Saturday, September 25, 2010

How to get rid of fleas

It's almost the end of Flea Week 5 (while not as exciting as Shark week, it's drawing a comprable amount of blood). In all of the internet research I've done in the last month I haven't found a good step-by-step guide for treating your pets & house with fleas. Most of it centers on particular products. So... get your book-marking finger ready. You know, for when your house gets infected and you think, "Hey, Anna did this, I wonder what her advice is?"

Step 1. Identify enemy: You'll probably notice your pets scratching a lot first. Then you'll see a bunch of small mosquito bites, mostly on your ankles and lower legs. You might see jumping poppy seeds. If you're really fast you'll catch it between your fingers and try to squish it. But it won't squish. I suggest putting the flea in a little baggie. Then you'll see something that looks like this- note the long back legs.

Step 2. Formulate a plan: bookmark this page. Have a plan before you start rushing around willy-nilly. We reacted before we thought the process through completely and ended up doing things more than once.

Step 3. Dress appropriately: Here's the uniform... put on a white shirt, long sleeved is best. Tuck it into your pants (do you have white pants? Wear them!), put on white socks, and tuck your pants into your socks. Shoes are optional. Why white? Because fleas are attracted to white and you can see them much better against the white fabric. It also helps when you start to feel itchy- you'll be able to quickly confirm what's biting you.

Step 4. Sequester pets as best as possible: Frontline. Frontline. Frontline. Wash the animals immediately with your choice of anti-flea soap, then apply Frontline immediately. Once they have the Frontline on them they become flea-killers. Any flea that bites the animal will die! Yippie! We also added flea collars to the pets. We aren't really sure if that's necessary. So that part is optional.

Step 5. Laundry: Fleas can live in clothes. If you've had clothes out near the pets wash the clothes immediately. We were very lazy about putting clothes away and closing drawers, so we had to wash all of our clothes. A really simple way to do this is to get a bunch of big black garbage bags and bag everything right away. If you're taking things to the laundromat, bring white garbage bags and put the clean clothes in the white bags. Fold and put away these clothes as soon as possible, or leave them in the plastic bags. Be careful with the clothes. Keep the clean ones clean (we had to wash ALL our clothes twice. Not good).

Steph 5a. Bug bomb during this step if you're going to do it. We avoided The Bomb for about two weeks. This was a mistake for us. We were really unfomfortable with the concept of unleashing toxic chemicals throughout our entire house. But we got to that point. If you DON'T bomb the house, you don't have to be as dilligent about the rest of the steps, but you do still have to do them.

Step 6. Wipe down surfaces: use hot soapy water. Look for flea egg nests. These are little piles of dirt that look like blood when you get them wet. Sometimes there will be dead adult fleas in the nest. If you've bombed and you're not ok with it, wipe down all walls, floors, doors, wash all dishes, wipe down everything in the cupboards, throw away any food you didn't cover up or get rid of already.

Step 7. Vacuum: Start with the furniture. Every inch of it. Top to bottom, cushions, skirts, pillows, everything. Get into the crevices. Enjoy this first vacuuming. You should continue to vacuum everything made of cloth (furniture and carpets) every day for at least 8 days. Once the infestation starts slowing down you can alternate rooms every other day. Continue to vacuum in an obsessive-compulsive way for 28 days (the life-cycle of a flea).

Step 8. Tear apart all furniture: see above.

Step 9. Empty all rooms: this should already be done.

Step 10. Eat something & drink a pop: Be prepared to eat a lot of fast food. With all of this extra housework cooking falls to the bottom of the list.

Step 11. Cry: This is stressful. You have bites all over your body, the stupid things don't seem to die. The housework is neverending. Once the first week is over you have at least 3 more weeks to go. This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. Take a deep breath and know that every time you plug in the vacuum more of them will die.

Step 12. Contemplate moving: it's tempting.

Step 13. Dip into emergency fund for supplies and cash ($400 so far): This process will take a few hundred dollars, from flea-powders to Frontline applications, dinners out, laundry detergent, and bug bombs.

Step 14. Bag up every cloth item that’s not nailed down and bring to Laundromat: see? This is where we were redundant. Learn from our mistakes. Do the steps in order.

Step 15. Bleach bathroom (maybe not necessary, but definitely needed it): You'll want your house to be as clean as possible now, just so you'll feel better. I mean, why not, right?

Step 16. Buy booze: It's nice to relax in a clean house.

Step 17. Ask help from in-laws: You might not be able to attack this whole thing yourselves. Take another deep breath and ask for help. Maybe the kids need to spend some time at the park, or someone needs to drop off a pizza. Whatever it is, you're not going to survive this without a healthy dose of realism.

Step 18. Try to take a nap: it's not a sprint, so understand that you need to bring your A game.

Step 19. Leave for work, hope that things get better in the next 5 hours: life happens. Good luck integrating your new OCD with your existing plans.

Step 20. Totally forget about the fleas: it helps to get out of the house. Day 2 we went to the zoo. It helped.

Step 21. Come home, happy that some progress has been made: a fresh outlook also helps. There might be fleas in the carpet, but you've cleaned so much that it'll feel good to walk into a clean-looking house.

Step 22. Beer

Step 23. French Fries

Step 24. Beer

Step 25. Sleep: keep your socks and shirt tucked into your pants while you sleep. Otherwise they'll still getcha.

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