Does freezing them kill fleas?

Karen e-mailed in this question:

"I found your site very helpful and informative -- but I have some questions that I don't quite have the answer to, here is my situation:

I went to visit a friend for the weekend. I found out after being in her home for a while (and around her 5 cats) that the house and cats are infested with fleas. I had myself, my clothes, my suitcase, my pillow, and my sleeping bag in her home.

I had to transport my possibly infested self and stuff home in my vehicle. I am 6 months pregnant and I am very nervous about using chemicals to deal with this issue. I have not seen any fleas on myself or my stuff, but I am concerned about bringing fleas into my home.

   

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Here is what I have done thus far to deal:

(1) I took everything out of my car and vacuumed it and steam cleaned it

(2) I immediately washed the sleeping bag, pillow case and all clothes (I plan on continuing to wash these things at least once a week for 3 to 5 weeks)

(3) I immediately took a shower

(4) I put my pillow in the deep freezer in the garage (does freezing kill fleas and larvae?). It is a feather pillow, so I don't think I can wash it.

(5) I did not touch my cat until after I had taken the shower and gotten the clothes, etc. in the wash.

(6) I have left the suitcase and other unwashables in the garage. I don't know what to do with them. I live in Minnesota -- so if I wait it should get down below freezing within the next week....

(7) I plan on vacuuming a couple times a week & steam cleaning my carpets (maybe once a week)

What else do you suggest? Can I use boric acid in the house if I am pregnant?

Any help or insight you can give me would be greatly appreciated!!!

Thank you!

Karen"

    It sounds like so far you have been pretty thorough about getting rid of them. Freezing them to death is something a lot of people don't have access too, but it definitely works. Fleas and eggs will die off if the temperatures are freezing - but if it's just cold, they will stay alive but won't hatch as quickly. There is one species of insect called the "snow flea" that can survive freezing, but the kind you can get off your pets will not.

As for the boric acid, you should not use it if you are pregnant. The recommendations not to use it are based on treatments where you actually ingest it or apply it to yourself - but it's one of those things where I wouldn't risk it, because you have alternatives that are just as good such as diatomaceous earth. That would pose no risk to you - it's just dirt, with jagged edges that are so small they can't harm a person or an animal. It shreds up any adult fleas that crawl across it, though, causing them to bleed to death. You can use it indoors - especially if you are going to vacuum it up a little while later.

The suggestions I would make:

1) Applying flea medicine to your cat would help. If you picked up any fleas, larva, or eggs, they'll likely go for the cat first. It will be the food supply if any hatch. One dose would probably last long enough to kill any that were brought into your house. If you're worried about the chemicals, this isn't absolutely necessary. I think it might be worth it, though - for example, Frontline can be used on a pregnant cat. I'm not a doctor, but I doubt it would be dangerous for you either. One option might be to have a friend apply it and avoid the cat for the time it takes for it to be absorbed into the skin. You can also just wait and see on this, and not use it unless you actually see an adult flea. 

2) You probably don't need to keep washing the clothes. A good wash will usually kill off any fleas - the detergent and the heat will do them in.

3) The vacuuming and steam cleaning will help - I wouldn't steam clean unless I actually saw fleas in your house, though, unless you own a steam cleaner. It might be overkill.

4) You should look into flea traps. If there is a spot where the cat sleeps, put one there, and put a couple near your bed. Most just use glue, so it doesn't involve any dangerous chemicals. Fleas get tricked into jumping onto it by a little heat lamp.

5) Watch mainly for adults. They're what you most likely would have brought with you. I wouldn't panic at this point - you might not even have any. I'd be most worried about the sleeping bag, because it would have been warm and sitting on the floor at your friend's house. If that's in the garage, I'd keep it out there like you plan to. It's harder for them to hitch a ride on you, because you can usually feel them.

If you have a question about fleas you want answered, submit it here.

Sources and Useful Links:

http://www.pestproducts.com/flea-egg.htm

http://www.ruralaction.org/ipm_strategies.html

http://www.critterchat.net/fleatick.htm

http://qnc.queensu.ca/story_loader.php?id=435803469f4c0

http://www.diagnose-me.com/treat/T494173.html

http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/60/2/257

http://www.petshed.com/frontline.asp

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