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What Are the Symptoms of a Flea Bite?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

One of the most telling symptoms of a flea bite is the appearance of a small, raised reddish spot on the skin with a small puncture mark in the center. The bite might cause itching, and bleeding can result from constant scratching. If an individual is allergic to flea bites, hives can develop in the surrounding area. Flea bites usually appear in multiples, and often occur around ankles, legs, and along other joints in the body. Although the symptoms are similar between humans and animals, pets can exhibit several other signs, such as bald patches of fur.

Fleas feed primarily on blood, and eat by biting into the skin and sucking. The pressure causes the skin to rise, creating a small bump. The puncture wound is usually large enough to be seen by the naked eye and is typically spotted as a small red-black scab in the center of the bump. The red coloration of a flea bite is due to both the damage to the skin and irritation caused by the flea's saliva. Fleas usually feed on multiple areas of the body, resulting in a rash-like appearance to the bites.

The saliva of the flea can be a powerful irritant and is usually the cause of the more distressing symptoms of a flea bite. The bites can be very itchy, and scratching the tender skin can result in more damage. It is not uncommon for wounds to break on scratched bites; depending on the individual, this can eventually result in scars. People allergic to flea saliva can also develop hives, which are exhibited as blotchy red patches of skin. The hives themselves can be inflamed and cause additional itching.

Flea bite symptoms usually appear in the lower parts of the human body, as these are the areas that are most accessible to fleas carried by pets. Depending on the number and level of activity of the fleas, bites can run the entire length of the leg. It is also possible for fleas to find their ways to higher areas of the body, particularly if an individual is fond of carrying his pet.

It's often harder to spot flea bites on a pet, as the bites tend to be covered by fur. Tell-tale symptoms include frequent scratching, small amounts of blood on the animal's fur, and bald spots where the scratching is most vigorous. The skin around a flea bite might be more sensitive, causing pets to jerk when touched in bitten areas.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By LisaLou — On Aug 17, 2012

Many years ago I lived in a small apartment that was infested with fleas. I ended up breaking out in hives from all the flea bites I had.

I found a different place to live in a hurry because I figured there was no way I would be able to completely get rid of the fleas. Hives might not be a real common symptom of flea bites on humans, but it happened to me. I even find myself starting to itch just thinking about it.

By golf07 — On Aug 16, 2012

When I see my cat or dog doing a lot of scratching, the first thing that comes to my mind is fleas.

My vet showed me an easy way to check for fleas on your pets. He will put them on a clean surface and scratch their fur to see what falls off of them. Many times you will see little specks of dust or dirt.

Next he takes a spray bottle of water and sprays whatever is on the surface. If the specks turn red, you know that is blood, and they have fleas.

Fleas are much harder to see on animals because of their fur, and this is one way to know for sure. Sometimes it is just specks of dirt and you don't have to worry about it. Other times they have fleas, and have to be treated.

By julies — On Aug 15, 2012

I have had to take my cat to the vet for flea bite treatment. The first time he gave her a flea bath, she didn't handle it very well and he ended up getting scratched all over his arms.

I knew I had to do something because she was in miserable shape. She was constantly scratching and there were bald spots behind her ears where she had scratched so much.

I found her on top of the refrigerator because it seemed to be the only place where she could find some relief. I know this is one of the things that goes with pets who are outside, but it wasn't much fun to deal with.

Now when I take her in for a flea treatment, the vet has to give her a mild sedative so she doesn't freak out on him.

By honeybees — On Aug 15, 2012

Flea bites are miserable whether they be on humans or an animal. The best way I know how to treat flea bites on humans is put some anti-itching cream on them and get rid of the fleas.

When I noticed flea bites on my ankles and realized there were fleas in my carpet, we had to "bomb" our house. This isn't very convenient, but the only way I knew how to get the fleas out of the house for good.

We only had to do it once, and it worked because the fleas haven't come back.

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