former bedbug sufferer, now extreme fleas. Nearly suicidal. Please help!(15 posts)
Hi, I formerly had bedbugs, and it almost ruined my life--I became a nervous antisocial wreck who could not leave the house, among other things.
I am infested with fleas now. I trawled the forums for flea treatments and could not find a definite solution to my problem. The pest control companies have all suggested spraying my house with pesticides (mainly rotenone and piperonyl butoxide). I don't know if I should acquiesce to this since my rescue cat is an aged, immuno-compromised cat with liver problems and my husband is an allergy sufferer (with extreme rhinitis and asthma) During the bedbug infestation, I threw all caution to the wind since the pco's suggestions were practically bullshit. I self-treated my house with deltamethrin dust and since the infestation was low, I managed to get rid of the bedbugs. I didn't have a cat back then. My marriage was healthy too. Oh my god.
Now the flea infestation is wreaking havoc on our marriage and our life, and I am so fatigued from fighting it everyday. My back hurts so much from all the vacuuming and my husband and I are so stressed and unhappy. I don't want to do the D-dust again since I was admonished by KillerQueen in one thread for my foolish and potentially toxic methods. I don't trust the pest control company--they don't even want to tell me what they use, I had to pry it out of them.
I live in the Philippines and pest control here is primitive and extremely dangerous. Case in point--the pest control companies I had contacted all said they would douse my floor with kerosene + pesticide. This is why I research on my own and self-treat. The cat is now on Advantage after getting 2 baths. I vacuum and mop everyday, but the fleas and their eggs are in the cracks of the wood parquet floors, and there are hundreds of cracks. I see them darting in and out of them as I vacuum. I am getting bitten everywhere and it hurts.
Please help me. I am becoming less healthy with every infestation. Precor is not available here, so I am trying to see if customs will clear it if I order it online. This is my plan: mix the rotonene solution with water (will oil work too?) and Precor, if I can obtain it. And syringe the solution into every crack on the floor. Leave it a while and continue to vaccuum.
Pest control experts out there, will this work? I'm thinking that at least, it will be in the cracks and not on the surface, so we will be safe from it. Because of the cat and our allergies, I can't do dust, DE, or boric acid powder. I prefer liquid, but something that is residual and will prevent the flea cycle from continuing.
Please, please, please help me.
Normally unless its literally hopping alive with fleas I would simply suggest using "shakeNvac" or a fine powder such as baking soda. The way it is used is as follows, treat the cat with flea treatment. Remove pets and anyone who may have dust issues from the home and sprinkle the dust over the floor so that it has a fine but even coating. Then take a torch or flashlight and zig-zag the beam across the floors covering all areas. Leave the property alone for 1 hour then repeat the use of the flashlight and wait 15 minutes. Then simply clean the dust up and use a plug in flea trap for ongoing monitoring.
Its an incredibly efficient way to physically remove fleas from an area as it relies purely on their physical removal rather than chemical action. The light causes them to jump and they get caught up in the fine dust making them easier to suck away in the cleaner.
I would also suggest that if you are on the ground floor you check under the home for any signs of anything that may have brought the fleas to your home in the first place. It unusual to get a sudden influx of fleas so you have to ask yourself why so many all of a sudden?
If your husband cant deal with the dust due to asthma you may want to considering sending him to play golf or something for a few days and doing it while he is out of the area, a good air purifier such as goodsphere.com should remove any excess atmospheric dust before he returns.
Hope that helps.
Bed Bugs Limited
I'm going to add to David's comments somewhat:
> Good News ! Yes, you can definitely rid your home of fleas with much less effort than required for bed bugs !
> How much do you really love that cat? (Hmmm . . . I'm a dog guy, never learned to adequately appreciate our feline friends, mostly due to fleas I suspect. Let's see, greens fees or cat therapy? Tuff choice !)
> Boric acid dust works on fleas. In fact, years ago here in the US there were professiona pest companies that based their business on boric acid dust flea control. Assuming you can get boric acid dust in the Phillipines, then get this product and apply as label directed for flea control. (David gave you some tips above.)
> If you cannot get boric acid dust, what flea control products are actually available to you?
