Paper Fleas: Debunking the Myth

By Chris Williams on January 30, 2014.

Is it paper fleasQuestion

I work in an office that handles files, processes mail and other documents for the county courts.  One of my co-workers has had a problem lately; always itching and scratching her skin.  I work in the cubicle next to her and I too have been feeling a little “itchy” since she mentioned it to me.  At lunch, several other people said that they were also experiencing Paper Fleas.  I have pets but we are not having problems at home, and no pets are allowed in the office.  What are paper fleas and can a Pest Control company help with this problem?


Pest Control Professionals investigate for the signs of insects or other types of pest activity on a regular basis.  All of the pests that bite humans have specific conditions which contribute or allow them to become a problem in any given situation. All pests species that bite or interact with humans are known to Pest Control Professionals and can be identified. The first step in any pest management plan is proper identification of the pest involved in each complaint.

Pests such as: fleas, flies, bedbugs, spiders, mites, scorpions, mosquitoes, biting flies, and gnats can all cause bites in a variety of settings.  In most cases, live or dead insects can be found, cast skins, fecal material or other evidence of the active pest will be noted.  Rodent infestation, potted plants, lack of window screening, and pets on site can all lead to bites of some kind (Oriental Rat Flea, Asian Tiger Mosquito, Sand Flies/No-Seeums, Dog flea-Cat flea).

Identification techniques include physical examination of specimens caught on insect monitors or traps, descriptions of the bites, and inspection of the site in question.  Pest Control Technicians cannot determine the cause of skin lesions through visual inspection, see a Dermatologist for skin aberrations!   In all cases of active pest infestation, some evidence will be found that points to a specific pest.  Once the actual pest has been identified, treatment may be take place to manage the problem.  Solutions that range from simple exclusion to environmental modification may be recommended.   Physical changes and even the application of safe and effective pesticides may be required, according to each individual scenario.

Over the years we have been called out on many cases of “Paper Fleas“.  Sometimes we find a situation that can be related to some type of pest activity.  Lets say someone brings a flea infested dog into the office, or carries fleas from home, that could account for some type of minor flea infestation.  Recently evacuated bird nests may trigger a mite outbreak, or insects entering from outside, through windows or doors, biting occupants may result in “biting” and or insect “bites”.  A thorough examination of all the facts, inspection of the premises, and in some cases monitoring of some kind may be needed to determine if there is a pest problem.   Paper fleas have been attributed to itching, biting, and just getting under your skin.  While fleas do bite, and  Scabies do get under your skin, there are no such things as Paper Fleas.  Paper Fleas are an urban myth, any unknown itch may be caused by the mysterious Paper Flea.  Once Paper fleas have infested an office, they may “spread” to other offices or even “transported” to homes  or vehicles.  Paper Fleas (the itching and associated scratching that people attribute to Paper Fleas ) are likely the result of dry skin during the winter months, or when people spend time in environments with a low humidity.  Dry skin can cause itching and scratching, and is often associated with “Paper Fleas”.

Another culprit in “Paper Flea” may be charged particles in the environment impinging on exposed skin surfaces, causing bite like sensations.  Static charges can build up on any surface, especially when cold, high pressure systems are in place.  When winter is at it’s peak, and temperatures are the coldest, heating units are working overtime, often overpowering humidification systems, if they exist.  Static charges build up on people and minute particles in these conditions.  The itching may be the result of these tiny particles becoming lodged between skin cells or in hair follicles.  In this case there is little a Pest Control Professional can do but monitor for insects or other pests, advise on other mechanical or environmental changes that may contribute to the problem, and monitor the situation.  Increasing the humidity may lessen the sensation that leads to the itching. Skin lotions formulated to relieve dry skin may also be of some use in cases of “paper fleas”. If you or your co-workers think you are being bitten by something, the first thing to do is to call a Pest Control Professional, and let them take a look, it just may be a pest problem!





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