Sand fleas. You’ve heard the name, and you think you may have been bitten by one. The thing is, these pests prefer seaside habitats, and these crustaceans are found in sand and marshes. You likely don’t have a sand flea infestation, and that is good news
Let’s take a deeper look into these fleas.
Table of Contents
- What Are Sand Fleas?
- How to treat sand flea bites at home
- How to Prevent Sand Flea Bites
What Are Sand Fleas?
Sand fleas get their name because their bites are similar to that of a flea. Small in size, these crustaceans are often mistaken for insects, which they’re not. Itchy red welts will be left behind from sand flea bites, and there is one itty bitty concern:
Sand fleas can lay eggs under your skin.
That’s right. The female sand flea can burrow into your skin and lay eggs. If this sounds like something out of a horror movie to you, you’re not alone. No one wants to think that they may become a breeding ground for these little fleas.
True sand fleas can be found in Latin America, parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Their bites usually have a black dot in the middle.
What Do Sand Fleas Look Like?
Part of the Emerita genus, sand fleas are part of a small family that includes the mole crab, sand crab, sand mites, sand ticks, sea cicada and sand fiddlers. This genus is defined as having a barrel-shape.
A tough exoskeleton allows it to be able to hold its appendages close to its body, which plays a very important part in the flea’s ability to move through tidal currents.
They have feathery antennae as well.
Small in size, these fleas can be between 0.5 inches and up to 2 inches in length. Females are bigger than males, and most males will grow to a size of just ¾ an inch or less. And most people will call these fleas mole crabs because they are often used by fisherman as bait.
Sand flea pictures will provide you with a better understanding of what a sand flea looks like.
Sand Flea Symptoms
The good news is that these fleas don’t really cause any symptoms to appear. Unlike normal fleas, these critters will not come in droves to invade your home. The symptoms are simple: bites, which can cause you to become very itchy.
The bites are the real symptoms you’ll experience.
Sand flea bites look like:
- A mosquito bite. This occurs when the flea actually feeds on your blood. This bite isn’t worrisome, but it does cause a red welt thanks to the injection of the saliva into the skin. The saliva will cause an allergic reaction.
- Swollen areas with black spots in the middle are more of a concern. This is what happens when the female flea burrows into the skin and lays her eggs. In this case, it’s best to go and see a doctor, who will be able to remove the eggs.
If the female flea burrows into your skin, you may experience severe reactions. These reactions can include fevers, and the bite may also become infected. Your skin may also become inflamed, and secondary infections may also be present.
These are small bites that often occur in a concentrated area at random.
If you’ve been bitten multiple times, it will be easy to tell that you’ve been bitten. And since a lot of bug bites can be mistaken for sand flea bites, it becomes even more difficult to assess the problem.
If you’ve been at the beach, in the desert or in marshy areas, there is a good chance that these bites are from a sand flea.
Otherwise, you’re likely to have been bitten by something else.
If the bites are accompanied by nausea, fever, rapid heartbeat and/or swelling, see a doctor immediately.
Sand Flea Bite Allergic Reaction
Sand flea bites can be itchy, irritating and downright painful. Every person is different. But some people may experience an allergic reaction from the bites.
An allergic reaction can cause:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
- Feeling nauseous
If a female has burrowed under your skin, the symptoms could be worse. Some people experience fever, infection, redness at the affected area, and swollen glands.
You’ll want to see a doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms or anything beyond the realm of a normal bug bite. It’s possible that you could have been bitten by something else or that you have an allergic reaction that requires medical attention.
How Long Do Sand Flea Bites Last?
A reaction occurs right after you’ve been bitten by a sand flea. The skin becomes irritated and itchy, and the skin directly surrounding the bite becomes raised. The inflammation will peak within a few hours and disappear within 12 hours.
But you aren’t completely out of the woods when the inflammation goes down. At this point, the bite becomes hard, raised and intensely itchy. This stage can last anywhere from two days to two weeks.
Many people who travel to exotic beaches complain that their bites don’t show up for 2-3 days and that the bites last several weeks. For many, the itching can be unbearable and requires constant treatment.
If you happen to be allergic to sand flea bites, you may develop blisters that can last for quite a while. In really rare cases and in people who are severely allergic, these bites can stick around for up to two years.
The biggest issue with these bites, and the reason why they last so long, is they’re extremely itchy. It’s hard to resist the urge to scratch the bite, and every time you do, you risk reopening the wound and extending the healing process.
How to treat sand flea bites at home
Itchy and irritating, you’ll need to learn how to treat these bites to gain a little comfort. Most bites will go away on their own, but if you notice any signs of infection, it’s time to call a doctor and to receive a thorough examination.
Never scratch the bite no matter how itchy it may be.
Scratching can lead to further infection and is the main cause for these bites becoming infected. If you are itchy, you can use the following to find some relief:
- Calamine lotion
- Hydrocortisone cream
These lotions can be found at most pharmacies, and they’re able to reduce swelling and curb itching. If you do not find any relief after using the cream or lotion, you should go see a doctor.
Another trick is to apply a mixture of baking soda and water to the skin.
Aloe Vera and Oatmeal
Aloe Vera will provide some relief at this time, and you can apply it to the skin in a gel or lotion form. An oatmeal bath can also help curb itching and is often used when a person is suffering from poison ivy.
Antihistamines and Ibuprofen
Antihistamines, which can be found at most drug stores, can help alleviate the itching. Ibuprofen can eliminate any pain that you may have from your bites.
You can also try homemade remedies to soothe the itching and irritation from sand flea bites.
