Treatment and Prevention Against the Sand Flea
Sometimes, a trip to the beach can result in an irritating visit from the sand flea. But what is a sand flea and what can you do about them?
Even though it might look like an insect, a sand flea is actually a crustacean. It also goes by other names such as beach flea, sand fly, and biting midge. It is 3mm long and usually hard to see. If you could see it, however, it might resemble a shrimp and is either brownish in color or pale. Its long legs are used for swimming and jumping ad they are even able to jump up to a height of 40 cm.
Most of the time, bites can be found around the ankles, unless you’re lying down and they can reach your upper body more easily. You are also more likely to get bitten in the early evening hours or at dawn. While most sand fleas prefer living on the beach, they can also be found in swamplands, lakebeds, creeks, and wetlands.
Sand fleas get their nutrients from decaying plants. They especially enjoy eating seaweed so if you see a pile of seaweed on the beach you can be assured that there is probably a group of sand fleas flocking around it.
One way to avoid being bitten is to listen for a high-pitched whining noise. If you hear this sound, then you might want to move since this is the sound that the sand flea often makes. Of course, most of the time you might not hear anything at all. For the most part, the individual doesn’t even realize that they have been bitten until the bite has already occurred.
The sand flea bites in order to get to the person’s blood. The blood gives them protein which they need in order to lay their eggs. When they bite, they inject saliva into the wound which causes the body’s immune system to act in response.
The bite itself can be very painful. It can even be more painful than that of a bite caused by a big mosquito, despite the fact that sand fleas are very small. Sometimes, the bite can also cause rashes or even large welts to develop on the skin. Some individuals experience fevers as well. In order to prevent infection from developing, scratching the bites should be avoided, even though this will be difficult due to the fact that they can be very itchy.
It is also possible that bites from sand fleas can carry diseases like Leishmaniasis, Carrions disease, and the Pappataci fever virus. Although Leishmaniasis is less known than malaria, it is still quite risky. It is more common in Central America, North Africa, south East Asia, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. There are different types of the disease as well. In the Diffuse Cutaneous variety, skin lesions resembling leprosy can occur. On the other hand, in the Mucocutaneous type, skin ulcers might develop which can cause damage to the tissue around the mouth and nose. The most common type is Cutaneous which shows up as skin sores that can leave disfiguring scars. These sores don’t typically show up until weeks or even months after being bitten.
Medical treatment should be sought immediately if there are any signs of these conditions.
If you’ve been bitten, then using an antihistamine such as Benadryl can help with the itching. Pain relievers like Ibuprofen can help if there is any pain associated with the welts that the bites can cause. In addition, hydrocortisone cream and aloe versa cream can both help with swelling and itching and can provide a soothing relief to the bumps and welts.
You can avoid being bitten by sand fleas by using an insect repellant, the same way that you would protect yourself against mosquitoes and other flying insects. If going into the water, you need to apply the repellant periodically as it can be washed off.