January 18, 2004 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I have an allergy which makes fleas bites on my body a real problem. In a concentrated infestation, I may actually become ill from too many. I'm looking for an effective way to keep my house clear of them. [more]

Bug bombs are a pain in the ass, and I don't like using poison if I can avoid it. They also don't work 100% in my experience. I've recently purchased an ultrasonic repeller, but I suspect I might have wasted money on it. Any other ideas? And no, I'm not going to wear a flea collar ;)
posted by scarabic to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I've had really good luck with boric acid-based powder in the carpet to keep the house clear. Also, at least in my region (west coast), most fleas hate Avon Skin-So-Soft. I'm allergic to the buggers too and used to spray the SSS on my socks and lower pants legs before heading to work (was a groomer for many years).
posted by NsJen at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2004

You've got to use poison, scarabic. I had a terrible flea infestation once (grey clouds every time I opened a cupboard) and my cats and I went through hell. I used all the traditional, home-made remedies and then called in a cheapo spraying exterminator. All to no avail.

Finally, I called in Rentokil, a British firm. Two preppy guys in blazers with zip-loc bags and portable microscopes came in, examined the whole house in a forensic manner: eggs, hatcheries, specimens...

Then they took their gatherings back to the lab where a special composition was made. It's just a light gel, with no smell, dabbed on strategic places. No need to leave the house; protect pets or food. In two days, they were all gone and never returned.

As if often the case, it pays to just pay up. Good luck - you have to live through a flea plague to know how irksome it is.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2004

As I noted here, we purchased a Riddex, and haven't seen a flea since.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2004

Diatomaceous earth, sprinkled liberally around the perimeter of the house after you've ridden them from inside.... it works by mechanical action, so they cannot build up a resistance.
posted by vers at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2004

Bug bombs are a pain in the ass, and I don't like using poison if I can avoid it.

Pyrethrinbased flea bombs are not carcinogenic--you can use them repeatedly. Also, up your garlic intake--chop up a couple of clove of garlic into pill sized chunks and swallow with water. Fleas will react to you like teenage boys at free screenings of Calendar Girls--they'll run screaming for the exits
posted by y2karl at 4:05 PM on January 18, 2004

The main use for flea collars is in your vacuum bag. They're next to useless on pets. If you use a bag vacuum, put a flea collar in the bag and vacuum regularly. Next, talk to your vet about products to use on your pets and house (you can never treat just one). Wash pet bedding on a regular basis, and spray your house regularly (fleas don't live on the pets, they just eat on the pets). The vet may be able to recommend a topical product like Frontline which interrupts the flea lifecycle.

Finally, do you actually have a flea problem? In 25 years of having pets, I've only had a flea problem once. If you use a preventative measure like Frontline, you shouldn't have a problem.
posted by biscotti at 4:35 PM on January 18, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the great suggestions! I actually have no pets. I'm hoping that the fleas I've seen recently are just flukes, but I have actually captured 3 right on me in the past couple of weeks. The problem flares up every few years, depending on where I'm living. This apartment hasn't been so bad in 13 months of residence, so far, but I'm not sure what I would do if it got bad fast. Now I have some new ideas. Thanks again!
posted by scarabic at 6:34 PM on January 18, 2004

Response by poster: NsJen, have you ever talked to a doc about the allergy itself?
posted by scarabic at 6:40 PM on January 18, 2004

Bombs aren't completely effective because the gas can't reach many of the places fleas like to nest, like under the bed and between the sofa cushions. Flea collars are worse than useless - more toxic to the poor animal wearing it than to the fleas. Diatomaceous earth is to fleas as tangled razor wire is to humans, but it is not particularly kind to the lungs. Boric acid sprinkled *everywhere* will probably help. Garlic works for some people (and animals) but not all. It's worth a try if you don't mind giving off a garlicky odor detectable from several yards away.

Since you live in an apartment, it's possible your unwelcome intruders are immigrating from other apartments in the building where pets live. You might try having a nice chat with the pet-owners, asking them to be diligent in treating their animals with Frontline. If it's within your means, you might get more cooperation if you offer to help pay for it. An adult flea's life is pretty short, but a mating pair can produce thousands, if not tens of thousands, of eggs - which will not necessarily all hatch at the same time. When a new adult does emerge, the first thing on its little flea brain is getting a meal from any warm-blooded target, and the second thing is reproducing.

Sooo... those nasty eggs may be everywhere, especially if the previous tenant of your apartment had pets. Vacuum a lot. Vacuum everything. I never had much joy with putting a flea collar in the vacuum bag; I had more success putting a couple of cotton balls soaked in pyrethrin in the vac bag, then making sure the full bag went straight to the outdoor garbage bins. Launder anything that can be washed in hot water, and if possible chlorine bleach, which really does kill the eggs and larvae. Talk to your landlord, too - s/he may be willing to get an exterminator who knows about more than cockroaches and silverfish.

In my unhappy experience, there are three kinds of pet owners: those who really don't have fleas at the moment, those who are always struggling against fleas, and those whose dogs and cats aren't allergic to fleas. The latter tend to be blissfully unaware of the vampires in their midst. Having had a wonderful dog who was horribly, torturously allergic to flea bites, I feel your pain. I still have 2 dogs and a cat, and I may still have fleas but just not know it because none of the current crew react so strongly.

As scarabic suggested, an allergist can concoct injections for you, which often (not always) desensitize you to flea venom. I wish you luck.
posted by Alylex at 11:14 PM on January 18, 2004

scarabic, I've mentioned it to my GP in passing, but it doesn't sound like mine's as severe as yours. They love me but my only reaction is really itchy little red bumps, kinda like mini-mosquito bites. My dog, on the other hand, will rip all of his hair and half of his skin out after only one bite.
posted by NsJen at 7:31 AM on January 19, 2004

Response by poster: I swallowed a clove of garlic last night, quartered, with a nice glass of iced tea. I can hardly imagine doing that to my gf every day for the rest of my life!

It probably is the friggin' neighbors. A couple moved in with a dog a few months ago, and prior, the building was pet-free. Which raises a secondary question:

Does anyone know if there is such a thing as "flea season" and when it is? It seems to me that in the past, waves of infestation have simply died off eventually. Is there a breeding season? It's possible that their move-in simply coincided with the peak season, in which case they're not really to blame.
posted by scarabic at 2:32 PM on January 19, 2004

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