How To Deal With Flea Infestation
Having a flea infestation in your home is an unpleasant experience, but do not fret, anyone who has a pet have probably had to deal with this problem at least once.
Fleas are small blood sucking insects that feed on a wide variety of animals, including humans. These annoying little pests can enter your home on an animal or pet, but sometimes can find their way in on their own (especially if it is a very wet year). Prevention is the best way to avoid having a complete infestation of your home, but it is possible to remove an infestation even after it has reached a significant degree.
Characteristics Of Fleas
Fleas are small, but visible to the human eye at about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch in size. They appear to be flat and have hard outer bodies. They have 3 sets of legs and no wings, but can jump to amazing heights for their size. They also feature piercing mouthpieces that allow them to infiltrate the skin of their victims. Their bites, in which they feed on blood, cause itchy hives and swollen red bumps through a chemical secreted in their saliva. Usually a flea bite is annoying but harmless, but in some people and pets, flea bites can cause irritated skin and flea allergy dermatitis. In dogs and cats, they can transmit tapeworm if ingested. Pets with a flea bite allergy will display hair loss and gnawing on their skin. Fleas are also responsible for transmitting the bubonic plague and typhus throughout history.
The Flea Life Cycle
Adult fleas only make up about 5% of the total flea infestation because fleas go through a life cycle including eggs, a larva stage and a pupa stage as well as adults. If you have fleas that you can see and feel, then there are a lot more in the carpets and bedding in the form of eggs, larva and pupas. Larva stage fleas can live for up to 200 days in your carpet before becoming pupa and pupa can remain dormant for up to a year before needing a blood meal. This means even if you are not home, fleas in these stages can wait until they mature. Female adult fleas can lay up to 200 eggs in their lifetime, so a few fleas end up as an infestation quickly.
How To Remove A Flea Infestation
Removing a flea infestation from your home is a two part process:
First you will need to remove the adult fleas from yourself and your pets. There are many treatments and baths available for both you and your pets, and several baths may be required to get them all. Be careful if you have cats as products designed for dogs can actually kill them. Be sure to buy only products safe for cats. Shampoos and flea combs are readily available, but plain soapy water kills fleas just as well. Continue to monitor for fleas for several days.
The next step is to remove all the life stages of fleas from your environment. Flea eggs are dropped mostly where your pet sleeps or rests, so gather up all bedding or soft material and wash in soapy water. Larva and pupa stage fleas live in carpets or furniture, so you must vacuum them up. Be sure to vacuum several times a day to really get them all, and to vacuum under couches, under cushions, in corners and dispose of the bag right away outside of the house. Vacuum bags can be reused if they are frozen first. Steam cleaning and flea removal products will help rid your carpet of eggs as well. Fleas may also hang around any place outside that your pet relaxes, so regularly pour warm, soapy water on these places to prevent your pet from bringing them back in. You can also hire a professional pest control company to remove fleas for you.
What Products Should I Use To Get Rid Of Fleas?
There are many products available to get rid of fleas. Chemical flea removals work well and usually contain Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) to kill all the flea life cycles. Be sure to follow all safety precautions to protect your plants, children and pets. Non-chemical products are also available including citrus peel extracts, soptive dusts and diatomaceous earth. The key to removing a flea infestation is consistent cleaning and vacuuming of the environment to remove fleas, using a product to kill off the different life stages of fleas and remove any adult fleas from your pets. After that, it is a matter of prevention.
How Do I Prevention A Flea Infestation?
Preventing a flea infestation should be a continuous lifelong process and a natural part of owning a pet. There are many effective flea treatments available. Many of these treatments are waterproof and require only one application a month. Again be careful with cats and young animals, be sure any products that you use are safe for them. Collars that kill fleas are not usually recommended because they release harmful vapors. Year-round flea treatments for your pets are often needed as fleas can show up just about any time. Keep the environment clean on a regular basis as well. With proper flea prevention, you can spare yourself the annoyance and difficulty in dealing with a nasty flea infestation.