Did you know that sand is an exfoliant? Having your toes in the sand and enjoying the sun and fresh air at your nearest beach is really good for you. Not to mention the high value of showing our children everything Mother Nature has to offer.
With all that outdoor play comes the risk of bites from bugs. When you’re in the sand, these bites are often from sand fleas.
Today, we want to talk about sand fleas and what they are exactly. First, we want to make you aware of where you can expect to find them. Then, we will break down what bite marks look like and how to treat sand flea bites. We will finish up with ways to prevent bites without giving up any fun in the sun.
What Are Sand Fleas?
Starting with the basics, sand fleas encompass a few different types of creatures. If you live near the beach, people may refer to sand flies or even sand crabs as sand fleas. But if we want to get technical, which of course we do, this flea species is actually called chigoe fleas.
It is imperative that we avoid them when possible, as they, like mosquitoes, can pose a severe threat to human health.
What Are Chigoe Fleas?
Chigoe fleas can also go by a few different names, including jiggers, chicas, picos, and piques. While both male and female chigoe fleas bite, females pose the most risk to our health.
All chigoe fleas require warm blood to stay alive, so all chigoe fleas feed on humans. Female chigoe fleas, when preparing to lay eggs, will burrow in human skin — this act is what poses the most risk.
Where Do Sand Fleas Live?
While chigoe fleas can be found in any climate, they are primarily found on beaches in the Caribbean and South America. These fleas are said to have originated in Africa, so any sandy, coastal areas on this continent are also native areas for these insects.
The important thing to remember is that if you come into contact with these fleas in these areas, you could potentially take them back home with you.
What Happens When a Sand Flea Bites You?
When a sand flea gets ready to feed, they pierce the skin with their proboscis. As humans, this bite causes an instant reaction. Our bodies immediately begin to react to the bite by activating the hemostatic system. This system helps coagulate the blood to prevent any serious blood loss.
An important point to remember about sand fleas: they’re tiny insects. You may not notice them until you look down at your ankles. It’s this tidbit that makes their bites that much more dangerous.
It could take several days, even after you’ve gone home, before you realize you have an issue.
What Do Sand Flea Bites Look Like?
These can be easily confused with other insect bites, as they are raised red bumps on the skin. Sand fleas, however, only bite around the ankle, foot, and lower leg.
Females that have burrowed into the skin will appear as a larger welt, whereas the more regular bites will be smaller, like hives. Sometimes, you may only have one bite, but generally, you will see a small cluster of bites on your foot.
Severe cases of bites can look more like a large rash. Take a minute to carefully examine the affected area; sand flea bites often look like mosquito or bed bug bites.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sand Flea Bite?
Sand flea bite symptoms can be similar to a mosquito bite: The saliva from the sand flea has the same coagulation proteins that will cause itchiness and irritation. Unlike a mosquito, sand fleas generally cause more worry regarding the aftermath of a bite.
When females burrow in the skin, the opening they use leaves your body exposed to other elements around the area. This means that any bacteria you come across will have a way through your skin.
The bites themselves can cause the itching typical of other insect bites. In addition to this, you may also experience pain when walking. Enough bites will lead to sensitivity in your feet and ankles.
How To Treat Sand Flea Bites
For non-serious reactions, you can use hydrocortisone cream or over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl. A classic anti-itch remedy, oatmeal baths are the perfect solution to calming down our kiddos (or ourselves).
If you favor plant-based solutions, try some aloe vera. We are fans of essential oils used in everything from our BuzzPatch to our ZenPatch. Diluted eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, and more essential oils are wonderful essential oils to use in place of sticky anti-itch creams.
What Happens When the Bite Is Severe?
Sand flea bites can cause allergic reactions or extreme infections.
These infections can require medical attention. People have been known to need blood transfusions in some of the most extreme cases.
Why does this occur?
Many times, these issues arise due to risk factors such as living conditions, area, and age. Elderly patients have a decreased chance of noticing the bites along with people living in remote areas have lowered access to healthcare providers.
Sand fleas can also transfer diseases like tungiasis and endemic murine typhus.
Seek Medical Advice Immediately
If these increased risk factors don’t include you or your family, don’t wait on sand flea bites. Symptoms that are extreme or persist longer than a week will require some sort of medical attention. Medical care will often be needed to prevent secondary infections.
Prevent Sand Flea Bites: Pest Control
There are a few steps that you can take to continue to enjoy the sand without having to deal with sand fleas. Kids and adults alike love the feel of that ocean breeze, so staying vigilant is key.
Do Your Research
Before leaving for that beautiful beach vacation, research the area first. Find out if there are sand flea issues in the area or potentially any other type of insect to look out for.
These facts shouldn’t stop you from going on your trip, but knowing what to expect can help you defend against it.
Be Mindful of the Time of Day
If you’re planning a day at the beach, be mindful of the times you go. Sand fleas are similar to other insects, like mosquitoes, in that they don’t seek out unnecessary attention from larger animals. Sand fleas burrow in the sand during busy, or peak, times at the beach.
This means that avoiding early morning or late night swims will keep you the safest. Anytime after dusk or before dawn has the highest probability of sand flea bites.
We know that as the day wears on, the beaches get busier. It’s the downside, but the serious silver lining here is that you are the absolute safest from sand fleas.
If You Stay Late
If your family can’t fathom leaving the beach or like to get there early to get a good spot, we understand.
Our best advice? Keep moving.
Sand fleas will avoid moving targets. Your best bet for staying bite-free is to stay active in the water and on the shoreline. If you find yourself or your kids getting more and more sedentary, it may be time to leave.
The best part about staying active all day? Your kids will sleep like absolute rocks tonight, which is a gift to all parents.
No matter how hard we try, sometimes we just can’t control it all. If you or your kids find yourselves riddled with sand flea bites, don’t worry. We are ready to help.
When you’re packing your bags, be sure to keep our MagicPatch on hand. This is our scientifically engineered patch that helps relieve the itch faster. Sometimes, the best defense is a really good offense when you have kids.
In this case, knowing that accidents will happen is getting ready to course-correct after they do. Being armed with our patches means your kids won’t suffer, and those bites won’t affect all the fun everyone is having.
The Truth About Sprays
We know that ads and commercials tell you these insect repellent sprays are safe, but it’s just not true. These sprays can lead to medical issues for you and cause damage to the environment.
Plus, know matter how many times parents spray their kids, they rub it off as soon as they turn around. You’re out money for the products, and they’re not effective.
Instead, look for ways to repel insects naturally. Items like essential oils can help your family keep the bugs away without using chemicals.
Stay Vigilant, Stay Safe
Here at The Natural Patch Co., our main focus is keeping families safe, happy, and healthy.
Our kids are the top priority. Since it can be so difficult to spot sand fleas, we need to be extra aware of the risk when we go on vacation. Between our tips and tricks and amazing patches, we are sure you’ll stay safe!