> Note the fleas MUST have a suitable host animal to keep thepopulation going. This host animal can be your cat or a wild animal(s) that is living somewhere in your home. It usually is NOT the humans who are being inadvertentlay bitten as you and your husband are being bitten.
> You MUST assure that the cat is flea free. You stated above that you have the cat on Advantage which can be good. You should inspect your cat and make sure there are no fleas and that the product is working. Remember that one reason cats are adversely affected by "on animal" flea control products is that they preen often and consistently such that they can ingest more quanitites of pesticide then in contrast a dog might. (Unless it's my neighbor's dog and you applied the flea control product to his "groinicalogical area" as their dog consistently greets us each morning laying in our driveway whilst licking his bX#ls.) Keeping your cat flea free is critical to the long term success of your flea control efforts. Also check it there are flea collars available to you that are made specifically for cats. (And, if you simply cannot get Fluffy completely and consistently flea free, perhaps it's time your trade him/her in for a dog named Spike or Rex.)
> Is there a pesticide free flea control option? Yes ! While the work effort depends on the size of your home and the amount of items within it, it is possible to remove all fleas without any pesticides being applied. What is this modern miracle cure? No it's NOT related to cedar in any way, it's washing & vacuuming the floor. And, if you'd like, you can skip the washing part.
> Vacuuming has been a long time tested way of removing fleas. It's simple and relatively easy to do. Success requires a decent vacuum, being thorough and being persistent. Is it hard work? I suppose that depends on the individual. It's certainly not as difficult as digging a ditch in red clay soil under the hot Georgia sun whilst feeding Asian Tiger Mosquitoes all day.
> My preference is a canister type vacuum with a removable bag. However, you can do a decent job with an upright as well.
> Let's also understand how fleas do what they do so that you will know why you're vacuuming: 1. Adult fleas feed on warm blooded animals. In your case it's probably your cat (starting to love him/her a bit less yet?). 2. Adult fleas mate (And yes ladies, the males never call and never send flowers, their the worst offenders of male-dom in the entire animal world as well as being blood sucking pricks we're told. Or maybe that's me reading between the lines incorrectly.) 3. The female lays eggs. 4. In time the eggs hatch and the baby fleas are tiny worm like larvae. nasty little creatures really. 5. As the adults feed they defocate leaving their little flea feces, or as experts call it flea poop, where it's deposited as they travel & feed. As fleas remain on the host, your fluffy, it is common to see the hair/fur and skin of the animal stained nearly black with flea feces or poop (le poope if you like the French version). Umm, let's all kiss our cat now. 6. Here's an added attraction for cats & fleas: fleas are carriers of certain pathogens and parasites. One such internal parasites associated with fleas are tape worms. Tape worms may be transmitted from fleas to humans through intimate contact between the cat and the human. This may occur when humans kiss their cat and inadvertently ingest tape worm eggs that may be present in cat feces. (Ok, let's say it all together: I love my cat !) (Note to all: Yes, dogs can get fleas too, but in my experience the grand majority of flea jobs I've done over the years have had a cat involved.) 7. Flea larvae, remember those worm like critters, feed on the adult flea feces. Umm tastie! That's what they do. 8. After sufficient poop has been consumed the larvae then construct a cacoon like structure in which the miracle of metamorphosis occurs. (Yes, it's just a like a caterpillar turning into a beautiful moth except in this case it's a dirty, disgusting, sh#t eating flea maggot that's going to emerge as a blood sucking parasite rather than one of nature's endeared lovely creatures.) 9. Here's something kinda-sorta unique: while in it's cacoon/pupal case enclosure, the newly developed adult flea has the ability/option to "wait" for a host or emerge right away. Fleas must have a host to survive. Those fleas that do emerge in the absence of a host over time, sadly, will expire. However, those that remain within their pupal case can survive much longer, just sitting there, waiting for an unsuspecting host to come by. This is why some folks that have a growing flea problem may "get slaughtered" by fleas when they return to their homes from vacation as there may be a multitude of fleas that emerge upon their arrival.
