Parent Q&A

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  • Fleas

    (8 replies)

    I am embarrassed to admit it but we got a flea problem from our pets and even thought we treat them with medicine and special collars, we still have it in our couches etc.  What should we do? Thank you for any help!!

    You have to vacuum repeatedly under the couch cushions, ideally wash the cushions, and vacuum the upholstery of the couch itself. You can also put down baking soda (I think) to suffocate the fleas under the cushions. We had to do this nearly every day to really get rid of the eggs, but you should also talk to your vet about a better treatment. Our cat had incessant fleas and they ate us up (our younger kid was always looking so destroyed!). I couldn't sleep because of the itching. We've finally gotten it under control, but it's a lot of work. You shouldn't be embarrassed, though. It's not like you rolled around in the garden! You have to keep vacuuming to capture the life cycle of the eggs. Good luck!

     I remember having good luck with fleabusters years ago, they use a non-toxic treatment - http://www.fleabustersca.com/.   I hope you won’t mind if I add in that if you’re giving your animals a monthly medicine and still having fleas I think there are better options out there for you .  Some of the traditional medicines like Frontline and Aadvantage don’t seem as effective as some of the newer ones.  I use NexGard  and I have never seen a flea on my dog.  It could be the fleas are in your furniture and keep reinfesting your animals but you might wanna ask your vet what they recommend. Good luck!

    Food grade diatomaceous earth! 

    Put a flea collar in the vacuum bag and then vacuum. Also, train your dogs to sleep in their bed. And if you put a pillowcase or something similar on the couch, the cat will choose to sleep on that. Then wash the bedding regularly. 

    The eggs and larvae live in the bedding. So if you can keep the bedding clean, you break the lifecycle. When you are trying to control an insect, it is easier if you understand them. Try reading this: 


    Fleas are incredibly hearty, and their eggs can live for months in carpet.   To get rid of fleas in our home we had to have all our rugs cleaned (we have all hardwood floors), vacuumed our upholstered furniture and used Fleabusters powder in the corners, cleaned all bedspreads and pillows, bathed our cat and dog, gave them Capstar and then put them on new flea medications (after first consulting with their vet).  It was quite the ordeal, but we have now been flea free for 8 months.  Note that cats are much more sensitive to natural oils than dogs, so if you have cats you need to be really careful about the products you use.  Good luck!

    We had the same problem. We had to get the oral anti flea meds (prescription) from the vet.

    Ask tour vet for Bravector, it's like magic, it will keep your pets out of fleas for 3 months, you will see them dying 30 seconds after you give them the pill!!!
    That will help you to break the cycle of the fleas , and that way the fumigation will be effective

    Don't be embarrassed this is flea season.  Had similar issues with fleas.  First read-up on fleas and the life of a flea.  Flea eggs are viable for 2 years or more.  Fleas can live for 3 or 4 months between meals.  Point I'm making is this isn't going to be easy.  If you have it this bad you need to flea bomb two maybe three times. Flea bombs are not effective against flea eggs only hatched fleas. Vacuum like crazy if not daily every other day.  Give you pet a flea treatment bath weekly.  Dig through the fur on your pets to see if they are infested.  Look for black crumbs like burnt toast or ground black pepper.  Get it wet, if it turns red, you know what you have.  Wash your pets in baby shampoo of some other shampoo.  The shampoo will suffocate the fleas killing them.   Dish soap dies the same. 

    Do you know the source of the fleas?  If could be there's a flea infestation in your neighbors yard or a park and the fleas are just hopping on you.  Remember they can "jump" over a foot.  Any rat infestations?  Fleas like rats.  Any rat infestation?  When you enter your house leave your shoes outside.  Or place in a large plastic bag you can seal.  Look to see if you see any fleas in the bag a few hours later.  We found the source of fleas to be a dog park.  A flea can jump on you to hitch a ride.  Then jump off hours later. 

    Forget all of the natural stuff.  I've tried diatomaceous earth, baking soda, lemon oil, slat, rosemary, apple cider, etc.  None of that worked for me or any other pet owner I have talked to.  

    You can win this battle.  But you need to be aggressive.  Washing your pet, flea bombs and daily vacuuming are your tools. 

    Many of us have been there.  Good luck. 

  • Son's roommate's cat has fleas!

    (4 replies)

    I am badly allergic to cats and have no experience with treating them for fleas. What is best product for treatment? Son and roommate are evacuating from the fire. I want treat cat

    and find someone who can cat sit for it but don't want to hand them a feline with fleas! thanks

    Hi! I would recommend "Revolution" . it is in liquid form you drop it on the back of the cat's neck. There was a big flea problem a couple years ago in Berkeley and several brands stopped working, such as Advantage and Frontline. Call your nearby Pet Express. They have clinics, called "VIP" where you can bring the pet and just get the flea medication and don't have to pay vet fees. Also the cat should be combed every day, with a flea comb, with a bowl of soapy water nearby and put any fleas in the water that come out on the comb. Cats can get worms from fleas, too, so the roommate should make sure there are no rice-looking little worms by the anus. This flea medicine should be used once a month ALWAYS if you own a dog or cat, so the cat owner needs to take care of the cat and make sure to keep up with necessary precautions.

    Hi! As a long-time pet owner, fleas are the worst!!! I have tried everything. The best products are the ones that I use now on my own cats:  Advantage, or some other topical that competes with it. You squeeze it on the back of the cat’s neck, and it kills the fleas right away. But, my fave thing to use because it is not a poison, is called Program. The real problem with fleas is that they produce so many eggs that fall off everywhere & then hatch. Program is a small amount of liquid that you mix with some tuna fish and feed to your kitty once a month. It makes the fleas unable to produce viable eggs, so the fleas die & that’s it. Neither of these are 100% effective, but they are the best that I have found. Big downside is that they are pricey- order them online for the best prices. Good luck and so sorry to hear about the evacuation; this is a terrible time and I wish your family well.

