Sand fleas, also known as sand flies, no-see-ums or Ceratopogonidae, are very small, usually bloodsucking, flies that inhabit beaches and other areas with large bodies of water. Sand fleas are nearly impossible to see, but their bites rival those of a large mosquito. Sand flea bites are extremely itchy and can be treated with an antihistamine lotion or pill, like Benadryl. The more you scratch sand flea bites, the more swollen the bite will become.
Sand fleas usually breed in damp areas close to a large water source. Sand fleas are popular on some beaches in the United States, including beaches in Florida and California. You are unlikely to find sand fleas that bite away from the beach, but you may find other species of sand fleas near lakes, rivers, or other large bodies of water. Sand fleas are difficult to see because they are whitish or translucent in color, incredibly small and bury themselves in the sand.
If you are planning a trip to the beach for more than a few days, you may encounter sand fleas. Pack bug spray with you when you go to the beach, and try to remain as clothed as possible until you know whether sand fleas are abundant in the area. You may want to keep the windows in your hotel or house closed until you find out about the possibility of sand fleas. After being bitten, sand flea bites will itch and swell for two weeks, at the most.
Sand fleas are so small, they can enter your home through the tiny holes in your screen doors and windows. If you have been camping, you have seen the small mesh that lines the windows and doors of the tent to prevent insects from entering. These mesh nets are often called no-see-um nets. You can purchase this netting by the yard at a fabric store or at a beach supply store. Line your screen doors and windows with the mesh so the sand fleas do not enter your house through the holes in the screens.
If you have been bitten by sand fleas and the bites are irritating you, take an antihistamine pill like Benadryl and cover the individual bites in calamine lotion. If you scratch the sand flea bites, they will get larger, redder, and more irritated. Anti-itch creams and gels can be purchased at the drugstore or grocery store, and can be used as a spot treatment for itchy bites. To avoid getting more bites, wear bug spray when outdoors and avoid opening windows unless the screen is covered with superfine mesh.
If you have a sand flea bite that is larger than the diameter of a quarter, you may be allergic to sand fleas, or you may have been bitten by something different and more dangerous. See a doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you are experiencing severe swelling. If you have sand flea bites, there may be an infestation in your home. Contact an exterminator for help. While you are waiting you can spray bug spray on the furniture for a quick fix.
Megan Smith has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006. She writes about health, fitness, travel, beauty and grooming topics for various print and Internet publications. Smith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing from New York University.