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Dear What's The Problem,

I have lived in Majorca for the last 13 years. Every now and then we have a plague of fleas, which seem to be especially attracted to me and bite me everywhere.

At the moment I have 70 bites all over my body, because a rat carrying fleas got into the house. We've used ordinary household insect repellent and sprayed the; bed, armchairs, carpets, anywhere we think the fleas and their eggs might be, but they keep on returning.

My husband never seems to get bitten, where as I come up in big itchy lumps that drive me mad. I just don't know what to do next? I know that fleas have a particular life cycle and it's important to kill the eggs, but how?

Corinne Davies, Majorca

Advice: Dr Mark Hamilton.

*I think understanding the life cycle of fleas will help to get rid of the problem. First of all Corrine needs to be dedicated to clearing her house of fleas and this could take anything from one go to doing it to many, many times.

*One of the things she should do, if she has any animals in the house, is to treat them and their bedding regularly. She hasn't mentioned anything about household pets but she must remember household pets are where fleas love to live.

*Secondly, Corinne must think about basic sanitation in the house, she said it was a rat that got into the house. So Corinne must think about ways to avoid attracting any rodents to the living area is very effective at keeping fleas at bay. Corinne should screen any vents in and around the house, keeping vegetation around the house to a minimum, if there are any woodpiles keeping them raised off the ground. Then of course regular vacuuming because that not only lifts the fleas,but also the eggs.

*Corinne says she is using an insect spray, but what is recommended is that you use a spray specific to treating fleas. And there are two types she should use together, the first one is an adulticide, in other words to kill the adult fleas. Secondly she should use a grow regulator and that comes as a separate type of spray and that prevents the eggs from growing any larger before it kills them, it also destroys the pupa. The pupa is the stage before fleas become adults. Both of these sprays should be used regularly, every three months, by doing this you will kill the pupa which can lie dormant up to a year. If the pupa senses any heat they will hatch and there you go again with a flea problem.

*The way to treat bites is by taking anti-histamines but these don't always work, so I think the best way to treat the problem is at the source, i.e killing the fleas.

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  Bath-time for pets with fleas

Always protect your pets eyes when bathing; some flea treatments contain chemicals that will irritate your pets’ eyes.

Fleas will move to an untreated area while you’re bathing. For example, if you do not wash the pets head, you can watch the fleas move there as you are bathing.

Invest in a flea comb. All good pet stores have them. The flea comb will find and remove fleas when you cant see them.

Sometimes you can stroke through the fur of an animal and not see any fleas, but on running a flea comb through flea hiding spots, there they are! Drop the fleas off the comb into soapy water to drown and kill them.

Use a flea comb anytime you suspect or want to check for fleas after a treatment and every day or two during the worst seasons. The best places to check are behind the ears, under the chin, base of the tail, insides of legs and bellies.
Herbal flea treatments  
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