A flea is a tiny, wingless parasite that thrives on blood that it sucks by biting its warm-blooded host. Fleas commonly infest furry pets, such as dogs and cats, from where they can jump off to a person or surface, such as a carpet. However, if you do not have a pet, flea infestation may still occur from other sources they dwell in, such as fabrics and fur.
When fleas bite, they leave tiny, red, itchy bumps or welts on the skin. These bumps can be painful and bothersome for children. Besides, constant scratching of these welts or bumps poses a secondary infection risk. Therefore, timely diagnosis and treatment of flea bites are necessary for children.
Read on to learn how flea bites look and how you can treat or prevent them.
How Do Flea Bites Look?
The common signs and symptoms of flea bites in children include
- Extreme itching (pruritus).
- Development of small, red, hard bumps or welts within 30 minutes after the bite.
- Soreness, swelling, and pain at the site of the bite.
The intensity and severity of these symptoms may vary from one child to another. Additionally, children sensitive to flea bites may develop an allergic reaction, causing rash, hives, or central blisters (or weal) that may break and become oozy and crusted.
Note: Flea bites commonly occur in the exposed body parts, such as the legs, feet, ankle, and waist, where there’s a gap between the shirt and trouser or skirt. However, they may also occur in the skin folds of the elbow and knees, armpits, and groin.
Possible Complications Of Flea Bites In Children
Also, when a flea bites, it can transmit pathogens, such as bacteria, to humans, causing diseases such as bubonic plague, rickettsia typhus, and cat scratch fever. However, this is a rare case.
Besides these, flea bites can trigger a localized or general allergic reaction in sensitive children. The intensity of these reactions depends on the child’s sensitivity. Some of the common manifestations of an allergic reaction that a child may show are
- Extreme itching at the site of the bite.
- Rash or hives in and around the site of the bite.
- Skin irritation or dermatitis.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Breathing difficulty.
Note: Anaphylaxis due to flea bite allergy has not yet been reported.
Furthermore, if a child ingests an infected flea, they may develop intestinal tapeworms. However, the chances of this complication in humans are much less than it is in pets.
Treatment For Flea Bites In Children
The treatment for flea bites aims at relieving the symptoms and preventing the spread of secondary infection. Here are some simple treatment measures you can take to relieve your child’s symptoms.
- Instruct your child to avoid scratching the affected site as much as possible. To ensure the scratching doesn’t do much harm, keep your child’s nails trimmed.
- Keep the affected site clean by washing it with warm water and mild antiseptic soap. This will help prevent secondary infection risk to some extent.
- Apply cold compression or ice packs in and around the bite site to relieve swelling, soreness, and itching.
- Use skincare products, such as calamine lotion, to soothe the skin and relieve itching. You can also use anti-inflammatory and antibacterial products, such as pure aloe vera gel, to help the flea bite heal.
- Consult your pediatrician regarding antihistamine use for your child to relieve allergy symptoms. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, “an oral antihistamine can help reduce the itching of the flea bites as well as lessen any allergic reactions experienced. Topical antihistamines and anti-bacterial, in addition to tepid baths with an oatmeal solution, will help to cleanse and soothe the skin when needed.”
- Check with your child’s doctor about any treatment that might be needed for potential tapeworm infestation, as fleas can transfer this parasite through their bite.
Note: If you intend to use herbal home remedies, such as essential oils, to relieve itching and promote skin healing, consult an alternative medicine expert. An expert will help you with the right product dosage suitable for your child based on their age, general health condition, and state of the flea bite.
Despite prompt treatment, if your child’s symptoms do not improve, and they complain of additional discomforts, such as increased pain, secondary infection, or fever, consult your pediatrician.
Prevention Of Flea Bites In Children
The best way to prevent flea bites is to minimize your child’s exposure to them. Here are some measures that you can observe.
1. Locate the flea source and kill them with anti-flea insecticides. Doing so is necessary as fleas reproduce rapidly, and curbing their growth becomes extremely difficult. You can find fleas in your doormats, carpets, or couch. Alternatively, they can be on your furry pets, such as cats and dogs, and in your yard, construction sites, and woody areas with tall grasses.
2. Clean the suspected indoor areas and items. As soon as you locate the area, prepare for its sanitization. For instance, you can vacuum clean rugs, couch liners, doormats, carpets, and all the other fabrics that you suspect are infested with fleas. It will help remove flea, flea eggs, and droppings. Alternatively, you can steam clean or shampoo the fabrics and use boric acid powder to prevent flea from reproducing.
You could also vacuum all the crevices around baseboards, behind doors, and under furniture, cabinets, and appliances. Throw off the vacuum bag immediately once you finish cleaning.
3. Consider pest control indoors and outdoors. For instance, you can treat your home with insecticides using a hand sprayer, aerosol can, or room fogger. Alternatively, you can book a professional pest control service and let them clean the house and yard thoroughly. Here, you should note that the flea pupae don’t get affected by the insecticide. So, you may see some adult fleas in your house for up to two weeks after the treatment.
4. Talk to your child’s school or day-care facility if you suspect that the child may be getting flea bites there. While the organizations take the necessary measures to locate and combat fleas, go a little further and dress your child in weather-appropriate clothes that cover their exposed body parts, such as arms and legs.
You can clothe your child in full-arm shirts, socks, gloves, and trousers. Additionally, tuck in their shirt in their trousers and their trousers’ legs into their socks or shoes. Follow this practice even when you take your child to play outdoors.
5. Consult your healthcare provider regarding insect repellents. The doctor will suggest some non-toxic, child-friendly insect repellents that the child could wear on their skin or spray on their clothes. Fabric roll-ons are another good option. Teach your child to use insect repellents whenever they step out of the house.
6. Keep your pets flea-free. To know if your pet has fleas, observe them. For instance, if you notice your pet continually scratching themselves, especially when they spend a lot of time outdoors, there’s a high chance that they have fleas. Furthermore, if you notice salt and pepper-like mixture on your pet’s bedding or red scabs on their skin, they may have fleas. In such a scenario, consult a veterinary doctor and seek advice to treat your pet. The doctor may
- Administer anti-flea liquid applicants, pills, or flea collars for your pet.
- Use anti-flea shampoo to bathe your pet regularly.
You could also opt for spot-on formulations to remove fleas. These products are safer and easier to use than sprays and pills. So, check with your veterinarian. Besides this, comb your pet’s hair regularly using special flea combs, wash their bedding at least once a week with warm water, and maintain hygiene at home to help prevent flea infestation.
Note: Buy anti-flea products that are labeled for a particular pet. It means if you buy a dog-oriented anti-flea product, use it only on dogs and not cats. Also, keep your child away from anti-flea products and pets that have just been treated. If they want to tend to the pet, ask them to wear gloves.
Fleas are tiny insects that can bite children, giving them itchy, raised bumps which may be painful. A child can get exposed to fleas at home, school, daycare, or outdoors. Hence, covering your child’s exposed body parts with appropriate clothes and applying insect repellents are the most effective ways to prevent flea bites. If your pet or child gets infested with flea, follow proper treatment procedures directed by the medical professionals and keep your house and outdoors clean and flea-free.
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