    We have dealt with this!!! Here is my reccomendation:

    step 1- Capstar, this is a tablet that will kill all fleas on cat in 30m-1h. Just mix with wet food. Buy from a vet or Amazon.

    step 2- flea bath, a few hours after cap star, this will kill larvae and eggs

    step 3- advantage or revolution treatment. Do this a day or 2 after the capstar and bath to prevent any remaining eggs from creating a reinfestation.

    Wash everything machine washable the cat has touched in hot water and watch your house for signs of fleas (google flea dirt). 

    there is a pill called Comfortis that you can only get from a vet's office -- call around and explain the situation and someone will sell it to you. Not cheap but very effective. 

  • Mysterious Bites on 2 Year Old

    (7 replies)

    My 2 year old started getting these red bites, 9 on one leg, 4 on the other, and 4 on one arm in a weeks time. We thought we noticed more on her legs after she woke up with more one day, from her crib. They look like flea or bedbug bites but no signs of bedbugs, I know you can see those with the naked eye. The dog hasn't been scratching, but she did recently start falling asleep on the dog's bed for a short nap. Mostly her upper body lays on the dog bed including her whole head which appears to be untouched, They are only on both legs & 1 arm at this point. We thought it was cute at first, even a picture, but could it be fleas causing these aweful looking bites even if the dog or cat are never scratching? And how serious could this be, since tomorrow is Sunday, doctors are closed so the ER would be my only choice until Monday. Basically, Can it wait utill Monday or not? Any help would be awesome! I don't know if I should buy a new mattress, get the dog to the vet or spray for spiders. PLEASE HELP!! THAT POOR THING

    I only have experience with bed bugs, not fleas, but I'll share what I know. While bed bugs are visible with the naked eye, they are very good at hiding, and they are nocturnal, so not having seen them definitely doesn't rule them out. As to where to look, they like living in walls and floorboards, and typically only move to the mattress when the infestation is so large as to force them to. You might look for small smudges of brown on your child's sheets, and also look at the pattern of the bites - bed bugs like to bite in lines. Bed bugs tend to only bite exposed skin, not under clothing, and they don't like crawling through hair or fur, so they tend to avoid dogs altogether. There are some traps you can put out to determine if you have bed bugs. The point isn't to catch all the bugs (because it won't), but to prove whether they are bedbugs: http://www.instructables.com/id/Easiest-Bed-Bug-Trap/

    I don't believe bed bugs carry disease like other bugs, but they are certainly awful. Some people are allergic and some aren't, by the way, so you and your husband may be getting bit as well but not showing signs. My husband and I moved into an apartment with bed bugs and I was covered in bites that blistered, though my husband showed nothing. 

    In the meantime, if it's looking like they are bedbugs, wash your daughter's bedding and pajamas, and, along with any stuffed animals or anything else that's been in her bed, dry on as high a heat as the fabric can withstand for at least 30 minutes. Bed bugs can't fly, only crawl, so move her bed away from the wall, make sure no bedding touches the floor, and get bed bug interceptors for the legs of the bed: https://www.amazon.com/ClimbUp%C2%AE-Interceptors-pack-passive-traps/dp/...

    In-store bed bug sprays do not work, unfortunately. We had to go through an 8 week treatment regime with a pest control company, but after that, no more bed bugs.

    Good luck.

    Ugh. I feel your pain. The same exact thing happened to ME (not my kid!) a couple of months ago. I too was convinced we got bedbugs (hubby does tons of travel for biz, so I figured it's a matter of time...). I even called our pest control company (termites and ants), and had them come and look with me, including tearing apart my bedroom, and they found nothing. I have 2 cats/2 dogs. No one was itching. but I kept waking up with bites on my arms, legs and torso. Little red itchy ones.  First of all - no need for the ER, this can wait for your pediatrician unless a fever develops suddenly. If it's fleas, they generally don't carry diseases (unlike ticks) that humans can catch.  So here was my plan of attack, which so far has worked:

    1. Change or introduce flea control products for your pets. Skip the natural ones, they don't work, sorry to say. Ask your vet what fleas in your area seem most susceptible to. Where I am, they said Bravecto, but I can't give that to any of my pets because most of them have stomach issues, allergies, etc., didn't want an oral med.  We were using Activyl, which was useless. So I went back to Frontline, and that seems to have helped a lot. It's just a couple of drops on their shoulder once a month.

    2. I washed ALL bedding, pet and human, scrubbed down my whole house. I use a homemade fabric freshener, so I bumped up the more flea-repellent ingredients. Here's my recipe:  fill a spray bottle 1/2 vodka 1/2 filtered water. Add 15 drops peppermint oil + 10 drops pennyroyal oil + 5 drops lavender + 5 drops cinnamon oil.  I sprayed down all mattresses and rugs after cleaning, also all upholstered furniture.

    3. Sounds crazy, but trust me, this next one helped too: I went to the pet store and bought a few old-school flea collars. I would never put these on my pets either, so I cut each one in half, and put each half somewhere fleas might like - under the mattress, under sofa cushions, under dog bed, etc.