> Remember about an hour ago I told you that you can "skip the washing part"? Think of the flea poop, tape worms and that the larvae need their poopal diet to survive and then decide what's best for you. (As for me, I'm washing the floors & having the carpets done. Then I'm drop kicking the cat out of the house and kissing my dog ! )
> OK, back to vacuuming and how to do it:
a. Be thorough, vacuum everywhere especially where the cat sleeps. But, our cat sleeps everywhere? Exactly, vacuum everywhere including furniture. ( You gotta be hating that effing cat by now, no?)
b. Fleas in the vac??? Yes, there may be fleas in the vacuum and we gotta deal with that. For YOU we may need a non-pesticide method that works ! * You can place a small amount of boric acid dust on the floor and suck it into the vaccum. Then, using a plastic garbage bag, seal the flea containing vac bag into the plastic bag and discard. ** You may be able to use a hair dryer to blow high heat into your running vaccum as the heat will kill any surviving fleas tha may be in your vac bag. I am unsure what the lethal temperatures and exposure times are necessary for fleas but I expect that 15 to 30 mins at over 140 degrees F should do it. Note that your hair dryer should exceed that temperature easily. *** If you have a non-bag type vacuum then you will need to dump the trash container into a plastic bag carefully, seal the bag and discard.
c. How often to vacuum? That's up to you but I recommend at least every other day. For me, I'd do daily for the first two or three days. As long as that friggin cat is being taken care of, you should see a noticeable reduction in two or three days. Be sure to vacuum and/or treat your cats favorite sleeping areas, ALL of them, everyone. (Digging a hole in the back yard yet?)
> Remember to check you cat and consider having the cat given a "flea shampoo" treatment as well.
> How do I know I've gotten rid of my fleas??? Ahh grasshopper, how indeed ! OK, there are two ways to know: a. You can lay on the floor naked, roll around from room to room and see if you attract any fleas or get any bites or, you can try an alternative method. I strongly recommend the alternative method which is build a flea trap or traps. Here's how: 1. Place about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of soapy water into a shallow baking dish. 2. Place the dish on the floor in rooms where you suspect the presence of fleas. 3. Direct an "old fashion" desk lamp downward onto the water. 4. Check your trap at least once per day. Fleas are drawn to the warmth of the lite and jump into the backing dish. The soap in the water breaks the surface tension and the fleas sink in the soapy water where they eventually expire.
If you can do the above reasonably well, you should be able to successfully resolve your curent flea problem. And, if you wish to never have fleas again, I suggest you have a serious discussion with your cat that includes something like a "it's not you it's me" type theme. I'm told cats are smart, he'll get the hint.
Hope this helps you, have a great flea free day ! ! ! paul b.
David and Paul know their bugs, so I am sure you will find their advice useful.
I want to note that if you are feeling very stressed by this (you mentioned being "nearly suicidal"), then you should see a medical or mental health professional immediately. Dealing with a flea or bed bug infestation is stressful, but if it is causing anxiety or depression to that degree, you may need additional help.
For people that are considering harming themselves, or who are extremely anxious or depressed about fleas or bed bugs or in general, please seek help immediately. You can visit your regular doctor or mental health professional or go to an emergency room if after hours. This post gives some additional resources.
Some folks who come to the forums do (unlike blackavar) have bed bugs, not fleas. If you're in that situation (or not sure), I want to remind you that the remedies above will not work for bed bugs.
Dear blakvar, ( and others)
I missed seeing your comment addressed by Nobugs.
The good news for you, at least in my view, is that fleas are much easier to eliminate than bed bugs are. There is a positive resolution in your future and you can definetely beat this flea situation thing in a relatively short time.
Even though I was rather long winded above, there are a few other tips that may also serve you well in dealing with your fleas:
Bite prevention: It took me one flea job to learn my lesson. The boss says; "Hey can you get this one job doen before you go home today?" To which I said sure. It was a half day and I had planned to go to the beach with my friends and this was going to be my first flea job ever. So, I went to the "flea house" having already changed to my cut offs (shorts). So, after about five steps into the house my legs were covered in fleas and I stopped counting bites after about 300+. Fun stuff huh ? The beach? Never made it there that day. As such, no one takes bite prevention more seriously than I do so here's some bite prevention tips:
> Wear white sox as high as possible, knee highs are better than ankle highs.
> Tuck your pant legs into your socks.
> Tape or rubberband your pants into your socks.
> You can apply repellent onto the exterior of your pants, socks and shoes. Fleas will jump on and jump right off. ( We used to apply an aerosol insecticide but I am NOT recommending that for you!)
