus, so use it to your advantage.  Don’t apply the oil directly to your pet, or allow it be be ingested.  However, a few drops on the carpet, near bedding or diluted in a wash (keep out of eyes) can be helpful.
  • Nematodes:  Use nematodes (natural predators, available from garden centres) to kill off flea larvae in your backyard.  Nematodes aren’t effective in all environments – moist, warm areas are best suited to them.
  • Plants:  Several plants have the reputation of repelling fleas, so try planting fleabane, chamomile, rosemary and basil in your yard.

Soothe Flea Bitten Skin

Try these natural ideas for treating flea bites; some work for your pet, others just for you.

  • Healthy diet:  Both you and your pet need a healthy balanced diet to heal bites and fight infection.
  • Ice:  Don’t try it on your pet, but for your skin, apply an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel to help reduce swelling and itching.
  • Aloe Vera:  A great natural healer.
  • Tea Tree Oil:  Use diluted to dab on flea bites.
  • Oatmeal Shampoo:  Use for your pet to soothe itchy skin – you can find more information here.

Find out more about treating flea bites that are itchy and getting rid of flea bite marks.

Summary:

  • Natural treatments are great for helping to keep fleas away.
  • Natural treatments can help to soothe itchy flea bites and heal marks.
  • Hard work and dedication are some of the best non-chemical defences against fleas!

Photo Credit:  Salvatore Vueno/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fleas in Human Hair

Got an itchy scalp and found a little bug in your hair?  Worried you might have fleas living in your hair?  The good news is, it’s unlikely that you have fleas; unlikely, but not impossible.

This post is about:

  • Fleas that live on humans
  • Other parasites that live in hair

What Fleas Look Like

An adult flea

All species of fleas look pretty much alike.  The adults are a dark colour, anywhere from brown to reddish brown.  They are small, around 1/8 inch long, which means that although small, they are clearly visible to the human eye.  Fleas don’t have wings; they can’t fly away from you, but they can jump a good distance which makes them hard to catch.
So, if the insect you find in your hair flies away, it is not a flea.  If you are able to catch it and it makes no attempt to jump, it is unlikely to be a flea.   If it is pale, it is probably not a flea.

Fleas Found on Humans

Pet Fleas

There are many different species of fleas.  In most domestic situations we come across only two: the dog flea ( Ctenocephalides canis) and the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).  Neither of these two species will live on a human.  That doesn’t mean that you might not find one or two on you occasionally if you have pets, or that they won’t bite you.  What they won’t do is set up home on you.  Your pet is a much more attractive host because the flea is designed to live on them.

If you are waking up with bites, or scratching in bed and finding bugs in your hair, you might consider whether you have fleas in the bed.  This is particularly likely if your pet is allowed into your bedroom, although fleas will hitch a ride on our clothing.

Not sure if those bites you wake up with are flea bites?  Check out the post about the difference between bed bug bites and flea bites.

Human Fleas

Humans do have their very own species of flea.  The human flea is pulex irritans.  As its name suggests, this flea will live on humans, although it can also live on other hosts too.  In fact, these days you are more likely to find the human flea living on pigs that on humans.  For this reason, the people most likely to suffer with human fleas are those who work closely with swine.  However, modern hygiene ensures that generally humans are not likely to be troubled by pulex irritans.

Human fleas look pretty much the same as dog and cat fleas.  They can be marginally larger, but the only way to tell is by examining their mouth parts, which are slightly different, under a microscope.

Treatment for Human Fleas

In the unlikely event that you did have human fleas, you would need to follow the same systematic method of getting rid of them as you would for a pet:  treat the fleas living on your body and around the home.  In the case of human fleas you would need to launder your clothes and bedding at high temperatures as well as hoovering around your home.

Find out why it is essential that you treat your home – if you don’t, you won’t get rid of fleas!

Never treat yourself or your family with flea control treatments for pets!  Consult your doctor or use a flea comb in a bath of soapy water. [break]

Head Lice

The likelihood is that the bugs in your hair are head lice.  Head lice are endemic across the world and they are surprisingly easy to catch.  It only takes a few seconds of hair-to-hair contact for a head louse to crawl into your hair and they multiply quickly.