    You're not losing your mind, I thought I was going nuts because you're right - bedbugs leave telltale signs or you can see them at night. Flea larvae you can't see, and they can jump, too!  A couple of months later, I'm getting ready to switch out my cut-up flea collars, and I'm diligent about flea control on the pets. And if anyone says "Oh I would never put those chemicals on my pets!' Say what I say  - "Really? Because I love my pets, but I love the humans in the house more, WE get priority for disease prevention."  GOOD LUCK!

    We had a suspected infestation of rat mites last year around this time. It might be worth it to check around your basement and attic, or set some traps. They often search out humans when their rat host has died, luckily they can't live without rats, so they go away when the rodents are eradicated. Also, interestingly they seem to like specific people (I was affected and my husband wasn't bitten at all). Just a thought!

    Hi - I hate to say this sounds like it could be rat bite mites. You'll see some tales in the archives.  There have been a bunch of reports of problems in the past two months, according to the City of Berkeley Public Health guy Ernesto who came and inspected my place.  They itch like hell, and each bite takes over a week to go away.  I never could see the mites themselves to get them identified, but others with similar cases nearby at the same time did.  I had dozens and dozens of bites (they didn't bite my kids at all) and I only survived with antihistamine and hydrocortisone. I tried every folk remedy to get rid of them, but the official way is to get rid of the rats, and eventually my landlord did have work done to close up places they could get under the house.  After a few weeks of torture it went away, possibly just a natural life cycle of the mite.

    If you know someone in science or medicine who wants to make a real contribution to society, suggest they study and publish on these pests, because it seems there's precious little useful research on how to repel them, interrupt their lifecycle, etc.  It was one of the most frustrating and miserable experiences I've ever had.

    If there is anything under the crib, remove it and vacuum thoroughly.  Leave the space under the crib empty and make sure the room is fairly tidy, especially at floor level.  Give the room a good dusting before you vacuum.  Wash the sheets in hot water with some vinegar in it and put the bare mattress out to air in a sunny spot for several hours.  If you have a window in her room, check to see that it is functioning well -- tight seals when closed and intact screen for when open.  If you leave her window open sometimes, check to see what is outside near that window.  Clear away any vines, ivy, weeds, or other tangles and drain any standing water or muddy spots.  Hope that helps!

    Dust mites! Dust and vacuum the room, wash all bedding including pillows, blankets, and mattress covers.

    If there is no sign of bed bugs, this sounds like rat mites to me. My family also suffered from a similar problem several years ago, although only my husband and younger son got red, pimple-sized, itchy bites (perhaps they were allergic and other members of the family were not?) It is important to check your roof and basement for rats. Premier Pest Control was the company that finally took care of our problem after several tries with other small and large companies. They did not use any chemicals, only physical barriers to entrance. In the meantime, to minimize bites, wash bedding often in hot water, wipe around the bed and baseboard, have your daughter wear footed pajamas or tuck pajama bottoms into socks and if she has two-piece pajamas, tuck the shirt into the pants. We wore turtlenecks as well with a shirt over it and used herbal insect repellent on our wrists. My son's bites were so bad, the doctor gave us a prescription cream, which stopped the itching. The problem did go away, but it is very annoying while it lasts.

  • Question for Dog People about Fleas

    (8 replies)

    I've been using Advantage II flea control for my dogs for years and recently switched to NexGuard because I was having a reaction to the topical chemicals in the Advantage II. And if it's making me feel ill it could well be the same for the dogs. But then I realized that NexGuard is also a pesticide. It's poison. How can it possible be okay to feed poison to our dogs?? On the other hand I absolutely don't want to live with fleas and have heard that the non-toxic, all natural sorts of flea control don't really kill all the fleas. And we all know how one flea leads to millions of fleas. And tapeworm. Gross.

    I would love to hear from all the dog owners out there: what kind of flea control do you use? If it's NexGuard has it worked for you for 10, 15, years with no problems at all for your dogs? I would love to know there's really no reason for me to worry about this. If it's a non-toxic approach, what is it and does it really kill all the fleas? 

    Thank you!

    Hi! I have two dogs. Dog 1 gets ComboGuard (spinosad + milbemycin oxime, for fleas/ticks, heartworm, and parasites) and Dog 2 gets Heartgard (Ivermectin, Pyrantel for heartworm and parasites) and NexGuard (afoxolaner for fleas/ticks). ComboGuard is just one pill and doesn't taste very good but Dog 1 will take it in a pill pocket. Dog 2 has a very sensitive stomach, and whenever I gave him ComboGuard he would puke. Our vet said some dogs react that way to the spinosad, and prescribed Heartgard and NexGuard. They're chewables and and he'll scarf them down easily. We've been doing this routine for around 4 years or so. Dog 2 has very sensitive skin, too, and when he gets fleas he itches like crazy and makes hot spots that invariably get infected, require vet visits, antibiotics, etc. It's a pain. But we've been really happy with the results of our protocol and I haven't noticed any side effects for either dog. hope that helps!

    I used Frontline for years with good success. Then our vet recommended Activyl, which did not work at all, so I switched back. Frontline is not a pesticide, it disrupts the insect's ability to form chondroitin (i.e., their shell).  If you want to try natural stuff, pennyroyal, peppermint, lavender are what's mostly recommended, but I can tell you from experience they don't work.  Some people are having good luck with Bravecto, which is oral, not topical (I can't use it because my dogs have sensitive stomachs). I have always opted to put the humans in the household ahead of the pets. I take really good care of humans and non-humans, but the reason I fight fleas and ticks is to reduce the risk of illness in the humans. I love my dogs, but honestly, if these chemicals shorten their life, it's still worth it to me. Remember, all those flea and tickborne illnesses will kill a dog much faster than the chemicals. Good luck!