> Long pants tucked into socks can prevent bites.
How many rooms are in your house?
Are there fleas in every room?
Even if your house is "loaded" with fleas, as was the beach day house described above, I'd expect to handle that house with just one or two applications. Yes, using boric acid dust and/or vacuuming may take longer and be more work but it is a "do-able" type thing.
If you construct a few flea traps you ma be amazed at how many fleas you catch each day and reduce your biting experience significantly. And, in addition to vacuuming + socks & pants + traps you may not get bitten at all.
Use Google to see how to build a flea trap as described above.
If you have further questions on fleas you and PM me as well.
I will help you with this from a distance as best I can.
Please keep a positive attitude and get after them. Remember that fleas are "just bugs" and you can beat them for sure !
Hope this helps you ! paul b.
Thanks so much for your replies. It's night here, and I'm going to try David's suggestion. I have baking soda, and just got a big flashlight. Would all the fleas jump out at the first treatment or would I have to repeat the process daily for the next few days? Reading what Paul has explained about the flea cycle, I understand that the pupae and larvae will still be in the crevices for some more weeks, right? The cat has been with us for some 3 months, so there might be a lot of eggs and pupae around. I've read that you can treat again after a week's time, to catch the newly hatched ones, but then the flea eggs I have here would not hatch all at the same time. So should I expect newly emerged fleas every day? Our cat has been on Advantage for 24 hours, but she is till scratching. I will comb through her next.
I've vacuumed very thoroughly for about 5 days, using disposable filters. I immediately tape the bag shut and throw it in the garbage disposal at the end of the street. When I first began having bites, I had made a DIY flea trap (just like what Paul described--lamp over dish of soapy water) and had caught at most 2 fleas a night. But I could literally pick them up from the floor or off my feet, 40 jumping fleas at a time (maybe my dish was too high?) I'm going to hunt for borax acid powder. Is it dangerous? Should I wear a mask when applying it?
To answer Paul's question, there are very few products I've seen here that are specifically for fleas. For the bedbugs, I used Sprayway Goodnight, which I got from the hardware store. They also carry Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Spray and Hot Shot foggers. The rest are labeled for other insects such as cockroaches and mosquitoes. Diatomaceous earth is available here but I've read it's harmful when inhaled, and I really don't want to risk our respiratory health, since we're both weak in that aspect.
I live in a three-story house with three bedrooms and an attic library. The two other bedrooms are unused and our cat has never spent time there, but could fleas be hiding out there too? Vacuuming is so exhausting, what with all the cracks in the floor (to be very thorough, I bend down and spend some time at every crack). I don't see any adult fleas any more (it's been 5 days since I started vacuuming) but I still get bitten. I also get bitten in my clothes, outside the house when I'm running errands. I'm still thankful that it's not bedbugs, because I react to flea bites immediately, and BB bites take some time before they're noticed. I seem to be more allergic to flea bites than I am to bed bug bites though.
All things considered, I know that I can do this, and that I'm lucky to have fleas instead of bedbugs again. But then, I feel like I'm cursed because this is my second infestation. Paul, I've always had dogs, all my life. My husband has had cats since he was a baby--outdoor cats at that, with no flea treatment. But neither of us has ever experienced a flea infestation. I didn't even know this was possible! I was hyper vigilant about bedbugs, but then I got fleas. Makes me laugh and cry at the same time.
My bedbug episode was horrific, and I feel like this is a repeat. It left me with anxiety issues and fears that I had never had before. I really became a different person. Now, there are other things going on in my life, and combined with this, I do sometimes feel so depressed and suicidal. It's just the lack of support, the helplessness, the yearning to live normally, and the question of whether I can be free of these bugs ever.
As for sending the husband away during treatment, I wish I could go instead! He does not react to either flea or bedbug bites and I would really want to stop itching and scarring so horribly. But crazily, I don't want to apply repellents, since the bites are the only way I'll know if I still have them.
A flea comb (fine toothed comb) may be useful... you can drop fleas that are captured from your cat's fur on the comb into soapy water... or wear a glove and crush then on the face of the comb for additional physical removal.
