Overview of Sand Flea Bites on Humans

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Facts About Sand Fleas

There is some confusion about sand fleas. The term flea is not an accurate description of the sand flea, in terms of reference to insects. They are not insects at all. Sand fleas are sometimes mistaken for sand flies, which are a species of small midges from the fly genus.

References to the sand flea are usually the crustaceans that live along coastal areas and in marshes and swamps. Their habitat is an aquatic one. Their eggs are laid and hatch in aquatic flora, such as seaweed. Once the young fleas become older, they will exist in sandy areas during the warm months of the year. Sand fleas in coastal areas actually migrate with the tides to warmer climates during colder parts of the year.

The American sand flea, sometimes known as the long-horned sand flea, is about the size of a grain of rice, not including their characteristic antennae, which can be nearly an inch longer than their white-colored waxy body. They generally feed in the early morning hours and at dusk, when temperatures are cooler. They typically feed on tiny aquatic life forms and are not dependent on blood for reproduction as are their insect counterparts.

Symptoms of Sand Flea Bites

The general symptoms of sand flea bites are similar to regular fleas, in that the sand flea can “hop” up to ten inches off the ground. This is because they have wings, which are transparent with black and grey spots. Consequently, sand flea bites on humans will be discovered around the ankles after a person has been at the beach or in other sandy areas. Symptoms of these sand flea bites are an itchiness and a small amount of swelling, both of which will usually dissipate within a few hours or within a day or two.

The bite of the “sand fly”, or tunga penetrans, is more severe in nature. This creature is actually of the flea genus and thus will burrow into the skin of the host. Fleas in general do require protein found in the blood of mammals for reproduction and therefore the symptoms of this type of bite will persist longer. These insects also live in sandy areas and consequently are mistaken for sand fleas.

Control of Sand Fleas in Human Habitats

The actual sand flea of the crustacean type are not a common problem in the home environment. They cannot exist in an environment that does not include the aquatic life forms that they depend on for sustenance and habitat. Since these creatures do not burrow into the skin of the host, they are not carried back into the human habitat as are actual fleas. Therefore, controlling crustaceous “sand fleas” in the home environment is not necessary.

The best way to avoid contact from crustaceous sand fleas is by wearing socks and footwear with closed toes. Sand flea bites will occur more often on people who wear sandals or who go barefoot in the sand.


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