    I have 7 year old Lab and have always used Frontline Combo.  No issues what so ever and we are on a trail with her off leash just about every day.  Knock on wood have not seen a flea in all this time but yes on the occasional tick.  My sister uses an oral flea control as her dog has had many flea issues but I honestly would not give my dog anything she needs to ingest - the topical is probably bad enough.  Note, I don't have a "reason" other then I just don't want her swallowing pesticide.

    Comfortis flea pill once a month.

    Bravecto is a prescription pill that out vet recommends and we have had great success with it after advantage stopped working. 

    I use Comfortis, which is a pill the dogs take once a month during flea season. It works much better than the topical we were using before (Advantage II), which not only made me feel weird, it made the dogs miserable when I put it on them. Look into it -- it's been life-changing, honestly. 

    My vet recommended Comfortis after Advantage stopped working. It is a once-a-month tablet. It starts working within minutes but it does give the dog an upset stomach for a few hours after ingesting. If the dog does not have too many fleas, I try to stretch out the doses to around every 6-7 weeks.

    I like Program, which is birth control for fleas. It is slow, but it works. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


My pediatrican recommends flea shots for dog

Jan 2009

My pediatrician recommended that I have my vet prescribe anti-flea pills or give an anti-flea injection of Program or Sentinel or other product to my cat and dog as it is less toxic for the house and for our baby. My vet doesn't give the injection or advise the pill. I am confused by this because I read online that it is considered less toxic since it is not an insecticide but something else efficient and safer. I am curious if others have experience with pills and injections vs. topical insecticides, and if you can recommend a vet who offers this? Thanks

Info about flea control here: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7419.html

Although many people seem to prefer Advantage, I love Program because there is no toxic substance on the skin, and the insecticide in it is non-toxic to mammals. In addition, with Program, once you have eradicated the colony, no retreatment is necessary, as long as your pets do not share a bed with another animal. When we first started using it, it was only available as a prescription, but now you can get it over-the-counter at pet stores. anon

Fleas in children's bed

Nov 2004

The past 3 mornings our kids have been waking up with flea bites all over their bodies. We put new sheets on their bed last night and they woke up with more bites. The dog had a professional bath yesterday. We do have a dog and 2 guinea pigs, but they mainly stay downstairs. From now on, no more animals upstairs. Is their any type of herbal, natural pesticide to put in a child's bed? Do we need to wash all their stuffed animals? Bill

Here's what I would try:

1. No more pets in the kids' rooms, period. You could install baby gates to keep them out.

2. Wash all the pets with flea shampoo.

3. Wash everything fabric-covered in the kids' rooms. If you can't wash it, throw it out. Wash in hot water. Go to Target and get mattress covers for the kids' mattresses and install before replacing the sheets (this will keep flea eggs in the mattress, um, in the mattress and off the kids. Kinda gross to think about but it does really help.)

4. Wash everything fabric-covered in the rest of the house.

5. Go over to Hertz and rent one of their industrial carpet cleaners. I fill them with two gallons of white vinegar (from Costco) and about another 8-10 gallons of hot water. Clean the carpets. If you have wood or linoleum floors, wash them, too. This should occupy most of a weekend (grin)...but if you don't do it all at once, the fleas will get back in. You probably can't exclude them entirely, but you can substantially reduce the number that are getting into the beds. I am quite allergic to fleas and also react very strongly to bug sprays and foggers...I found, back when we had cats, that this would keep the fleas down to a tolerable level. It's also important to plan on washing the dog at least every couple of weeks as a maintenance measure.

Oh, and if your kids ever bring home lice, this regime will work for that, too. Sara

Baby-safe flea control

June 2004

We seem to have developed a flea problem in our house and need to treat the carpets, furniture, etc. Our problem is that we have a crawling 10 month old who is always crawling and rolling on the floor. We really need to get the eggs. How do you treat for fleas without poisoning your kid? kim

Fleabusters is great. I believe what they use is non-toxic to humans, but you should call and ask. They're in the book. Liz

We had a horrible flea situation at our house and our crawling daughter was being attacked constantly. She was convered in bites. It was awful. But here's what we did...''Fleabusters''. Fleabusters (under pest control in the phone book and also on the web - fleabusters.com) use this non- toxic powder stuff that they rub into the carpet and it suffocates the fleas. It can take a few weeks to cause them all death but it happens. We also treated the source (our cats) with Advantage. I don't recommmend just doing one or the other. We started with Advantage and that's when the flea situation got really bad. It seemed that the fleas jumped off of the cats and onto my unsuspecting and poison-free daughter. Without the Advantage the cats would be bringing fleas into the house and then we would have to wait for them to die from the fleabusters powder... The two of them together are the perfect cocktail that kills. flea free and oh-so-happy

Try fleabusters: http://www.fleabuster.com/index.html I believe this is a safe product for kids and pets, but you may want to call them and talk with them about it. It worked great for getting rid of fleas when I lived in L.A. with cats. (The fleas are awful in L.A.!!) Anon

We used Boric acid as a very effective flea control. We sprinkle it in the carpet, then vacuum it all up. It gets rid of all the eggs. jewel

Nontoxic Flea Treatment

March 2004

I have fleas in my area carpet and am trying to figure out how to get rid of them safely (i have two young children). I looked in the archives but there isn't much there about getting them out of carpets, only pets (and i have no indoor pets!). Has anyone done this, and if so, how? Thanks! All Chewed Up

