Fleas are a part of dealing with animals. The tiny insects feed on organic matter, live outdoors in grass and will latch onto any warm-blooded creature that passes through their area. Pets can carry the fleas into the house. Even a wild animal that nests under the home can introduce the pests into your home. Adult fleas bite both animals and humans. Both the fleas and their treatment pose special risks for infants. If your baby receives multiple bites from a flea infestation of feeding fleas, his wounds can become infected and require an antibiotic.
Because they lie or crawl on a floor that might be infested with fleas, infants can be more susceptible than adults to bites. You may notice a series of raised red bumps on your infant and worry. There are several ways to tell if the bumps are flea bites. First of all, the bumps should be small and will be clustered in a group of two or three bites. In a severe infestation, the infant will have many clusters of bites. The bumps may be around the baby's joints such as her knees or ankles. Flea bites can become infected as the baby scratches or opens the skin around the bite. To prevent infection, Dr. William Sears encourages parents to trim the infant's nails and wash the bites thoroughly with soap and water. Additionally, use a cool compress to reduce swelling and give comfort for itching.
Flea Bite Dermatitis
Allergies pose additional risks to infants. Some children are allergic to the proteins found in flea saliva. This causes an allergic reaction that can affect a much larger area of skin. According to the University of Iowa Extension, the bites will be surrounded by a halo of red and swollen skin. In multiple bites from an infestation, the halos may merge to make the child's entire limb look red and swollen. Allergic dermatitis is found more often in children than in adults. Talk to your pediatrician before using any anti-itch or allergy reducing medication on an infant.
Fleas and Tapeworms
Most children who suffer from tapeworms become infected from undercooked meat or by handling the feces of an infected person or animal. However, according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, fleas can also carry the parasites. Typically, flea larvae ingest tapeworm eggs. When the flea matures, cats and dogs eat the infected flea during grooming. The tapeworm egg then hatches in the animals intestine, where it latches on to the intestinal wall. While most human cases come from infested meat, theoretically, an infant could contract tapeworms from ingesting a flea.
Even getting rid of fleas poses a danger to infants. Many flea-control products use toxic chemicals that children may ingest. Flea collars and sprays linger on the coats of pets. As an infant touches the pet or the areas where the pet lies or plays, the toxins can be transferred to the baby's hands and often to the baby's mouth. In addition, many pesticides used to remove fleas from a home leave a toxic residue on furniture and floors that the child may ingest.
Reducing the Danger
Contact a professional pest control company if you have a major flea infestation. Talk about treatments that are safe for infants and whether the infant should be out of the home during treatment. To continuously manage fleas, talk to your veterinarian about non-toxic solutions for flea control. Keep your pets in one, easily cleaned area of the home during peak flea season, preferably an area with hard floors. Wipe or vacuum the floors and bedding daily to remove eggs and larvae. Wash bedding weekly to kill any pests that the vacuum may have missed. Get in the habit combing out the pets' fur with a flea comb daily. This not only keeps your pet pest free, but grooms the coat and gives you quality time with your pet.
- University of Lincoln Nebraska: Integrated Flea Control
- Ask Dr. Sears: Insect Bites
- University of Iowa: Flea Bites
- Healthy Children: Tapeworms
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Tapeworms
- Natural Resources Defence Counsel: Flea-Control Products Threaten Pets and Children
- A.M. Northwest: Natural Flea Control