Is your husband able to tolerate boric acid dust or baking soda in the house?... It is possible to perform a simple skin test for sensitivity by dissolving boric acid powder or baking soda in water and placing a couple of drops on open skin or sprinkle it on a bandage pad and observe for a skin reaction after contact (Don't try this with pesticide products).
I have had excellent results with boric acid for flea control... I am going to check out the Shake N Vac method utilizing the dust and light routine that David suggested... I had never heard of using a light to agitate the fleas, but I have seen fleas jump in a flashlight beam many times... makes sense to me.
I had to perform a manual inspection in a condo that was overrun with fleas last week... I duct taped my pants to my socks, changed out of my uniform in the garage and heat treated my clothing much like Paul suggested in his post... it worked really well... I only picked a couple of bites on my arms despite being covered by 50+ fleas
We are experiencing an early flea season in Florida this year... My dogs are on an oral flea preventative med (Comfortis), but the fleas are so pervasive outside in my neighborhood that I am forced to employ additional measures to achieve good control in the house... You have my total sympathy.
I hope you are able to get some relief soon... Please keep us posted on your progress
(As NoBugs pointed out earlier... I want to emphasize that Boric Acid will not work for bed bugs because they are unable to groom their foot pads and can not ingest the powder like fleas or roaches... Great product for fleas and roaches, but ineffective for bed bugs)
Hang in there, you have some wonderful advice above from some of the most respected people in the industry. Take it one day at a time and keep moving forward. Good luck.
8.After sufficient poop has been consumed the larvae then construct a cacoon [cocoon] like structure in which the miracle of metamorphosis occurs. (Yes, it's just a like a caterpillar turning into a beautiful moth except in this case it's a dirty, disgusting, sh#t eating flea maggot that's going to emerge as a blood sucking parasite rather than one of nature's endeared lovely creatures.) 9. Here's something kinda-sorta unique: while in it's cacoon[cocoon]/pupal case enclosure, the newly developed adult flea has the ability/option to "wait" for a host or emerge right away. Fleas must have a host to survive. Those fleas that do emerge in the absence of a host over time, sadly, will expire.
Actually I find them interesting, but that's me. There are 3 larval instars. The flea larva produces silk from oral labial glands for cocoon production. It's sticky and many tiny things become incorporated into the cocoon. When the adult stage is finally reached, the pupal cuticle is shed but the adult flea remains in the cocoon until there is some stimulation (external vibration, CO2) to leave. This explains the reason for summer homes becoming flea-infested when you come back for the summer after the place has been uninhabited for months. The adult is perfectly formed, non-teneral (not pale and body hardened) and will be able to feed immediately upon escape from the cocoon. Fleas do not have wings in the adult stage but the lost flight mechanism is still actively used in helping them jump: it's not the hind legs like grasshopper's legs that alone gives them the boost.
BTW, there are blood feeding moths and also tear feeding ones, too. These are associated with particular hosts. Blood feeding in particular moths is done by the male because it is thought that he transfers certain salts to the female during mating: she doesn't need blood to produce eggs as do mosquitoes, bed bugs, black flies, etc. There are also some moth species that will feed on wounds, but not impale their mouthparts through the skin like the blood feeding moths do. Relatives of blood feeders are fruit feeders and mouthparts are modified for piercing skin.
Thanks Lou, good stuff !
I think there's some additional questions we need to address above in a few minutes.
It's not my intention that you get on your hands & knees to vacuum. Using the floor apliance with the wand/handle should be sufficient. If you're just getting a few fleas you can back off the vacuuming to every other day.
However, with a proper application of BA or another suitable product you can eliminate the fleas relatively quickly. I'm a tad concerned about all the cracks & crevices present within your flooring. It would be great to see this in a photo. However, a liquid insecticide or flea product aerosol application should be sufficient to take care of the fleas.
While we DO NOT recommend foggers for bed bug control, these aerosol foggers can be used to successfully control fleas.
PEST MANAGEMENT FUNDAMENTAL: Please remember that we need to deliver the "bug juice" to where the bugs are to attain optimal results.
With insecticide applications there are two ways we're going to kill the fleas. One is on contact when we make the application and the other is when the fleas contact the residual on the treated surface. Note that the commercial insecticides should kill the fleas on contact as well as through residual but that BA acts slowly and can take days to produce the desired results.
