There are a variety of different types of fleas among which sand fleas are different from the rest because they are arthropods – the most environmentally adaptable survivors on planet Earth. Sand fleas are crustaceans possessing five to seven pairs of legs and two pairs of antenna. The name gives a clue about their favorite habitats which is the sand around beaches, rivers, lakes and even deserts.
While their body color may range from whitish to brownish, sand fleas’ body size also varies greatly. Some can be seen with the naked eye while others are only visible under a magnifying lens. Sand fleas are active in the evening, at night and early dawn, which means that if you hang out on the beach at that time, you are highly at risk of being bitten by the pesky crustaceans. Despite their small body size, their bites are especially painful and itchy. Should you want to know how to treat sand flea bites, keep reading through the rest of this article.
Types of sand flea bites and symptoms
Before starting to treat sand flea bites, you need to learn to identify sand flea bites first. Typically, there are two types of bites caused by sand fleas. The first one is very similar to that of mosquitos. They appear as red spots and bumps which quickly vanish after one or two days, provided they are not scratched. This type of sand flea bite occurs when the bloodsucking arthropod sucks blood and then moves to another host after injecting a toxin to prevent blood clotting. This process enables them to suck out some blood and then move to the next host without getting stuck.
The second type of sand flea bite tends to be more severe as they result from sand fleas burrowing themselves into the host’s skin to lay their eggs. They may stay there until the eggs hatch. This causes the host severe pain and discomfort. A black spot surrounded by a swollen area is a sign that breeding sand fleas are taking refuge there. The pain may get worse and the site will not heal until proper treatment has been executed. The bites could become so painful that walking is difficult.
Both types of sand flea bites are itchy, painful and may result in fever or infection. The more allergic you are to external invaders, the more severe reactions you may experience. Most often you’ll get bitten on the ankles, feet or legs because they are about 25cm off the ground, which is the height that sand fleas can jump. Upper body bites are less common unless you lie or sit on the beach. So, how to treat sand flea bites?
Sand flea bites treatments
There are several approaches to deal with sand flea bites. They range from soothing the area to seeking a doctor’s help or preventing the bites from happening in the first place. We’ll first have a look at soothing methods.
Apply lotion or cream
When you have been bitten by sand fleas, the very first symptom is usually itching. You will be tempted to scratch the spot to relieve the irritation; however, this is not a wise thing to do. As you scratch the bites, it may cause the bites to be opened up and infection may occur.
So how should you treat sand flea bites when they are so itchy and you cannot scratch? Application of soothing lotions or creams is one method. Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, which can be easily found in your local pharmacy are good choices to apply to bitten areas for relief from the itching. The package instructions should be read carefully to check how much to apply, how often to apply it and where not to use it.
Basically, the eyes and mouth are parts of the body that should not have contact with any chemicals so you must be careful not to touch those parts with your hands after rubbing lotion on the bitten areas. Remember to wash your hands well after using the cream or lotion. For children under 10 years old, and also pregnant women or breast feeding moms, you should consult with a doctor to know whether the medicine is safe to use or not.
Baking soda and water
A mixture of baking soda and water can be used to treat sand flea bites. A cup of baking soda can be poured into a bathtub of cool water. Soak your entire body or just the bitten parts in the tub for about half an hour. Another way to utilize baking soda is to mix it with water in a 3:1 ratio. Stir the mixture well. As soon as it forms a paste, it can be spread onto the itchy areas of skin. Keep the paste on the skin for 30 minutes before washing off with cool water.
The antioxidants in oatmeal can also help to soothe flea bites quite well. Add one or two cups of oatmeal to a warm tub of water and then use this to soak the affected areas. The irritation and itchy feeling should feel relieved within an hour of soaking. It’s important to note that hot water should not be used as it just worsens the irritation.
Aloe Vera and essential oils
Aloe Vera functions as a soothing agent for irritated skin the same way that some essential oils do. Both can be purchased from your local drug store and applied directly to the sand flea bites. However, instructions to apply the appropriate dosage should be strictly followed to get the best results without suffering any side effects. It’s a good idea to seek a doctor’s advice regarding essential oil varieties such as lavender, tea tree, or cedar if you are pregnant. To check first for allergies or sensitivity, a patch test should be performed on a small area of unaffected skin before applying to the whole area.
If you have a swollen area with a black spot in the center, it is probably the sign of a severe bite caused by female sand fleas burrowing into the skin to lay eggs. For this kind of bite, soothing methods will not help to cure it. Hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion may lessen the symptoms but in case either of the options do not work, you need to visit a doctor right away. The doctor will usually remove the sand flea and will probably recommend that you use antihistamine cream to reduce the irritation due to an allergic reaction. Strictly follow your doctor’s instructions to obtain the best results.
No matter how effective the remedies for sand flea bites are, it is best not to get bitten at all in the first place. The following prevention measures will give you some ideas about this.
Avoid hanging out on the beach at dawn and dusk
Cooler weather activates sand flea activities. Therefore, if you want to enjoy beach sight-seeing in the evening or at dawn, it is highly likely that you will get bitten. Rainy days are also favorable for the bloodsuckers, so be careful if you go to the beach during those type of days. It is advisable to visit the beach once the sun has risen and the weather is warm and dry. You may still get bitten, but the chances will be much less.
Use insect repellents
If you still want to enjoy the beach at dawn or dusk regardless of sand fleas, try spraying insect repellent on your feet, ankles, and legs before you go. Sand fleas will be discouraged from approaching to bite you as the chemical smell of the repellents will deter them from getting closer. Remember to take the insect repellent with you and to re-apply after swimming.
Protect your feet, ankles, and legs
Sand fleas can jump about 25cm high, so covering your ankles, feet and legs can be a good protective measure to keep you safe from sand fleas. Pants, sandals or shoes can be worn for beach walking. Have a towel or blanket beneath you when you want to lie down on the beach.
To Sum Up
We hope these tips have given you some ideas about what to do if you get bitten, and how to prevent sand flea bites. The main things to remember are to not scratch no matter how itchy they are, and to seek a doctor’s help if the bite is suspected to be a severe one with female sand fleas burrowing into the skin. Prevention measures are always preferable to treatment ones. Equip yourself with insect repellents or avoid the sand fleas’ active time and you should be able to enjoy your time at the beach without worrying about sand flea bites.