Fleas are common household pests that attack our pets, but do they ever leap from animal fur to human hair?
Fleas don’t live in human hair because the conditions aren’t right for them, but they may jump onto a person and stay there until they find an animal or bird to feed off. These fleas decide where they lie in wait, and it might be in that person’s hair.
There are five fascinating reasons why fleas don’t want to stay in human hair for a long time, but that’s not to say that they are never crawling around in there…
By the end of this article, you’ll know:
- If fleas can survive in human hair
- Why fleas don’t like living on a human scalp
- If fleas lay eggs in our hair
- How to tell if there are fleas in your hair
- And what to do about fleas in hair
Can fleas live in human hair?
Fleas can survive in human hair but they choose not to live there. It doesn’t make any difference how long or short the hair is, how clean or dirty it is, or if the hair is in dreadlocks or not.
If you have insects in your hair and they are there for some time, you probably have lice.
Sometimes fleas jump on people (usually the legs, ankles, and feet) when they’re desperate for blood or want to catch a ride to a place where they hope to find an animal or bird to live on, but fleas don’t spend a long time on us or in our hair if they can help it.
So it’s possible to find a flea on your scalp. But the flea is more likely to jump onto an animal, into your yard, or hide in your house. If it does get into your hair, you’ll probably wash or scratch it off long before it bites you, lays eggs, or jumps onto other people.
5 reasons why fleas don’t like human hair
Below are the five main reasons why fleas prefer animals and don’t like living in human hair:
People’s scalps change temperature too often
Fleas like to live in warm places, where it’s usually between 70 and 80 °F (21 – 27 °C). They can survive in both hotter and colder temperatures, but that’s not where they choose to stay long term.
An animal’s fur is dense and sits close to the skin. The fur traps air inside and protects the skin from hot and cold temperatures, and the animal releases oil from its skin to keep the fur shiny and clean.
Thick, well-oiled fur keeps the skin warm and at a consistent temperature, no matter what the outside weather is like. Fleas love hiding here, where they are cosy and protected.
Human hair is much softer and looser on the skin than fur, and we move around a lot. Our heads get hot in the sun, become warm indoors, and cool down quickly if we stand in the shade or sit in an air-conditioned room.
Fleas don’t like all these changes in temperature and so they don’t want to live on human scalps.
People spend too much time in dry areas
Fleas like humid conditions, where there’s moisture in the air. Animals spend a lot of time sitting in shady areas, where there’s often high humidity levels. This is one of the reasons why fleas live on animals.
Humans, on the other hand, spend a lot of time in dry climates where there’s little or no moisture in the air. For example, the air conditioning in cars, on public transport, and in our office buildings and houses makes the air very dry. Fleas don’t like these conditions and so they stay away from us if they can.
Fleas will still live in our homes until they find a suitable host. Click here for the early signs (with pictures) that there are fleas in the house.
Fleas struggle to latch on and hide in human hair
The strands of a person’s hair are thinner than those in an animal’s fur. Human hair is soft and isn’t dense enough for fleas to climb on and hide in easily.
The hair in an animal’s fur is much thicker and denser, making it the perfect place for fleas to move around in and hide.
Human hair gets wet more often than animal fur does
Fleas can float and survive in water for about a week, but add soap to the water and fleas die fairly quickly (here’s a DIY recipe that uses dish soap to kill fleas).
Humans wash their hair with shampoo fairly regularly, and fleas don’t like the hot water or the soap from the shampoo. This is yet another reason why fleas stay out of human hair and prefer animal fur, where they are more likely to stay dry.
Human blood doesn’t give fleas what they need
Probably the biggest reason why fleas live on animals rather than humans is that our blood does not give fleas the nutrients they need to survive or reproduce. Of the 2 500+ flea species in the world, only one can thrive on human blood.
The most common fleas are cat fleas and dog fleas (though they live on many different animals, not just cats or dogs). These fleas may bite you sometimes if they’re hungry, but they won’t live in your hair.
Human fleas, also called house fleas, are the only fleas that might live on humans until they find a better host, but these fleas are not very common.
Can fleas lay eggs in human hair?
Fleas can lay eggs on a person’s scalp and in their hair, but this rarely ever happens. Fleas naturally prefer the thicker, denser hair of animals. If fleas do lay eggs in human hair, they are slightly more likely to choose dreadlocks or bushy beards over the hair on someone’s head.
If by some random chance a flea does end up in human hair, and the flea is female, she still probably wouldn’t lay eggs there. Human blood might be taken as a quick drink for survival, but The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that the common cat flea has to drink human blood for 12 hours straight to start laying viable eggs.
Once she’s started laying eggs, the female needs to be able to feed at will to support her demanding fertility system.
The flea will probably die or be found long before all of this happens.
8 signs you have fleas in your hair
If you have fleas in your hair and they bite you, you’ll get clusters of flea bites on your scalp or a rash if you scratch them when they itch.
Fleas feed on blood, which they suck out with their needle-like mouth. As the flea does this, it sends saliva into the person’s bloodstream.
The person’s body responds to this saliva as an allergen that causes an allergic reaction. Their immune system sends a chemical called histamine to the bite area, to get rid of the allergen. Histamine turns the area red, and it then itches and swells.
Below are 8 signs there might be fleas in human hair:
- Intense scalp itching
- Red, swollen spots
- Pus-filled blisters
- Scalp inflammation
- Scabs with a light red circle around them
- Hives (if the person is allergic to fleas)
- Finding fleas stuck to the scalp’s skin with their mouths
- Seeing fleas crawling on the scalp when parting the hair
Fleas are small, dark in color (brown, black, or red), and oval-shaped. The picture below shows you what fleas look like and what to look for if you want to identify a flea insect.
What to do if you have fleas in your hair
Some common remedies to get rid of fleas in human hair include regular shampooing, tea tree oil, lemon dish soap, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. Below are some of the best methods and products from Amazon to get rid of and prevent fleas in your hair:
- Wash your hair regularly: Regular shampooing will help remove fleas – wash hair at least once a day until all fleas are gone. Lather the shampoo well and gently work the shampoo into your hair roots, leaving it in for a few minutes to drown any fleas that come into contact with it.
- Wash things that come near your hair: Wash all your bedding, towels, hats and clothing on the hottest setting possible, to kill fleas.
- Use tea tree oil to kill fleas: Purchase a ready-made tea tree shampoo, or add several drops of tea tree oil to the shampoo in your hand before washing your hair. Tea tree oil kills fleas and lice.
- Wash with dish soap: Wash your hair with lemon dish soap and rinse well.
- Comb hair with a lice comb: Run a fine-toothed, stainless steel lice comb from your roots to the ends, to remove all fleas and eggs.
- Apply baking soda: Apply a paste of baking soda, salt, and water to your scalp to kill fleas. Leave the paste on for 10 minutes, then rinse it out with warm water.
- Spray on apple cider vinegar: Fleas hate the smell of apple cider vinegar. Add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water in a spray bottle. Wet your hair, then spray on the apple cider solution. Leave it to soak for 15 minutes before washing it out.
- Treat your pets for fleas: It’s very likely that you got fleas from your pets, so treat all your pets for fleas using products recommended by your vet. This may include a: topical treatment, wash, spray, flea comb, and/or flea collar.
Where fleas hide on humans
While fleas don’t often live on humans, they sometimes jump onto us and stay until they find an animal or bird to move to.
In the unlikely chance that a person has fleas, they might be found hiding in the person’s hair, beard, dreads, eyelashes, eyebrows, or pubic area. But fleas are more commonly found on a person’s clothing than their body, such as their pants, socks, and/or shoes.