Vacuuming can eliminate eggs, larvae & adult fleas immidiately.
Your flea trap should include a large baking dish that is no more than two inches tall such that the fleas can jump in easily. Place a trap or two in every room where fleas are suspected.
If there is no animal access to the other rooms then I expect that there will be no fleas in these rooms.
Your husband can stay in those rooms during treatment if needed.
Hope this answers your questions, good luck ! paul b.
Hi everyone, it's been seven days since treatment began. I did what David suggested (baking soda + flashlight) and vacuumed a lot of fleas in the process. Went bite-free that night. Inspected the cat, didn't find any fleas, eggs, or flea dirt on her. Mopped the floor with diluted floor cleaner for wood floors. Yesterday, I didn't vacuum since I had so much stuff to catch up with. Before going to bed last night, I thoroughly inspected the mattress (to be safe) and did not find any suspicious bedbug or flea signs. I did see some tears, though (the mattress is 2.5 years old).
This morning, I woke up with no bites--at least I thought. Around 30 minutes after getting out of bed, I get a bite on my ass. The only things I did were pull on a pair of shorts from the closet and crouch on the floor to inspect the place the cat had lain on. Maybe the fleas went to my closet when they were disturbed from the floor? I immediately went to the shower and hosed myself down, inspected my clothes. Didn't find anything. At the peak of the infestation, whenever I would feel a bite and hose myself down, fleas would be falling from my body. How disturbing is that?
Do I have to wash all the clothes? I don't know why they're still going after me. If the flea population is significantly decimated and "stabilized" shouldn't they all just go for the cat?
I'm still trying to find the boric acid powder. I've also promised my husband that I'll go see a shrink on the weekend for my anxiety and stress. Not been sleeping, eating, and working well since this started, and I feel like the world is coming down around my ears.
Here's a pic of the kind of floor we have:
Wear and tear have stripped away the seals/grout around the tiles so every narrow block has crevices all around it.
Just want to add how grateful I am for all the help from the experts. It's been 2 years since I joined this forum and it's incredible that the people I've admired here are answering my queries now. I'm very grateful (and starstruck as can be). Thank you so much.
Much thanks also to the host of this site, nobugsonme, for creating this community for us. It's the one place where I feel I'm supported and understood, and I'm sure other bug victims feel the same.
Glad to hear that its working.
Now what you need to do is keep some perspective, 1 bite is a lot better than where you were and its also true to say that 1 bite is not caused enough for more panic and anxiety.
You may need to repeat the process a few times to take into account any hatching eggs but the secret part of my advice is that the flashlight will also help to photo induce any egg hatching.
Hot washing or tumble drying can help with the clothes but in general fleas do not hang out on clothes as they prefer to wait in areas where food will either pass them or as close to food as possible. I have found the odd flea down at the foot end of the bed happily hanging out where the covers tuck into the foot of the bed.
Even at low numbers fleas do not tend to differentiate between cats and humans and to them both are suitable food.
You may want to use a plug in flea trap near the doors or cat flap to intercept anything before it comes home. The DIY ones are OK but if you want long term protection the commercial ones look a little more attractive and really don't cost that much money to buy or run and that monitoring based approach to control rather than reactive treatment works so well with so many different pests.
Glad to hear that there is light at the end of the tunnel though and nice to see a grateful follow up post. The thank you costs nothing but actually helps ensure that we stick around to help others, I know I am certainly more inclined to give up time to help someone who is polite.
Hi, everyone. Just to update: I've gone four days without bites, and no longer see any fleas around. To recap what I did: I put Advantage on the cat, followed David's method that he described above, vacuumed excessively (spent a lot of money on disposable filters) and spread some DE under the furniture that does not get moved on a regular basis. I think I'm regaining my sanity and I would like to once again thank the esteemed members/experts who gave me advice and encouragement here (Paul's funny posts made me laugh when I just wanted to bang my head on the wall).
To lessen infestations (of especially bedbugs) in the future, I'm having the cracks on the floor caulked up, and will order encasements for the bed, and a passive monitor. Can't afford a Packtite, but will work along the lines of giving future bugs a nice cushy home in the passive rather than have them spread out.
Thanks again, all of you, and may you all be happy and bug-free for all time.
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