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SAND FLY BITES
You’re sitting there reminiscing about your day on the beach. The water is perfect and the sand is bright and powdery… and now your legs are itching like crazy for some reason. Upon closer inspection, you notice a series of red welts decorating your skin. You have just been the unlucky main course at the sand fly buffet. These bites are rarely dangerous, but can cause discomfort for days.
The sand fly is an insect and sometimes known as a midge. Sandflies are 1/8 of an inch (3mm) long, pale brownish in colour and often difficult to see. They are small robust insects with piercing and sucking mouthparts that belong to the family of flies Ceratopogonidae. They habitat coastal lagoons, estuaries, mangrove swamps and tidal flats. In Australia these flies are commonly known as sandflies but are correctly referred to as biting midges. The bites are normally found in clusters around the ankles and legs.
Treatments – a guide only
- Antiseptic Cleaning – in order to treat human fly bites, the area should be cleaned frequently with antiseptic soaps and cold water. Avoid using warm or hot water as it may worsen the itching symptom in the affected skin area.
- Ice packs – application of ice packs at the inflamed area for 3-4 times a day will help in ridding swelling and inflammation. Within a few days, the skin texture of the affected area will return to normal condition.
- Tea Tree Oil – Another effective remedy to treat flea bites on people, is tea tree oil. You can soak cotton swab in tea tree oil and apply in the inflamed area for many times a day. The sand fly bite area will heal within a few days.
- Soak in colloidal oatmeal bath. Simply add the oatmeal while the bath is filling so it can disperse easier. Make sure that the water is lukewarm, as hot water can further agitate the itching sensation.
- Make a simple paste of baking soda and water to spread over the affected areas.
- Use some aloe vera gel. It has a natural cooling and soothing effect. As an added bonus, the gel can also help to soothe areas of the skin that have been irritated by the sun.
- Over the counter ointments – you could soak a cotton wool swab with calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the inflamed area. This will help in minimizing the chances of secondary skin infections and some contain pain-relief medication in them as well, which may help with sore swollen areas.
- Over the counter drugs – you could attack the problem internally. Ibuprofen can be effective in easing the pain and swelling of bites, while oral antihistamines can do wonders for the constant itch.
Prevention – a guide only
- Try to avoid the beach after it has rained. These moist, cooler conditions seem to put the sand fly at their friskiest state. Give the area a chance to dry and warm up a little before venturing out.
- Wait until mid-morning to early afternoon to go to the beach, as the cooler early morning hours are a favourite time of sand fly.
- Give your body a good coating of insect repellent before heading out. We recommend using ‘Bushmans’ which is available from all good camping stores. It comes in aerosol or crème. I would not recommend using the crème on children as you may only apply a product containing up to 30% DEET on any child over two months of age and this product contains more than that. It is a good idea to use the spray only on kids. Do not let children apply it themselves and be sure everyone washes their hands well so that they do not get anything in their eyes or mouth. Always follow directions carefully. Cases of serious reactions to products containing DEET have been related to misuse of the product, such as swallowing, using over broken skin and using for multiple days without washing skin in between use. Always follow the instructions on the product label.
- You can use an insect repellent containing DEET and sunscreen at the same time. You can and should use both sunscreen and DEET when outdoors. Apply the sunscreen first, followed by repellent containing DEET>
- Put something between yourself and the sand before sitting down, be it a beach towel or folding chair. The reason sand fly bites are commonly located on the backs of the thighs is because this is the most exposed and accessible area when sitting directly on the sand.
- Wear longer shorts or light weight long pants if there will be direct contact with the sand. Board shorts work fairly well. Be mindful of the calves and ankles, as they are fair game as well.
- Reapply the insect repellent if the beach party continues after sunset. Biting insects tend to get a second wind when the evening sets in.
- Use a few drops (6- 8) of citronella essence (from the health food shop not citronella oil as this is largely kero) in a 500 ml pump pack of SORBOLENE. Experiment at first to get the mix of potion right. Sorbolene is used as a moisturiser Apply to arms and legs and exposed areas this will last about 3 hours.
- One of our parents who is a fisherman uses a natural remedy by mixing 75% baby oil, which is the ingredient that considerably reduces the bites, with 25% Dettol, in case you scratch and several drops of eucalyptus oil to retain a pleasant smell. He says it works well.
- We have also heard people using -1 part lavender oil, 1 part pennyroyal, 1 part eucalyptus oil. Combine with 3 parts moisturiser or olive oil and apply to legs and arms. Also if you mix the oils with 3 parts sun screen you have the added benefit of being able to wear it in the sun as well.
- We have read that people use Monoi De Tahiti which acts as a natural barrier to mosquitoes and sandflies for your skin, whilst moisturising and soothing your skin as well.
- We also purchase from the pharmacy "Thiamine” Vitamin B1. It helps relieve tiredness and can reduce the susceptibility to insect bites and subsequent symptoms due to allergic reactions.
- If you dislike applying creams and lotions the best method would be covering exposed areas of skin with clothing. . If you are visiting warm regions this may be thermally uncomfortable but remember mostly the worst time for bites are at dusk and dawn so your discomfort is short lived compared to days of itching. Also if you suffer acute irritation or if you’re out fishing at these times, wear a cap with built in midge screen.