Should I worry about these thousands of bug bites?
July 18, 2006 1:56 AM   Subscribe

I very stupidly fell asleep on the beach and woke up with an enormous number of unusual bug bites. 24 hours and a whole tube of cortizone cream later they're still here. What kind of bug did I likely encounter, and should I be worrying about this?

The beach was in Galveston, Texas, and the bites small red spots. I'm almost certain they aren't mosquito bites, though there were a lot of mosquitoes around. This just isn't what mosquito bites usually look and feel like to me. I have probably thousands of these red spots (several per square inch) all up and down my arms and legs, particularly on my left side.
I'd really like to know what sort of insect likely did this, and whether or not I should be worrying about things like West Nile Virus, or whether these will leave scars, or anything like that.
posted by raygan to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's probably from a sand flea (lots of them on Galveston beaches), and if so West Nile isn’t an issue (but I have heard them connected to Hantavirus.) You shouldn’t scar unless you scratch the bites. With that many bites I would probably make an appointment with my doctor to get his opinion, but he’d probably just recommend a dose of benadryl and no scratching.
posted by Tenuki at 2:36 AM on July 18, 2006

congratulations! it sounds to me like you have gone through a beachgoers right of passage; las pulgas, the sand fleas.

the pictures on that site aren't exactly comforting, but the fact is that these buggers are so tiny that most folk have no idea what happened.

i am no medical professional, just the sad shell of a former surfer, but i always just toughed it out, soaked in a bathtub, and fought not to scratch.

good luck!
posted by bryak at 2:45 AM on July 18, 2006

Yup, sand flies. It'll itch like hell for days.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 4:25 AM on July 18, 2006

Sand flies are little bastards, but they don't like wind. If there's a reasonable breeze then you're less likely to get bitten. Failing that, Deet keeps them at bay quite well.

I encountered them in the Turks & Caicos Islands, and was red from the knee down within hours. Two days later a new arrival went out to sunbathe on a still day without protection and was so badly bitten she flew back to Europe the next day.

I recall that swimming and drinking a lot (in that order, not the other way around) helped me forget the infernal itching.
posted by Hogshead at 4:50 AM on July 18, 2006

This happened to me. Calamine lotion worked a bit. Having an extremely hot shower to make the bites all STING and BURN and then turning the shower to fully cold until I couldn't stand the cold any more and then slathering myself in calamine lotion worked a bit better.

You're going to itch furiously for about a week.

Try not to scratch.
posted by flabdablet at 5:13 AM on July 18, 2006

Never had these particular bites, but for topical itchyness I recommend the Benedryl spray. Hydrocortisone works for about 5 minutes, and calamine has never done a damned thing for me, at least.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 5:35 AM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: Take some Benadryl - the children's fastmelts are my dosage of choice because they don't make me terribly sleepy and they start working immediately - for two days. Really, at that volume, you want to treat the bites systemically instead of topically. If any of them appear to be puffing up dramatically, use hydrocortisone to treat the swelling.

I didn't know about sand fleas/flies until my husband and I slept outside in hammocks one night on the beach in Mexico. Apparently the little bastards all wake up at the same time, because we came flying out of our hammocks simultaneously right about 4am.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:56 AM on July 18, 2006

Sounds like sand fleas, try Dermoplast.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:48 AM on July 18, 2006

Sand fleas. Yeah. My people call those things no-see-ums. Not to be confused with the red bugs (chiggers) in the fields and woods.

Got bit something fierce out crabbing once... I hate those bastards.
posted by empyrean at 8:52 AM on July 18, 2006

If none of the OTC meds work (often the case when you get mega-attacked like that), call your dermatologist. If you describe the bites in detail, s/he will probably call an rx in for you. My doc did that when I got a ridiculous number of mosquito bites (yeay Louisiana swamps) and nothing else helped - the Desonide cream he gave me is the only thing that let me sleep.
posted by radioamy at 10:42 AM on July 18, 2006

If anyone is still reading this thread, I would love to hear what is the best protection against the flies -- several of you mention protection, so do you mean regular bug repellant?
posted by lorimer at 2:16 AM on July 24, 2006

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