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What Are Ectoparasites?

Parasites that live on the skin of humans are known as ectoparasites.
Fumigation may be necessary to eliminate ectoparasites.
Head lice are a type of human ectoparasite.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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Ectoparasites are parasites that attach themselves to the outer layer of skin of their hosts. There, they feed and thrive for the entire life cycle of the particular parasite. They are completely dependent on the host for nourishment, a fact that can seriously impair the general health of the host over time. There are examples of these types of parasites that actively feed off humans as well as different types of animals.

It is not unusual for ectoparasites to exist in colonies. These colonies effectively create nests on the outer layer of skin, creating a breeding ground where the parasites can multiply. When this happens, the host is weakened at an accelerated rate, sometimes to the point of incapacitation. Without treatment, there is the possibility of death at some point.

There are a number of different human ectoparasites. Body and head lice are two prime examples. Various types of mites are also part of the ectoparasite family, including nasal mites. Animals may experience these unwelcome parasites in the form of nest mites or feather mites. Both humans and animals may be plagued by an ectoparasite infestation that involves fleas or mosquitoes.

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Fortunately, there are ways to exercise ectoparasite control. In the way of preventive measures, it is a good idea to fumigate interior spaces as soon as any evidence of mites, lice, and other forms of ectoparasites are found. This is true whether the parasites are currently nesting on a human or animal host. Removing the general threat will help to minimize the changes of the parasites spreading to others living in the household.

At the same time, each individual within the home should be treated to remove any possible traces of mites or lice from the body. This includes washing with specialized cleansers that are designed to kill the parasites and destroy their colonies. Many forms of ectoparasites will thrive in areas of the skin where body hair is present. This means that the individual must use the cleanser from head to toe in order to get rid of the pests. Depending on the severity of the infestation, it may be necessary to undergo several treatments before the external parasites are removed.

All types of parasites, including ectoparasites, are capable of doing a great deal of physical damage over time. In addition to draining the energy of the host, the pests can also transmit bacteria and viruses to the host. When this is the case, the host will weaken at a faster rate, making it necessary to address some sort of bodily ailment as well as get rid of the parasites in order to regain health.

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Discuss this Article

sirMK00
Post 4

Mostly it happens among poor families, because it's in poor families, is where you usually find these both on the body and in the environment. Even the buildings sometimes or may contribute to places where the ectoparasites hide.

Monika
Post 3

Reading about ectoparasites and endoparasites is fascinating, yet disturbing at the same time. I know intellectually that humans are part of the earth's ecosystem, and we coexist with a ton of other organisms. That's cool in theory, but I don't want any of those organisms coexisting with me on my skin!

The idea of ectoparasites in animals is pretty disturbing too. Fleas are ectoparasites, and they can do quite a number on a dog or a cat with their bites.

ceilingcat
Post 2

@sunnySkys - Lice are pretty uncomfortable, but at least they don't do any real, lasting harm to the person infected. I had a friend who had bird mites a few years ago, and it really affected her life.

First of all, of all the parasites humans get, bird mites just aren't that common. So it took my friend quite awhile before she was diagnosed. Unlike lice, bird mites actually bite you, and affect your entire body. They are also way harder to get rid of than lice.

So really, if you are going to get an ectoparasite, lice are probably the best ones to get. At least they're not that hard to get rid of!

sunnySkys
Post 1

Ectoparasitic infection is definitely a gross, yet common problem for both humans and animals. And it doesn't matter if you are clean or dirty, or rich or poor unlike what most people think! Ectoparasites like lice definitely don't care who their host is.

I grew up in a very nice, affluent neighborhood with a ton of stay at home mothers. However, a bunch of kids in our neighborhood caught lice several times. Once one kid gets it, it spreads easily, and if one family doesn't take care of the problem well, the whole neighborhood can get infected! Very unpleasant.

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