Sand flea bites usually show up as small, red welts or bumps on the skin, and most commonly occur on the lower legs, feet and ankles of humans and animals. In addition to the welts, the bites can cause severe itching, swelling, and sometimes pain in the affected area. These can normally be treated with over-the-counter medications like oral ibuprofen, to help reduce the swelling and pain, and oral antihistamines to help reduce the itching. One can also use various medicated topical treatments directly on the affected area, such as ibuprofen gel, hydrocortisone cream, or various anti-itch creams. It is important to avoid scratching sand flea bites, since this can lead to infection, and if the pain and itching do not begin to improve after several days, one should consult a doctor.
Anti-itch creams and gels containing ingredients that reduce pain, such as lidocaine, can be helpful when treating sand flea bites. In addition to such over-the-counter medications, there are also many natural remedies that can relieve symptoms. For example, an oatmeal soak, where the affected area is submerged in warm water mixed with oatmeal, can help soothe the itching. Applying aloe vera gel, vinegar, or a paste made of water and baking soda to the affected area can also help ease the discomfort. Other natural treatments involve the application of various essential oils such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and lavender oil to the bites.
Different types of creatures can be referred to as sand fleas. For example, certain species of biting flies are sometimes called sand fleas. These insects infest certain beaches around the world, including in the United States, Australia and the Caribbean. They can carry disease and transmit viruses. It is recommended to use insect repellent when frequenting areas where these insects are common.
Another type of creature called sand flea is a species of tiny crustacean that lives in the sand or decaying seaweed on beaches. Children can be more likely to be bitten by these sand fleas when they play and dig in the sand. Sand flea bites on a human or pet can also be caused by a species of flea with the scientific name Tunga penetrans, commonly known as chigoe or sand flea. This skin parasite burrows into the skin to lay its eggs. It usually causes more severe problems for animals, and the recommended treatment of these types bites on a pet includes flea treatments such as flea powders and shampoos.
What Are Sand Fleas?
There is often some confusion about what sand fleas are. Four vastly different creatures regularly bear the title. To further the uncertainty, each type of creature has several common names.
When many people say sand flea, they are referring to sandflies. The name sandfly includes several species of flying and blood-sucking insects. While the coloration of sandflies can range from golden to gray, you can expect the insect to be around 3 mm long, have long mouthparts, and have vertical V-shaped wings. The type you encounter varies depending on the region of the world you are in.
In the United States, you will find new world sandflies. They can be found in sandy regions from New Jersey to Florida. The female flies must feed on blood to reproduce, so they are known for biting. Flies can contribute to the spread of blood-borne diseases in both animals and humans.
Chigoes are called the "true" sand flea. They are parasitic fleas that embed into their host's skin. Before finding a host, chigoes are only 1 mm long. After entering their host, they may grow to the size of a pea.
The distribution of chigoes is limited to tropical and subtropical regions. Most commonly, they are found in Mexico, South America, and Africa. However, they can occasionally be found in the southernmost parts of the United States.
Some tiny crustaceans in the family Talitridae are referred to as sand hoppers or sand fleas. While they are not true fleas, they earned their name due to frequent jumping. Coloration varies by species, but the appearance is similar to a tiny shrimp.
Different species of sand hoppers are found around the world, including coastal areas of the United States. While they routinely feed on seaweed and other plants, they will also feed human blood given the opportunity. Humans who are present on beaches at dawn and dusk or are digging in the sand are the most likely targets.
A biologist may inform you that a sand flea is another name for a mole crab or sand crab. Mole crabs are small crustaceans that are between 0.6 cm and 2.5 cm long. The gray, green, or brown arthropods have a rough exoskeleton and feathery antennae.
These harmless creatures have a wide distribution. They can be found burrowed into the sandy surf zone of beaches along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States. Unlike their other namesakes, mole crabs do not bite people. In some areas, humans eat this type of sand flea and use them as fishing bait.
What Do Sand Flea Bites Look Like?
The appearance of sand flea bites depends on which variety of "flea" is to blame. Sandflies and sand hoppers are the most probable culprits in the United States.
Sandfly bites may get mistaken for mosquito bites. The flies are most likely to swarm and bite during dawn and dusk. While mosquitoes leave behind a red, itchy bump, sandflies leave smaller clustered marks. Bites are most common on your head and hands and may be accompanied by a rash and fever.
Sand Hopper Bites
Sand hopper bites are similar in appearance to regular flea bites. You may see clusters of two to three bumps per location surrounded by a red halo. The location of bites is limited because sand hoppers cannot jump high. If you are standing, bites will appear on your legs, ankles, and feet. When individuals lay down, they may experience bites anywhere on their bodies.
How Long Do Sand Flea Bites Last?
Regardless of the type of sand flea, the duration of the bite can vary. Marks typically last for only a few hours to many days. If an infection accompanies the bite, the effects will last much longer. The difference depends on your body and how you treat the bites.
One of the reasons people respond differently to sand flea bites is allergens. When you are bit by any type of sand flea, saliva enters your body. If you have an allergic reaction to the saliva, you will have worse swelling and longer-lasting effects.
Scratching your bites can prolong your reaction. You may further irritate the area and break the skin. When you damage your skin, it takes longer to heal and opens the door for secondary infections.
Treating your bites quickly and properly can decrease the length of time you have them. Taking anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines can decrease swelling. Applying topical ointments can relieve itching and help prevent infection allowing for quicker healing.