When you think of fleas, dogs and cats usually come to mind. After all, those two animals are their primary targets, right? Actually, the answer is no. Fleas can be present on a multitude of rodents, pets, and other mammals – including humans. Believe it or not, fleas can stop away on your clothes and in your shoes.
Because they are so small and prevalent, it’s crucial to know the signs of fleas and how to get rid of them. Fleas are not easy to get rid of, but before you can get rid of them, you’ll need to identify them.
Let’s continue to learn more about fleas, how you can exterminate them, and what to do if they get into your shoes and clothing. There are a few steps you can take to eradicate your flea problem, and we plan to talk about each of them, in-depth. Let’s jump in!
What You'll Learn
Common Places You’ll Find Fleas
You can find fleas anywhere they have access to a stable food source, and their favorite and only meal consists of blood. That’s why it’s not uncommon to find fleas in our homes or living on us and our pets. Because we are mammals, we have a constant food supply for these tiny little bloodsuckers.
Fleas are known as external parasites or parasites that feed off of another organism from the outside. They’re extremely common on pets like cats and dogs, mainly because of their warm blood and the time they spend outdoors.
These animals also make excellent shelters for fleas. Since fleas are so tiny, they can easily hide within the thick fur coat of a dog or a cat. However, they will certainly feed on humans if they’re nearby and within easy reach.
A flea can jump about 6 inches high, making it no trouble for them to hop on board any mammal. This jumping height is also why you are likely to find them feeding on your ankles or hiding in your socks and shoes.
These tiny insects are only about one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch in size, but they can consume as much as 15 times their size in blood every day. Of course, that’s not enough blood to make any kind of significant impact on a person or an animal, but they can carry diseases and leave irritating, itchy spots.
There are three main types of fleas: cat fleas, dog fleas, and human fleas. Despite their specific names, any one of these fleas will happily feed on another host, as long as they have access to fresh, warm blood.
Signs of Fleas
The tiny, reddish-brown insects may be difficult to spot immediately, but there are undoubtedly notable signs that point to a flea problem. Because they don’t have wings and can’t fly, you might actually notice the bugs jumping on or around your pets, clothing, and furniture.
When a flea gets onto your clothing, if you don’t see it in time, it will take the quickest path to reach your skin so it can feed. After a flea bites you, you will be left with a red bump that is irritating and itchy. Several red bumps can be a sign of many insects, which may mean you have a more significant problem than just one unwelcome visitor.
If you have pets and have noticed itchy red bumps on your own skin, watch them for fleas signs. Look for excessive itching, scratching, biting, or licking all around their bodies. You might also be able to spot the fleas or their dark eggs if your pet has light-colored fur.
Fleas and Clothing
Because fleas feed so often in just one day, it’s unlikely that they will continuously live on your clothing or in your shoes. After a long day of hiking, it’s certainly possible that you have gotten a few fleas in your shoes, on your socks, or on your pant legs, but the fleas won’t be able to make a home of these places because there’s no blood source.
Though they can bite into the skin to get blood, a flea isn’t strong enough to bite through clothing. Therefore, if they don’t have access to exposed skin, they probably won’t live on your clothing for more than 24 hours – if that.
However, it’s not out of the question for a flea to lay eggs on your clothing – especially if they have access to stored clothes like when you swap out your winter for summer clothing.
After a female lays about 20 eggs at once, it only takes anywhere from two days to two weeks for the eggs to hatch. This means that one flea can quickly multiply to 20, and so on. From there, the flea matures quite quickly. It is considered an adult by just two weeks.
Washing Your Clothing
For this reason, it’s important to wash clothes that have been stored away before you put them in your dresser.
You should also wash any clothing that you wear outdoors and in the woods as soon as possible to kill any present fleas and get rid of any eggs or pupa you may have picked up. Not only will this prevent the hatching of more insects, but it could save your home from a full-on infestation.
If you do get eggs trapped in your clothing and you don’t know it, it’s worth it to note that flea larvae won’t live in shoes or on your clothing, either.
In fact, larvae need immediate shelter from light due to their new sensitivity. Since your clothes are continually moving and exposed to regular daylight, they’re more likely to hop off and bury themselves in your carpet.
Getting Rid Of Fleas
The excellent news about fleas is that, because humans are not suitable hosts, they will probably only bite you a few times before they jump off and look for shelter elsewhere. Humans don’t have fur, meaning they lack the coverage that a flea looks for both protection and a place to lay their eggs.
However, if you have pets, a flea that hops off of your body is likely to jump onto theirs. Not only does that leave your pet susceptible to flea bites, but it leaves room for further reproduction and a more extensive infestation.
If you don’t have pets, then the fleas will just keep coming back to you for their ongoing meals. So, how do you get rid of them?
Wash Clothing You Wore Outside
For starters, as we mentioned earlier, do your best to prevent fleas by washing all of the clothing that you wear in wooded or high-grass areas as soon as you get home. Doing so can minimize or eliminate the possibility of fleas in your home.
Remove fleas hiding in your home by vacuuming everything, including floors, carpets, upholstery, and mattresses. For larger infestations, renting a steam cleaner may work best to remove as many fleas as possible.
Wash Bedding and Blankets
Put all of the washable materials in your home in the washing machine, including things like bedding, pet blankets and toys, throw blankets, and exposed clothing.
Fleas on Your Shoes
When fleas get tucked into your shoes, you’ll need to treat them the same way you would clothing. Shoes will need to be washed with extremely hot water, and cleaned out. You can also vacuum the interior of your shoes, and disinfect them with a disinfectant spray.
Treat Your Pets
If you have found that your pet has fleas, you’ll need to treat them as well. Fortunately, there are tons of flea treatments on the market today. You can feed your dogs oral prevention pills, or have them wear a flea collar to create a barrier around their body. There are also several kinds of flea shampoos and chemical treatments as well.
Any preventative flea and tick treatment will help kill any existing fleas, but a more substantial problem can call for a more aggressive attack on the insects. When in doubt, contact your vet for further options.
Once you think you have eliminated the source, treat your home with any kind of flea control product. There are several kinds of treatments and flea sprays, including flea foggers which serve as perimeter control and in-home protection.
Preventing Fleas in Shoes and on Clothing
Fleas are virtually impossible to squash like you can do with other bugs. Not only are they super tiny, but their little bodies are very resilient and robust. For that reason, the best way to kill them is by using specialized flea sprays and treatments and killing them in the washing machine.
However, if you know you’re going to be spending some time outside, the best thing you can do is take measures to prevent fleas in the first place. The easiest way to do so is to treat yourself with insect repellent.
There are tons of different insect repellents that are effective in keeping bugs away. While many focus on repelling mosquitos, there are others that specialize in preventing ticks and fleas. In fact, many of these same bug sprays today are made for spraying on both your skin and clothing.
Before going on a hike, taking a camping trip, or just exploring the wooded areas around your home, find a high-quality insect repellent and apply it to any exposed skin along with your shoes, socks, and pant legs. For an extra precaution, you can go ahead and spray the repellent on the rest of your clothing as well.
Even though fleas can’t survive on your clothes or in your shoes for a very long time, they can use them as a mode of transportation into your home. Be sure the check for fleas and wash your clothes to prevent a significant infestation.