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If your dog or cat brings fleas into the house, they can quickly infest your living space and start biting the home's human inhabitants. This can become an itchy nightmare for animals and humans alike. The first step is to eradicate the problem; the second is to treat your own skin for flea bites and take steps to prevent a future outbreak.
Tiny parasitic creatures, fleas can often be spotted jumping about on your dog or cat. Dark copper and the size of a pinhead, fleas can be difficult to see on dark-haired or long-haired pets. Just as the fleas jump about on your animal, they will also jump on to you and your furniture, carpeting, drapery and bedding. You may notice scratching from your pet as well as a smattering of black pepper-looking material known as “flea dirt” on bedding or inside your pet’s ears. You also may be itchy and see small red spots surrounded by red halos on your skin. Some pets and people are especially sensitive to flea saliva and can experience extreme itching, redness and inflammation for as long as a week after an initial bite.
Human and Animal Treatment
Your vet likely will prescribe a medicated shampoo or flea dip to eliminate the fleas on your pets. Depending on the severity of the infestation, this may be a process that has to be repeated. He'll also recommend a flea preventive treatment, such as a flea collar or topical treatment. Your own personal doctor likely will prescribe an antihistamine and a medicated body wash or cortisone creams to eliminate the itching that comes from flea bites. Aloe vera, chamomile tea bags and peppermint oil can be used as natural itch-relievers for humans. Dab the aloe or oil on bites or cool a cup of prepared tea and use a washcloth to apply to irritated skin. If either you or your pets have scratched to the point of breaking skin, an antibiotic may be prescribed to protect against infection. Although difficult to resist, scratching only makes the bites worse. Try not to itch your bites and consider an Elizabethan collar for your pet.
Cleaning Your House
If your home has been infested with fleas, you'll need to clean it thoroughly to protect against reinfestation. Fleas have a short life cycle but lay eggs quickly, so you may have to repeat your cleaning process to ensure you get adult fleas, flea larva and eggs eradicated. This will include washing all human and animal bedding in hot, soapy water, thoroughly vacuuming and steam-cleaning carpets, drapes and furniture. In extreme cases you may need to use an indoor fogger to eliminate all fleas or employ a professional extermination company.
Fleas prefer furry hosts to human hosts, but they often infest animal bedding. If your dog or cat sleeps with you or sits on your furniture, your chances of getting flea bites increases. Ask your vet to recommend an appropriate method for protecting your pets from fleas in the future, such as a flea collar or a liquid flea and tick repellent like Frontline. Ask about products containing methoprene and pyriproxyfen, which provide long-term flea prevention. Keep grass and bushes in your yard trimmed and don’t allow stray animals into your house or around your pets. If you adopt an animal, insist on a flea bath before you bring him home.
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