Sand Fleas and Sand Flies – How to Avoid Them

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Last updated: November 26, 2019

Want to know how to avoid sand flies and sand fleas? Here are our best tips and information on what to do if you get bitten and photos of the sand flea bites.

You can find these little insects all over the world where there is a tropical climate. The insects hide in the sand mostly on beaches with high tides. The risk is greater to find sand flies and sand fleas on a more secluded beach.

A bite from these insects can lead to infections, diseases, and a very bad itching. To not let the sand flies and sand fleas ruin your vacation, it’s important to know how to avoid them.

If the luck is not with you and you get bitten, it’s important to know how a bite looks like and what to do to stop the itching.

How can you avoid sand flies/sand fleas?

The best way to not get bitten is to avoid them in the first place. Sandflies and sand fleas are so small that sometimes you don’t even notice you got bitten until you’re back to the hotel.

We have gathered a list of our best tips to avoid sand flies and sand fleas on your vacation:

  • Citronella and bug spray with DEET can prevent them from coming close to you.
  • To avoid getting bitten by sand fleas and sand flies, apply coconut oil to your feet and ankles.
  • When it’s warm outside, the insects get less active and will hide under the sand.
  • Go to the beach on a windy day. The insects can’t fly as well when it’s windy outside.
  • Don’t sit directly on the sand. Relax on the beach using a beach chair or a blanket.
  • Cover up with shoes and don’t walk bare feet on the sand.
  • Try to avoid going to the beach right after it rained. Sand fleas and sand flies tend to be more active at that time.
  • As soon as you see the insects, leave immediately. De are slow and can’t catch up with you.

Where can you find sand flies and sand fleas?

You can find sand flies and sand fleas in tropical climates around the world. They originally come from America but has spread by humans to Westen India, Asia, and Afrika.

Sand flies and sand fleas can often be spotted at secluded beaches. They like to hide under the sand where it’s a little cooler and are most active during sunset and sunrise.

The insects exist in both subtropical and tropical climates but have even been found in Europe around the Mediterranean. The biggest chance to find them is at beaches with high tides.

What does a sand flea or sand fly bite look like?

Flea bites look like small red spots that often occur in two to three groups or clusters with redness around them. To treat sand flea bites, we recommend using tiger balm or Systral.

To ease the itching, you can also use aloe vera or hydrocortisone.

Sand fleas bite

Photo: schusterbauer.com/Shutterstock

More about sand fleas

Sand fleas (Tunga penetrans in Latin) are the smallest fleas and are only 1 mm long. You can find them in Asia, Afrika, South America, and North America. 

The scariest part is that the female sand fleas can go under your skin and lay eggs. She will eventually die under your skin which will lead to an infection.

Facts about the sand flea

  • Name: Sand Flea (Tunga penetrans)
  • Class: Insects
  • Order: Fleas
  • Living environment: Tropical beaches
  • Size: 1 mm
  • Where they exist: America, Western India, Asia, and Africa

More about sand flies

There are many types of sand flies, and just like sand fleas, not very pleasant. Sand flies are 2-3 mm long and are much bigger than the sand fleas.

Sand flies bite and rash

Bites from sand flies will often lead to a serious rash. It’s common to get multiple bites along your legs. See the picture below.

Even though the rash is itching, it’s very important to not scratch. Itching can lead to a serious infection that could last for weeks. In the worst case scenario, you need to go to the hospital.

If you get bitten by a sand fly, it’s very important to get treatment right away. We recommend using hydrocortisone cream or aloe vera. Tiger balm can also help and calm the itching.

Sand fly bites

Photo: YewLoon Lam/Shutterstock


Do you have more questions about sand flies and sand fleas? Leave a comment below!

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