Ectoparasites: Mites, Fleas And More

Most ectoparasites cause itchiness and redness of the skin. Some of them can act as vectors for serious diseases such as typhus.
Ectoparasites: mites, fleas and more

We’ve all heard of parasites. They are organisms that live in or on the surface of other living beings, obtaining certain benefits and causing some problems. Ectoparasites, in particular, are those that live on the outer surface of other organisms.

These types of beings often cause diseases called parasitosis. They are common in both animals and humans. In our case, these types of pathologies tend to appear in the summer and cause damage to the skin.

Some ectoparasites can be the transmission route for serious systemic infections with disastrous consequences. Furthermore, its eradication is not so easy. That’s why, in this article, we’ll explain the most important facts about ectoparasites, emphasizing mites and fleas.

What are the most common ectoparasites?

Ectoparasites are small organisms that live at the expense of other living beings.  In the case of humans, this large group includes a range of arthropods different from each other.

As a general rule, these beings adhere to the surface of the skin and remain there for a period of time that can be prolonged. They can even penetrate, getting into the inner layers of the dermis. Once inside, the expected symptoms are itching and even allergic reactions.

Although hematophobic arthropods are included in ectoparasites, it is easier to separate them into two different groups. Hematophobic arthropods are insects, like mosquitoes, that feed on human blood. Their behavior is different and so are the diseases they transmit.

The biggest problem with all ectoparasites, and especially hematophagous arthropods, is that they can act as vectors.  That is, they carry pathologies like malaria and typhus.

Mosquito on human skin
Mosquitoes are hematophagous, but we do not include them in the category of ectoparasites due to their differential behavior.

Scabies or scabies

Scabies is one of the most common and known parasites. It is caused by a type of mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. Infections usually occur in the form of epidemics, as  this mite is transmitted from person to person very easily.

Also, it can persist in clothes and sheets, so it is often difficult to eradicate it. This insect digs small tunnels in the skin. It causes characteristic lesions that cause itching and, moreover, predominate at night.

Diagnosing scabies is not a big challenge, but sometimes some microscopy technique is needed to detect the parasite. However, doctors often find injuries at first sight.

the mites

Mites are a broad group within ectoparasites. We just mentioned a specific type of mite, the one that causes scabies. However, when most people talk about mites, they are usually referring to the cause of allergies.

In this case, this family of parasites is called  Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.  It is a species that usually inhabits the dust present on furniture in any home. It is a very small arthropod that is harmless to humans.

The only negative effect they cause is allergies, being the most common cause of post-pollen reactions. The origin is in dead mites or in their feces, which form a very fine powder that is easy to inhale.


flea seen up close
Some ectoparasites, such as fleas, are found mainly on animals.

Fleas are small ectoparasites that, as adults, feed on blood. It is very common to find them in dogs and cats, especially those that live on the street or in the countryside.

They can act as vectors for many diseases. The most important are typhus and bubonic plague. However, those present in dogs and cats often transmit others, such as solitary tapeworms. Also, its sting causes itchiness and reddening of the skin.

Watch out for ectoparasites!

What we must remember is that ectoparasites cover a wide range of organisms. It is important to emphasize that, if you have animals at home, deworming is an essential procedure to ensure their health and yours.

If you experience itchiness, irritation, skin allergies, or signs of minor skin damage, you should see a doctor. Many ectoparasites are immediately detected on the first visit with the provider, and treatment can be instituted immediately.

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