An adult head louse; note that is is a different shape from a flea

Head lice differ from fleas in appearance.  Often they are described as being crab-shaped.  They are around the size of a sesame seed and vary in colour from grey to brown (they seem to blend in with the colour of the hair).  You may not see the lice immediately, not until there is a severe infestation.  Often it is their empty egg cases (“nits”) that are more noticeable, stuck to the hair shaft.  These nits look like dandruff, but you can’t brush them away.

Head lice don’t jump like fleas, nor can they fly.  They tend to be easier to catch between your fingers than fleas.

Getting Rid of Head Lice

Whilst it is unpleasant to have head lice, the good news is that unlike fleas head lice remain in one place:  on you.  Fleas can infest a house, but head lice won’t.  This means that you only have to treat yourself, which takes some time, but is relatively easy.

You need a nit comb and some tea tree oil conditioner.

  • Wash your hair, apply a generous amount of tea tree oil conditioner.
  • Leaving the conditioner on your hair, comb through methodically with the nit comb.  Dispose of any lice in a bowl of water.
  • Wash out the conditioner.
  • Repeat every couple of days for a couple of weeks.

Summary

  • Pet fleas can get into your hair and may bite you.  They won’t live in your hair.
  • Human fleas can live in your hair, but they are relatively uncommon.
  • Head lice are very common.  Consider head lice as the most likely bug to find in your hair.

 

The Best Steam Cleaner for Bed Bugs

In my last post I wrote about steam cleaning and its effectiveness in killing bed bugs.  You can read the whole post here, but the main point is that, used properly, steam cleaning will get rid of bed bugs.  I can see only one problem with doing the job yourself; choosing the right steam cleaner.

My last post set out what you should look for in a steam cleaner if you want to get rid of your bed bugs, and if you are looking to purchase a steam cleaner, I suggest you read it.  But, if you haven’t the time to go trawling through specifications and reviews, read ahead – I’ve done the hard work for you!

MR-100 Primo Steam Cleaning System

This is my choice for the best steam cleaner for getting rid of bed bugs, as well as sanitizing your home.  Why?  Here’s my review.

  • Dry Steam – a dry vapour system means that your house will suffer less risk of mold growth after you use the cleaner.
  • Super heated – the temperature at the tip is over 210 F, the temperature needed to kill all stages of the bed bug life cycle.
  • Accessories – the cleaning system includes a variety of tools, most important of which for bed bug eradication is a large brush head – small nozzles are not recommended, they simply blow the bed bugs about.
  • Steam Pressure – 3.5 bar, a blast of targeted steam.
  • Large water tank – the tank capacity is 1.6 litres, so no need to stop to fill up.
  • Steam time – the Primo allows for up to an hour of steaming – great for killing off bed bugs (adults and larvae need at least 15 minutes of continuous steaming).
  • Versatile – when not killing bed bugs, the steamer can be used for removing stains, odours and dirt from fabric and upholstery, leather, ceramics, stone, linoleum and metal.  Kills dust mites too.
  • Chemical free – like all steamers, the system uses only water, so no harmful effects on the environment or your health.
  • Award Winning – Consumer Digest Magazine made the Primo their top pick for 2012.
  • Lifetime Warranty

 Customer Reviews

The majority of people who left reviews of the Primo gave it five out of five; its average score was 4 out of 5.  They were impressed by the way it cleaned, its versatility and the length of time it was able to keep producing steam.  A few people mentioned that it was good value for money. Although only one person mentioned dust mites she reported that the Primo had had a positive effect on her daughter’s mattress, easy her coughing.

Complaints about the Primo involved attachments that broke and a lack of steam.  One of these complainants later amended their complaint as they had found the button to produce steam!

There’s no doubt that steam cleaning does kill bed bugs – read our last post to find out how to do it effectively, then order your MR-100 Primo and get busy de-bugging!