Can Fleas Live on Humans?

Fleas and Humans

If you have found that your pet has fleas the chances are that sooner or later you will wonder whether they may target you too.  If you don’t get rid of the fleas on your pet and in your home quickly, the chances are that you will soon be dealing with an infestation, and your fears about fleas living on you will be magnified.  So, can fleas live on humans?  [break]

Share your love, not your fleas!

Human Fleas vs Animal Fleas  [break]

The short answer is yes, fleas can live on humans.  However, the fleas that live on humans are unlikely to be the fleas that your pet has brought into the house.  Animal fleas and human fleas are two separate species[break]

The human flea is Pulex irritans.  This type of flea is not particularly discriminating in its choice of host and will happily live on a wide variety of hosts, including humans.  It can live on dogs and cats too, but it is not the type of flea that we usually associate with our pets.   [break]

The dog flea is Ctenocephalides canis and the cat flea is the closely related Ctenocephalides felis.  As you can see from the Latin names, these two flea species are entirely separate from the human flea.  These fleas will not live on a human.  They will however affect humans.  [break]

Pet Fleas Will Bite Humans  [break]

Often one of the first signs that your pet has fleas, is that you suffer a flea bite.  Typically, fleas bite your ankles and lower legs.  The result is similar to a mosquito bite; a small, itchy spot on the skin.  If you are susceptible to mosquito bites you are likely to be bothered by flea bites.  In some cases people find them so itchy that they scratch excessively and the bite becomes infected.  A course of antibiotics from you doctor is needed in this case. [break]

Find out more about flea bites on humans and how to treat them

Pet Fleas Will Not Live in Your Hair [break]

If you or someone in your family is suffering from an itchy scalp and you find insects in your hair, these are not fleas.  You are likely to be suffering from head lice, which are not associated with animals.  Head lice are spread by close contact between people (generally, but not always, children).  If you find head lice, treat them as head lice, not fleas.  Although you can buy special shampoos for head lice, it is often effective to treat them by wet combing: [break]

  • wet the hair thoroughly and apply conditioner (preferably containing tea tree oil) generously
  • comb through with a nit comb
  • rinse
  • repeat every couple of days until no signs of lice remain. [break]

Pet Fleas Will Live in Your Bed [break]

Fleas will infest any area of your home that they can reach.  If your pet has access to your bedroom, your bed will make an ideal breeding ground.   Flea eggs, larvae and pupae like dark, quiet places; your bed is perfect.  Once you get into bed, your warmth, breath and movement will send signals to the pupae to hatch into adult fleas and you will get bitten.  [break]

Even once you have killed any adult fleas on your pet, you must treat your home, paying attention to every part of the house that may be infested.   [break]

Fleas and Plague

The Bubonic Plague has swept across the world, decimating the population on a few occasions in the past.  If you know your history, you know that the disease (The Black Death) was transmitted to the human population by fleas carried on rats.  You may not know that the Bubonic Plague is still around today, although it is mercifully rare.  In 2010 for instance, there was just one case reported in the USA.

Pet fleas do not carry Bubonic Plague.  It is a disease associated with the fleas carried by rodents.   [break]

Summary  [break]

  • Your pet’s fleas will not live on you;
  • You will get bitten by fleas living in your home;
  • If you notice that you or your pet are affected by fleas, act immediately and avoid an infestation;
  • Human fleas are rare;
  • You are extremely unlikely to be seriously affected by a flea-borne disease. [break]

Photo Credit:  akeeris/FreeDigitalPhotos.Net






8 thoughts on “Can Fleas Live on Humans?

  1. Hi you say Pet fleas do not carry Bubonic Plague. It is a disease associated with the fleas carried by rodents But don’t Cat’s chase and catch mice and rats when outside? So therefore the fleas on these rodents can get onto the cat. Is this not correct?

    • Hi Alfred – I’m not an expert on plague, but here’s my understanding. Few rat fleas are infected with the Yertsinia Pestis bacteria these days (the bacteria which causes Bubonic, Septicecmic and pneumonic plagues). Generally, as I understand it, in most cases an infected flea will kill off the rodent it bites (or other small mammal, eg prairie dog). Plague happens when a number of hosts become immune to the disease and act as carriers. The exact dynamics are still being researched, but this is what is thought to have happened during the Black Death; some rats didn’t die from the infected flea bites and were able to carry them and spread them.

      There have been no cases of Bubonic plague in the UK for well over a century. The USA has several each year (mainly in the western states) where rats and small mammals out on the prairie can catch the disease. Humans working closely with animals sometimes get bitten by an infected flea.

      In theory, yes a cat could be bitten by an infected rat flea (and the cat would die). However, in practice this doesn’t appear to happen; as I mentioned, few rats are actually carrying infected fleas. (Cat fleas are different from rat fleas, incidentally.) In the event that a human is bitten by an infected flea, prompt treatment with antibiotics is administered.

      Hope that makes some sort of sense.

  2. hi, somebody at my work has a bad infestation, and has brought fleas to two other employees with indoor cats. I have no pets and when I came home from work a flea bit my arm. will they live off of me. Or will this one just die off

  3. I just got a puppy and it had fleas is there any way that my dogs can give them to us and what do i need to do for them to leave him alone.

  4. Today is the nightmare of my life, the first time ever I caughted more than 30 fleas in my bedroom where my chihuahua used to sleep. Any idea how can I totally remove fleas from my bedroom? Please help me.

  5. I live in a duplex style home my neighbor has both cats and also a dog my 4yr old has a lot of the listed signs/symptoms, in your opinion are the attacks happening inside or outside our home while my daughter plays in the grass (the cats are free to roam 24hrs,and the dog defecates in the yard but the owner cleans it up I haven’t been inside the connected home in order to see the fleas there personally but other then my daughter playing out side in the grass is it possible the fleas travel through the walls or cracks in our home from neighbors home, as well is it typical that my daughter is the only one being bitten is there a reason she is more targeted( I had made her stay inside and yet I still found more bites on her and I am unsure if maybe the fleas were carried in the home maybe if they breed in side the home and traveled from the conjoining home or will the fleas/ cat fleas/ dog fleas generally come from or live in the grass area that my daughter plays in and you recommended using a flea collar on the ankles will that actually kill or repel the bugs and do I smoke bomb/wet spray/or both the grass area and will that actually help and how can I locate the source of the bugs rather they be from inside my home from the neighbor or actually just from my child playing outside (as I stated she was kept inside and still had new/more bites that appeared on her back // I was told to use rubbing alcohol on my daughters affected areas (not by doctor) and it has relieved the itching but it also leave either dark like marks or like sore spots is that normal or would that be the infection stage of scratching that you talked about … thank you .. your website was the only one I was able to really get a lot of information/ pictures and then this part for more information I thank you for your website your time and your expertize in this area

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