Years ago I used to use Fleabusters and I loved it! I used to live in L.A. before there was Advantage and the fleas were awful!! Fleabusters saved my life and was worth every penny. (Now I have no carpets and I use advantage on the cats. Berkeley fleas aren't as bad as LA fleas too.) They work a powder into your carpet and all fleas are gone for at least a year, although my treatments would last longer because I didn't vacuum very often. You need to take out your kids, plants and animals (esp. fishtanks) when they apply the powder because it's very dusty during the application, but once everything settles, it's fine for plants, pets and kids. Check them out at: http://fleabusters.com/ Andi

Sprinkle boric acid in the carpet, and then vacuum it all up. It works great. We have 2 dogs, and no fleas, and do this treatment about once a year. eve

We had fleas about a year ago and tried all the ''natural'' things we could find (saw a lot of bunk advice online, such as leaving banana peels out until they turned brown -- did not work). Tried essential oils, etc, etc. You may find something less drastic, but we ended up calling Fleabusters (1-800-235-3532). It's a little expensive, but they advertise that their stuff is very safe, and they're quick (15 minutes), it's effectuve and guaranteed. We had no problems. (We have 2 birds and they were fine). Liz

Fleabusters (800-235-3532) spreads a non-toxic salt that dries up the fleas. Gets rid of dust mites, too. It's expensive, but doesn't smell and is non-poisonous. Our vet recommended it and it's working at our house. Sarah in Oakland

This really works: Get a pan, fill it with water and a little dish soap. Place it in the middle of the rug with a desk lamp shining on it and keep it there all night, with no other light source, after everyone has gone to bed. The fleas are drawn to the light, and will leap into the water and drown. The dish soap prevents them from bouncing out again. Keep it going for at least a month in order to catch the next generation of eggs hatchlings. Beyond that, always use the Advantage flea remedy on your pets. Nothing works better. MEG

March 1998 Does anyone know of a nontoxic product (or company that uses a nontoxic product) that can treat flea infestations in the home from pets? Thanks.Dianne

Fleabusters offers a non-toxic flea treatment -- and it works for a year or more! You can find them in the phone book.

Diatomaceous Earth is often used as a non-toxic flea treatment. It is made from the crushed exoskeletons of diatoms, tiny creatures that live in the ocean (whales eat them). You can get it at pet stores (I think), and possibly also from Pool supply stores (where it is used in filters). I think the stuff you get from pet supply stores may be finer than that for pools; I'm not sure. You sprinkle it on the carpets, and the vacuum it up later. The tiny bits get in the breathing pores of the bugs and suffocate them. The downside is that some people find that it wears their carpets out sooner (though this is only hearsay; those I know who've used it haven't had any trouble). Dawn

I had great success with Flea Busters (I'm pretty sure that's what it is called). They apply a powder - it is brushed into the carpets and sprinkled in the corners/edges of hardwood floors. I think it works by basically dehydrating the fleas to death - it is some kind of salt. Someone else told me you can buy the powder and do it yourself, too, but I have no idea where. It is guaranteed for a year. You should not wash your carpets afterwards as water will counteract the powder. I hope this meets your definition of nontoxic - it didn't smell or create fumes or anything, although I imagine it would not be great if your child was sucking on the carpet, for example. After using Fleabusters, I used Program on my cat (turns the cat into a giant birthcontrol pill for fleas, because after the fleas bite the cat they can't reproduce) and have never had a flea problem since. Fran

re:fleas I would do a commercial for fleabusters. in the old house we had 2 dogs and 2 cats. here its just the dogs but 4 floors of carpeting. they come once a year and basically salt yourhouse. it works like a charm. -K kimberly

We have fleas but we have no pets

Sept 2004

I have a weird problem. I moved to a new house last year and in the spring as the weather warmed up, noticed a flea problem. The entire second story of the house is carpet. I did the usual - vacuuming etc, and then called in Fleabusters (which worked for a while and then didn't) Then called back Fleabusters...Went on vacation for three weeks and while I didn't get any flea bites during that time, was constantly itchy and scratchy. I went to my dr to see if I had any parasites -- no results yet - I am being bitten alive and constantly itchy. I don't know if I need a vet, an MD or an exterminator (or all three?) BTW I have no pets, but the previous owners had a cat...I'd be interested in referals as well as advice. Thank you! anon and itchy

I've had run-ins with fleas many times in my life. We even had a flea nightmare at our apartment in San Francisco, with two cats that had never been outdoors and all hardwood floors (we must have carried them home ourselves somehow). It sounds like you might be battling on two frustrating fronts: 1) The flea egg cycle, which means you can eliminate all active fleas, but eggs are still laying dormant until the next unseasonably warm day (often when house is closed up during vacation), 2) You may also be allergic to fleas which can give you an especially itchy all-over sensation for a while, even from just one bite (I get this myself). It's a hard row to hoe, but you have to keep up the flea patrol through many hatchings. Also remember to toss out your vacuum cleaner bag immediately after each vacuuming for a while as it's a notorious hotspot for hatching flea eggs. Also, fleas drown in water, so keep washing any rugs, etc., you can. We finally bought a water-based vacuum cleaner in SF and I believe it helped. As for you, you might try an extra dose of B vitamins for a while (and garlic!) to deter them, and when you are especially itchy and/or swollen, Benadryl can provide some relief. GOOD LUCK! Once bitten, twice sympathetic

