Ways to Protect Yourself From Fleabites

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 14, 2023
3 min read

Fleas may drive your pets crazy, but they can be a problem for you, too.

They’re parasites, meaning they feed on other animals. Some fleas prefer dogs, while others are partial to cats. But if they’re hungry, most fleas will feed on any warm-blooded animal -- including you.

Fleabites are usually itchy. Most times, they look like small, raised pink or red spots, and they come in groups of three. Some people are allergic to fleas’ saliva. If you’re one of them, your fleabites might look large and swollen and feel very itchy.

Try not to scratch bites. You can irritate your skin and even let bacteria get in and cause an infection.

Most of the time, fleabites are irritating but not serious. But some types of fleas can become infected with diseases and parasites, like tapeworms and the plague. An infected flea may be able to pass a disease or parasite on. That’s why preventing fleabites is important. Here's how:

The best way to make sure you don't get a fleabite is to make sure your pets are flea-free. Fleas are most common in the warmer months, but they can survive year-round indoors if they have an animal to feed on. Giving your pets flea medication all year (instead of only in the spring and summer) will help kill adult fleas and prevent new ones from hatching.

Flea medications can be over-the-counter or prescription. They can be spot-on (meaning you apply it to your animal’s skin or collar), or taken by mouth. Talk to your vet about which type is better for your pet. You can also get rid of fleas by washing your dog with soap and water and using a fine-tooth flea comb.

Fleas don’t actually live on animals. Instead, they live in carpets, bedding, and other surfaces in your home, and they jump onto animals to eat. Soap and water kills fleas, so if your pet has them, wash your bedding, your pet’s bedding, and your throw rugs. Vacuum your carpets and larger rugs, as well as cushions on chairs and sofas. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag or canister -- outside -- once you’re done. You may also want to use a flea spray on your carpets and upholstered furniture. Talk with an exterminator first, though, as there's some doubt whether they work.

Keep your pets and your family away from the places you spray until the area is dry.

Remember, fleas aren’t a sign that your house is dirty. Fleas live wherever they can find a food source -- including your pets, and you.

Fleas can jump several inches onto an animal or human. Because they usually live in carpets, pet bedding, and on the floor, you’re most likely to get fleabites on your feet, ankles, and lower legs.  Fleas don’t bite through clothing, so wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks can help prevent bites.

If you’ll be in an outdoor area where fleas are a problem, or if you're in the middle of treating a flea infestation in your home, put on some bug spray with DEET. It'll lower your chance of getting bit. Some research shows that certain scents may from essential oils help repel fleas. None are going to work as well as traditional chemicals, though. The best way to avoid that is to cover your skin and minimize your exposure to fleas.