Prevention and Treatment of Sand Fly Bites


Published November 12, 2019

Rotimi Adesanya

Child and Public Health Physician

roayad@ yahoo .com


A four-year – old girl had multiple black spots on her arms and the legs . The spots seemed to disfigure the girl and they itched badly , forcing her mother to take her to several hospitals in search of cure .

Some friends of the young girl’s mum told her the ailment was chicken pox . Others said it was either measles or scabies . None of them could tell exactly what was wrong with the girl. Eventually she was diagnosed with a form of allergic dermatitis from simple sand fly bites .

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What are sand flies ?

Sand flies are tiny and worm – like . They are usually brown or grey in colour . Although they hardly transmit diseases, there is a subset of sand flies that can transmit a severe condition called cutaneous leishmaniasis .

Sandflies are also more likely to be found within 10 metres of running water , around rivers , lakes , grasses or wetlands . They are more active at dawn and dusk , as well as on warm cloudy days .

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Since they are also attracted to dark clothing , it is better to wear lighter colours and cover up yours body as much as possible. Sand fly bites can range from a nuisance to a severe occurrence.


A sand fly bite can cause swelling, itching and redness . The size of the bite does not always matter when it comes to telling what fly bit a person. A very small fly can cause a very large and irritating bite . A person can usually tell if a fly has bitten him if the following symptoms occur: swelling, itching, redness , a small but visible hole in the middle of a bite -like bump . Some people may have an allergic response to a fly ’s bite .

Examples of symptoms of an allergic reaction to a sand fly bite include dizziness and weakness. A person may start to develop trouble breathing or swelling in different body areas . Flies commonly make multiple bites in the same parts of the body .

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A doctor can examine a bite or areas of biting . He may ask where the person has been to. They will consider the bite ’ s appearance and its location on the body. A doctor may be able to determine the type of fly that bit the victim . Unless a person is having very severe symptoms , a doctor will not usually need to conduct more tests to determine the type of bite .


Prevention is better than cure . One must possess the necessary information that will enable him to avoid these blood – sucking insects . The following tips can help you lead a life free of sand fly bites :

A hat with protective netting can help keep the flies away from a person’s head .

If possible, avoid spending time in areas where sand flies are common .

Keeping your compound neat can also help to minimise the concentration of sand flies in the area .

Wearing a long – sleeved shirts , pants, hat and possibly an insect repellant , although the latter is not always effective against all biting fly varieties

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Wear a hat with protective netting , such as a beekeeper ’s bonnet . This can help to keep flies away from your head , which they often like to bite .

Avoid going outside at certain periods, such as late afternoon , when flies like to bite .

How to treat Sand fly bites

Perhaps the best treatment is to avoid getting bitten . If an individual has an infected -looking bite or numerous bites on his body , he should seek medical attention .

If he gets bitten , he should try the following steps :

Clean the area with water or soap and water . Place a cool compress or cloth covered ice pack over the bite to reduce swelling and minimise irritation and pain .

Take an over -the – counter anti -inflammatory medication , such as chlorpheniramine and NSAIDs, to reduce discomfort. Apply a topical corticosteroid , such as OTC hydrocortisone 1 per cent. Antihistamine tablets or creams can help .

Bites should never be scratched as this increases the chance of the wound becoming infected .

If he experiences an allergic reaction to a bite , such as wheezing or hives , he should seek emergency medical attention .

If the person experiences symptoms of an infection after a fly bite – such as fever, nausea , headaches , or swollen lymph nodes –he should also see a doctor .

Copyright PUNCH.

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