The reason the fleas keeping coming back after you treat is that your environment is infested with the pupal phase (like a cocoon) of the flea. This phase can last over a year, and hundreds of them can hatch in waves when the temperature and humidity conditions get just right. If the fleas get a blood meal from you or a pet, they can lay 500 eggs and the cycle starts all over again. Flea busters dessicates the larval stage but can't completely kill the pupae. The trick is to come in with environmental treatment at regular intervals for at least a year (and often more like 18-24 months with heavy infestation) to break the cycle. Talk to flea busters about regular retreatments, or use a premise spray that has an adulticide and a larval growth inhibitor and treat at regular intervals. Although I have heard (and would believe with the flea problems we have in this area) that one of the reasons the native americans moved around the area rather than setting up permanent living sites was to break the flea cycle, I do find with regular retreatments and modern products one can fight the problem. If you have questions, I would definately consult with a veterinarian as we deal with situations like this frequently (although it is sometimes easier with a pet in the house as the fleas usually choose to bite them first- most of us tend to be a second choice meal). A local vet

whatever flea treatment you do, you will have to repeat 7 to 10 days later for it to work. the reason is almost no poison will get the eggs so you have to get them after they hatch but before they lay more eggs. Hence the narrow time frame. long-time cat owner

There have been a number of similar posts (and answers!) in the Advice newsletter over the last couple of years, and mine was one of them! What I found was that I had roof rats living in the roof and under the house. I didn't notice them, but what I did notice was the mites. Whenever the rats would leave, the mites would bite me (and my infant). I went to doctors who all said they looked like flea bites (they weren't), but there was never any evidence of fleas, and all of our pets use Advantage, so we considered it unlikely. Anyway, the mites can't reproduce on humans (unlike scabies mites, for instance), so if you get rid of the rats, you get rid of the mites (at least after all of the current ones die off after about a month). In the meantime, you can wash yourself and your clothes often, and vaccum with a good filter (and throw the bags away right away). By the way, some people are allergic to the mites and some aren't, which is why not everyone in a household will get bitten. You basically have to seal the rats out (Rat Patrol does the best job, and they guarantee their services for 2 years, very important). Good Luck! Formally rat-ridden

Buy Borax (drug store), and sift it lightly on your entire carpeted area. It dehydrates the flees. Leave it on 24 hours then vacum. You will need to repeat this operation when the new eggs hatch, I would go for 2 days later but you can check the library for exact info on the flea's life cycle! For hardwood floor areas: lots of soapy water drowns them. You might want a oatmeal bath or tea to calm you down. Nothing like suspecting every crumb of being a flea! ruty

I am very allergic to fleas - and have lived in many places with carpeting and no pets & have dealt with flea bites. They just don't get everyone for some reason. As long as they are biting, they will reproduce. Often they are living below the carpeting in the padding. My only suggestion is to pull up the carpets completely. I live in a house with indoor cats & all hardwood floors and still get occasional flea bites. good luck

Oct 2003

HELP! We moved into our house about one year ago. The tenants before us had cats and kindly left us with a terrible flea infestation. We had an exterminator spray the house which seemed to work for a while. A couple months later the fleas came back with a vengence. We had it sprayed again and the fleas disappeared for another six months. Well, they are back and seem to have brought all their friends. I am covered with bites and I found one in my son's crib! We had the exterminator come back out, but I am afraid that they will resurface yet again. We have no pets and aside from one large area rug the house has hard wood floors, so I have no idea where they are coming from. Does anyone have any advice on how to get rid of these pests once and for all? Thanks! Itching and Scratching in Rockridge

Have them exterminate under the house if they haven't done so already. Even if you don't have an ''underneath'' that seems like a location they might be, that's where they are. In our first house, we were OVERRUN with fleas. If you sat on the floor of the living room, you could see the little buggers jump onto your legs like a flea-ring circus. The exterminator came out and sprayed, the problem went away, only to return again about 6 mo. later. We used a different exterminator the 2nd time, who tols us that the only way to get rid of them for good was to do so under the house because that's their breeding ground. Ok, so we were a little dubious, but it worked! In our second house, the tenants before us left yet another infestation of fleas. This time we just had them come exterminate under the house and no more fleas! It might take more than one visit from the exterminator but spraying inder the house will eventually get the job done! Good Luck! Jessica

Fleas, I'm told can live a REALLY long time without a creature to be on. They can live in the cracks of a hardwood floor. Eventually they become resistant to the chemicals in the pesticides (plus, how often do you want to spray your home with pesticides...uch).

What has worked for me in the past is to vaccuum every day AND throw away the bag. Yes, it's a hassle, but it cleared up a flea problem I had long ago. I got this info from The Berkeley Integral Urban House.

I had a dog at the time and this was before Frontline and the other new flea/tick systemics we now use. I would vaccuum EVERY day, comb my dog every day and leave Rosemary Sprigs around the floor by the curtains and drapes. Eventually they were gone.

Good luck. Maybe you need a dog so the fleas will have someplace to go. :) anon

Oooh, that's a tough one, since you don't have pets, I don't know where they could be coming from. However there are a few things you might try.

First of all, I wouldn't recommend spraying again. It's obviously not working and there's no point in doing it again. There are companys that put something into your rugs that work very very well, so you could find one to treat the area in your home that isn't carpeted. Can you borrow somebody's pet? The only thing that's ever worked for me is to use Advantage on my cats. The fleas jump on, eat the poison, and then die. It takes a few months to clear it all out, and I do have to do it every summer since our cats are indoors and outdoors, but it works really well for us to clean up the house. You'd have to wait until it gets warm again because the little buggers are usually dormant over the winter. Maybe you could foster a dog from the Milo Foundation for a few months? Just a thought. Jill