Some people swear by garlic juice. If you don’t mind the smell, this remedy can be applied directly to the bite. You’ll need a juicer for this one.
Another option is to use oregano oil, which is a known antiseptic and has antibacterial properties.
Many people also find success with a cocktail of apple cider vinegar, ginger, cayenne pepper and onions.
Apply the remedy every 30 minutes or so for maximum relief.
Check the Bite for Fleas
No one wants to imagine a flea embedded in their skin and feeding off of them, but this is a very scary reality with sand fleas. You may be suffering from a female buried deep in your skin and feeding for weeks. Examine the bite and see a doctor as necessary.
You don’t want to be a host for fleas.
How to Get Rid of Sand Fleas
The best sand fleas treatment is avoidance. If you want to ensure that you never come in contact with these fleas, you’ll need to:
- Avoid going to the beach – especially when it’s raining.
- Avoid going to the beach when it’s cooler outside.
- Avoid going into the desert.
- Avoid marshes.
A good sand fleas repellent should be applied if you can’t avoid these areas. Many people recommend a repellent containing DEEM, but proceed with caution as this ingredient isn’t too healthy.
How to Prevent Sand Flea Bites
Prevention is the best way to avoid these fleas. A few of the preventative measures you can take are:
- Don’t Go to the Beach After Rain: The rain will cool down the air and will cause the fleas to be very aggressive. And since most people don’t go to the beach at this time, it’s less of a concern.
- Avoid Early or Late Hours: Don’t go to the beach before 10 or 11 in the morning, and don’t wait until it starts to get cool to leave. These hours are the favorite times for these fleas to come out and eat.
- Cover Yourself in Repellent: If you know there’s a chance you’ll encounter sand fleas, a repellent should be applied to the entire body. This will also ward off sand fly bites, mosquitoes and bites from other pests.
- Always Bring a Towel or Blanket: A towel or blanket (or both) should be placed on the sand to act as a barrier between you and the fleas. This is what will protect the back of your legs and ankles from being bitten.
- Wear Longer Shorts: No one goes to the beach to bundle up – I hope. But you can wear longer shorts to cover more skin and protect yourself from bites.
- Reapply Repellents: Always reapply the repellent as often as possible. If the sun is coming down or the temperatures have cooled off, prepare for a lot of fleas hoping to bite you. In this case, a repellent may be very beneficial.
- Go on Windy Days: Try going to the beach on windy days. Fleas aren’t strong fliers, so they’ll have a more difficult time landing and sticking around. Plus, the wind will make your beach day a little cooler. If you can’t avoid going to the beach on a calm, still day, then move around. They aren’t fast fliers, but they will swarm you if you linger for too long.
- Keep windows and Doors Shut at Night: If you live or are staying near the beach, make sure that you close the windows and doors at night. Sand fleas can fit through screens, so you’ll want to prevent them from getting into your bedroom where you’ll be an easy target.
Fleas like to eat seaweed. And this can act as a warning of sand fleas being in the area. If you see a lot of seaweed or sea plants washing up on the shore, you’ll want to leave the area. This is prime feeding time for the fleas, and while they may not bite you immediately, you may be bitten along the way as a casualty.
Some experts recommend not laying on a beach towel or blanket either.
Instead, you should lay on a lounge chair or regular chair. This will keep you out of reach of the fleas and is recommended. If you’ve been bitten on a particular beach before, you may want to follow this advice to ensure that you’re not bitten in the future.
If you’re walking on the beach, you should wear socks or shoes.
Sand fleas don’t jump high like dog or cat fleas, and they can’t bite through clothing. Since the feet and ankles are the most commonly-bitten areas, wearing protection on the feet can go a long way in preventing these itchy and potentially infectious bites.
Getting Rid of Sand Fleas in the Yard
Sand fleas are not a problem in most yards, but in some areas of the world, they’re a real concern. Australia, for example, has a major issue with sand fleas, which means a lot of people are trying to find ways to get rid of these fleas.
If you think you may have a sand flea problem, chances are it’s something else that is causing your issues.
But there is a chance that it is this tiny flea that is causing the problem.
One recommendation is to use diatomaceous earth as a killer. This little trick can help with a variety of pests and insects, too. You’ll be able to find diatomaceous earth online and in some home goods stores.
This material has sharp edges and is the fossilized remains of diatoms.
When eaten, the powder will be able to pierce through the exoskeleton and cause many insects and even sand fleas to die as a result. You don’t want to inhale this substance, but it’s not poisonous and is not going to harm animals if eaten.
You can also use something called nematodes.
Nematodes are small, worm-like organisms that can be added to the soil. This is the habitat of these organisms, and they’ll enter into the body of most insects to eat the tissues of its host and will lead to death.
You don’t need to worry about sand fleas on dogs or in your home – they live in sandy beaches or in the middle of the desert.
A sand flea rake can be used to catch sand fleas. You can use these rakes where the water hits the beach to try and catch these pests. This is a trick that many fishermen will use so that they can use these fleas as bait when fishing. Don’t worry, you won’t catch sand lice.
The Steam Cleaning Myth
There is a myth going around online that you can steam clean areas where sand fleas are present. But this isn’t quite true. First and foremost, these crustaceans can live in water, and they live on the beach or in the desert where sand is in abundance.
Since this is the case, you can’t use a steam cleaner to kill them.
Sand fleas will not invade your home like a dog or cat flea will. These fleas don’t have any reason to stay in your home, and if you see one in your yard or in your home, there is no cause for concern.
As for steam cleaning the beach or desert, this is just silly misconception where the person is confusing a regular cat or dog flea with sand fleas.