Everything You Need to Know About Sand Flea Bites

Daniel More, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI, FACP, is a board-certified allergist and former clinical immunologist at Allergy Partners of the Central California Coast.

A healthcare provider can diagnose sand flea bites and/or sand flea disease with a visual inspection of the affected area of the skin. They may also ask you about your symptoms and medical history, as well as recent travel.

When people talk about sand fleas, they may be talking about different organisms: Sand flies, which live in and around aquatic habitats, and sand or mole crabs, which are crustaceans that live on the beach and don’t bite humans.

What do Sand Flea Bites Look Like

Sand Flea Bites on Humans – Pictures, Treatment and Prevention

Sand Flea Bites on Humans

Really, “any flea that comes out of a sandy area, people call a sand flea,” Nancy Hinkle, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Entomology, told Health.

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These sand fleas are usually found in tropical areas and sandy climates like beaches, stables, and farms. You may find them in:

I have always been a great fan of preventing flea bites rather than treating them. If you want to avoid getting bitten, just follow these tips and you will have greatly decreased the chance of that happening:

What Are Sand Fleas and How Can Their Bite Affect You

Despite the critters’ name, sand fleas aren’t actually fleas, but rather are members of the family of crustaceans, Talitridae (or beach hoppers), according to Shannon Harlow-Ellis, associate certified entomologist, Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly company. “Beach hoppers have several common names such as sand fleas, lawn shrimp, land hoppers, or sand hoppers,” she says, adding that there are about 90 different types of this species in the United States and they can be found along coastal areas all over North America.

Most bites from organisms referred to as sand fleas don’t cause any long-lasting harm. Most symptoms, such as itching and inflammation, should resolve on their own or with over-the-counter (OTC) treatment.

So before you plan your vacation, make sure the place you’re heading to doesn’t have sand fleas, and if they do—plan, and pack a lot of bug spray.

How to Treat Itchy, Painful Sand Flea Bites

Sand Fleas Bites

To avoid infection, it’s important to not scratch your bites too much or try to extract sand fleas on your own. A clinician may be able to manually extract the fleas from your skin lesions using sterile surgical instruments. They may also recommend a tetanus booster if you’re not up to date.

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How Are Sand Flea Bites Diagnosed?

There are two types of sand flea bites on humans. The first one looks like a mosquito bite and happens when the fleas suck your blood and then moves on to another host. They inject saliva to prevent blood clotting as they are feeding, and this saliva is what irritates the skin and may cause allergic reactions. The second type is worse and is caused by breeding female sand fleas. The fleas burrow themselves into the skin and stay there until their eggs hatch. Look for swollen areas with black spots in the middle, these may be breeding sand fleas.

Getting bitten by sand fleas is no day at the beach, which is why Dr. Ascher says beginning treatment at the first sign of a bite can help you heal faster and prevent future complications. “I always tell my patients after a bite, to make sure they clean the area with soap, water, and an over-the-counter antibacterial cream in an effort to prevent infection,” he says. “You can also use comfort measures for relief – I like to grab aloe.”

Treatment should include a sterile surgical removal of the sand fleas. After removing the fleas, they should be covered with an appropriate dressing. If your tetanus vaccination isn’t up to date (if you haven’t had a booster in over 10 years), you should also be treated with a tetanus vaccine or booster.

Everything You Need to Know About Sand Flea Bites

Top 7 Pictures of Sand Flea Bites!

I hope this article was helpful to you. To learn more, you can continue reading about flea bites on humans.

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Types of sand flea bites

If you’re bitten by any other species of fleas or other organisms that are sometimes called sand fleas, you can treat itchy bumps with topical corticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone) or oral antihistamines.

Maggie O’Neill is a health writer and reporter based in New York who specializes in covering medical research and emerging wellness trends, with a focus on cancer and addiction. Prior to her time at Health, her work appeared in the Observer, Good Housekeeping, CNN, and Vice. She was a fellow of the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2020 class on Women’s Health Journalism and 2021 class on Cancer Reporting. In her spare time, she likes meditating, watching TikToks, and playing fetch with her dog, Finnegan.

However, you should reach out to a healthcare provider if:

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