There are safer, cheaper, and more effective ways to get rid of fleas than hiring a contractor to spray pesticides. I would suggest trying the flea traps that attract fleas to a light or warmth source and catch them w/ a sticky trap. Also, you can use a lower toxicity borate-based carpet treatment called Fleanix which can be mixed into a rug shampooer. Borate is less likely to be air-borne if mixed w/ water and it will stick to carpet fibers and control fleas for about a year. If you want to try a less toxic approach especially if you have kids that crawl on the floor, I'd first try diotamaceous earth in the edges of the rooms, and make sure you don't vacuum it up. This also works for non-carpet floors unlike borate. Be careful b/c although it's natural and non-toxic dermally, it acts like fine ground up glass and can damage your lungs if you breathe it in. Diotamaceous earth kills fleas by dehydrating them once they cut them up. If you log onto www.centralsan.org (Contra Costa Central Sanitary District, the sewage folks), you will find a menu for non-toxic pest controls for alternatives for gardens and homes. Click on the one for flea control. Also you can find great integrative pest management (safer alternatives to spraying pesticides first) advice on Biointegral Resource Center www.birc.org 's publications you can order, and www.ipm.ucdavis the UC statewide IPM program website.

There may be a source of fleas, i.e. an animal vector of some sort such as rats near your house. Your county's vector control (look in green pages or call 411) will come to your house free to help you look for indications that you have vectors in your home or basement, etc... feces, openings, etc... it's a free service paid by our taxes.

Second, the bites you are getting may not necessarily be from fleas. Animal mites, such that as of roof rats which are infesting the Bay Area and beyond, cause extremely itchy bites, particularly around the areas where your clothing touch your skin... panty lines, bra lines, etc....These mites also selectively pick hosts when the rats are gone, so not all family members get the bites.

If you ever get a pet, you may want to try Flea-B-Gone which is an ezymatic method to get rid of fleas. It was recommended by Dr. Marion Moses, an expert in occupational health medicine, particularly pesticides. Incidentally she also recommends it for head lice instead of treating children w/ harmful pesticides. They may now have Lice-B-Gone. Pesticide Education Center website is www.pesticides.org to get more info. She has tons of publications and is well known in her field for her past research and a highly regarded speaker. She stated at our conference in May that children who have been exposed one fog bomber for insect control have shown a high incidence of brain cancer. I am not aware of which studies she's basing it on but from having spoken w/ her on the issue of the toxicity of Round-Up, I find her to be well-balanced and a critical thinker. For example, when I asked her her opinion about the studies showing lowered I.Q. of those children of farmers who use Round-Up, she was able to tell me that there were confounding issues with them using other pesticides as well, and that the lowered I.Q. couldn't be solely attributed to Round-Up which was a reasonable answer.

The Clean Water Fund and Parents for a Safer Environment provide pro-bono presentations throughout the Bay Area on the toxicity of pesticides, safer alternatives, toxicity of commonly used cleaning products and safer alternatives.

Susan JunFish

I feel for you!! We had a big problem about 6 years ago (our babysitter had a cat and the fleas made it all the way to our house!!) We used a powder called ''Fleabusters'' that is supposedly non-toxic, at the time only available from a veterinarian. You could call around and ask. We just sprinkled it everywhere (even under the couch cushions) then vacuumed it up. It breaks the egg/flea cycle and was very effective. Good luck! Tracy

We have the same issue though to a lesser degree (thankfully!). I usually just tough it out for a month or two till the season passes. Luckily I'm the only one who reacts to the bites (though I'm told everyone gets bitten by fleas, only some get welts). A friend of mine had great luck with FleaBusters. They guarantee flea-free for one year (with carpeting, not sure about other floor surfaces). One interesting note: once you have developed a sensitivity to flea bites just one bite can cause all of the previous bite sites to itch and drive you crazy. Lots online at dermatology sites about the phenemonem, but no solution I've found. By the way, you don't have to have a flea problem in your home to be affected. We've never had pets but have gotten fleas from our friends and neighbors pets. During during flea season fleas just see me walking down the street and jump on for the ride! Itchy in Berkeley

Diatomacious Earth. We had a flea infestation, mostly in our yard from a local feral cat colony. And even though we use advantage on our pets, the fleas were hitching a ride into the house on our construction teams feet.

I wound up only spraying the yard (you mix a very small amount with water. It becomes effective once it dries), but would have applied it in the house as well.

One shouldn't inhale the dust, but it's otherwise completely safe- I even found it being sold online as a dietary supplement. Don't use the kind that's sold for cleaning pools though, as it has stuff added to it.

I bought it in bulk online so have a ton left over. Email me if you're interested in stopping by to pick up a little. Otherwise check your gardening store.

I can say that it worked beautifully. Sophie

instead of an exterminator who sprays, try ''Fleabusters.'' They apply a powdery substance that (the way I understand it) basically dehydrates the fleas to death. The treatment is less toxic than spraying and it really works, in my experience. They guarantee it for a year, too. Fran

Foods to make child flea-bite free?

Oct 2002

Does anyone know of a particular food that I can feed my daughter to make her less appealing to fleas. We are a family of four, but they seem to favor her only. It pains me to see her soft skin covered with bites that itch. There are some good suggestions on the network archives ranging from Eucalyptus branches, brewers yeast, and garlic capsules, but I was wondering if there is anything that I can give to a child. Thanks a.m.

I hope you won't be offended by unsolicited advice. I don't have knowledge about foods that will keep fleas away, but I'd like to share with you what's worked for us in regards to fleas. My son is now 17 and we have always had cats. We were always dealing with fleas as well and they also found him particulary yummy. About 8 years ago we discovered ''Advantage'', a flea killer that you put on the nape of the cat's neck once a month. This stuff works!! We have had no problem with fleas since. Any fleas in the house that jump on the cats are killed, so after a while we had no more fleas in the house. I also have gotten less religious about using the product and we're still not having problems with fleas - with three indoor/outdoor cats. If the fleas are coming from your own pets, you might try this stuff - of course it is a pesticide so you may not want to use it around a young one; in my mind however it beats all the sprays and powders we were using before. You can get it from your vet or from a pet store. Joan

I don't know how old your daughter is so the answer might be different depending on her age, but I'm also a big target for fleas and a steady diet of garlic seems to help. Not the pills, but the actual food item in abundance in everything I eat. Also, if you have pets that are bringing the fleas into your house, you should consider using Advantage on them. There has only been one summer in my entire life where I wasn't completely covered in flea bites, and that was the summer we used Advantage on our cats every month Jill

I have used garlic capsules on both myself AND my dog. It's worth a shot, good for you anyway, and can't really hurt... Good luck! Rachel

I realize this wasn't exactly your question, but wouldn't it be even more desirable to actually remove the fleas from your daughter's sphere? As the loving Mother of 3 long haired cats, in addition to a toddler, I know that the new products today are really good with ridding pets of these pests. The last time my cats had a flea problem, the vet simply gave me some tablets (sorry, I can't remember the name of the product, but I'm sure any vet could tell you) which weren't too expensive if memory serves me, that I gave to the cats and which got rid of their visitors. It was extremely easy, and very effective. I hope that helps, this sounds like a painful situation for your daughter~ Janice

We have 2 dogs and are have had no problems with fleas, because of 2 things we do periodically: 1) sprinkle boric acid on the carpets and then vacuum up all of the residue; the part that goes deep into the carpet kills the flea eggs. 2)we have put nematodes on the grass where the dogs tend to lie. We do these things every 2-3 years or so, and we haven't been bothered by fleas. good luck

I recommend getting Program from your vet to control fleas. It is not a poison, so it is less toxic. It is birth control for fleas that is fed to your pet in pill form. It takes awhile to work, but after a year or two on Program, the colony will be gone, and you won't have to deal with it any more.

Here is more information than you ever wanted to know about the flea life cycle. The adults live on the animal and suck blood. The eggs and immature stages live in the bedding. This could be the couch, the carpet, or that sunny spot outside. If you put a poison on your animal, the fleas in the bedding survive to grow up and hop on your pet when it takes a nap.

With Program, the adult fleas continue to bite the animal, and the larvae in the bedding mature and jump on. But they are unable to reproduce, so the colony eventually dies out. It takes a few months. But then they are gone, unless you bring another animal into the house, or your pet takes a nap in the neigbor's dog house.

Program is a great product that has done a wonderful job on my cat, without exposing my kids to toxins. sunsol

Please get your pets on Advantage or Program. The fleas always go after the tenderest member of the family, which means the baby will get bit even when no one else in the family even knows there are fleas. The baby is defenseless and can't even scratch, poor little thing. So do what you can to protect the baby, that's what I say. Catlover

Spider bites or fleas?

Sept. 2001

Re: 9-month-old getting a lot of spider bites
I'm a 3rd-generation Northern California native and have never heard of anyone getting that many spider bites around here. However, flea bites can be a BIG problem. If you have carpets, I suggest you do some testing and try to figure out if you have fleas and work on getting rid of them if you do. That may solve the problem. Mark & Colleen

Flea Bites, Pets, and the Family Bed

March 1998

Dear Friends:

Do any of you have advice regarding flea bites, especially in relationship to the family bed?

Background: We have one cat on Program. However, Program is not solving all the flea problems. We have one daughter who starts out each night in her crib, but spends the second half of every night sleeping in bed with my husband and I (similar to a pattern described by a recent poster). Sometimes the cat sleeps with us, sometimes not (you know how cats are). Neither my daughter nor my husband are troubled with flea bites, but boy am I! The situation seems to be getting worse. This morning I woke up with several new ones. I wouldn't mind so much, except for the scars that are left from scratching.

Could my mattress be infected with fleas? The bedding? Pillows? Any suggestions for help which would not endanger the Little One's health?

I had a vague idea that B vitamins would make me less tempting to the tiny monsters, but I take a daily multiple vitamin, and that level of B is not phasing them one little bit.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated... Thanks much.

Fleas - Since our dog and two cats went on Advantage (the stuff you place on their shoulder blades once a month) we have had little or no evidence of fleas. Barbara

One item that is somewhat helpful in reducing indoor flea infestations, is to place fresh leafy branches from either a Eucalyptus or a Black Walnut tree under the furniture. It's not a cure-all, but it does help, and it smells good. Beverly

We have 3 cats in a carpeted apartment--not an ideal situation. However, we have discovered that Advantage works remarkably well. It is a liquid that you squeeze onto the back of your cat's neck and the fleas are usually gone in 24 hours. Good luck, Laurel

Re: the flea bites & family bed question ... I've heard that if one takes brewers yeast and/or garlic capsules that fleas don't like that and stay away. They also (in theory) are drawn to people who eat more sugar. Since it's you, and not the little one, who is bothered I suppose you could experiment with various odd food items such as garlic capusles. Won't hurt, might help. Mary Carol

I have an indoor cat who got fleas. I seemed to be the only victim in my house. I tried B12 and just about every other diet-method to control their attraction to me, but I couldn't take it anymore. Fleabusters works (my mother-in-law used them) but can be expensive. I went to a pet store and picked up a bucket of the salt for about $20. It covered the carpet in 2 rooms and vacuumed it up 2 weeks later. I did this about a year ago and haven't seen a flea since. I also put my cat on Advantage to prevent any further outbreaks. I bought the salt from the big pet store on the corner of MLK and University next to Grand Auto. I think it's Petco. Hope this helps. Alison