Thursday, April 11, 2013

No-see-ums Are Far Worse Than Mosquitoes

no-see-um . . . no-hear-um . . . just-feel-um . . . That about sums it up

Sand Flees are known by several names including sand fly, beach flea, hop-a-long, biting midge, punkie or no-see-um, because they are so tiny. 

An older gentleman in Roatan, Honduras called them "flying teeth" which I find most appropriate. 

They can be found throughout the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean and just about anywhere near beaches, wetlands, creeks and lakes

The experts say they tend to bite in the early morning and dusk, but I'm not too sure about that. If you can't see em or feel em, how can you be certain "when" they bite?

No-see-ums are smaller than your average mosquito, and like mosquitoes they are bloodsuckers. What differs is their bite is far more painful leaving you with large welts or rashes that can persist for days or even weeks. 

What I do know from personal experience is they bite in mass, and the pain can be compared to a jellyfish sting - but you won't feel it right away. Sneaky!

What you need to know is how to avoid them, and if you are unfortunate to have been bitten, how to get relief. 

How to Avoid

1. Do not lay in the sand. No-see-ums fly in a vertical range of only a few feet off the ground. They usually attack ankles and wrists, but laying in the sand is an invitation for bites over the entire body

2. Avoid areas on the beach with washed up sea weed. The no-see-um's lay the eggs in standing water where the larvae hatch, and then the larvae feeds on dead vegetation 

3. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and especially after rains

4. Avoid scented products such as lotions, sunscreen, perfume, deodorant, and shampoo as they can attract them 

5. Definitely use repellent - I have found repellents with 50% DEET to be effective. There are products on the market with 100% DEET, however the 50% has a strong chemical smell, and the 100% seems a bit much. The DEET repellent will last about 6-8 hours, and will then need to be applied again. 

Other products many travelers have found effective are Cactus Juice - made from Texas prickley pear cactus, and some use baby oil, along with Avon's Skin So Soft. You can Google "noseeums treatment" and find a ton of suggestions

6. Wash legs when leaving the beach

7. Don't take used beach towels back to your room, swap them out for fresh ones

What to do if you are bitten:

After using just about everything to relieve the itch and pain, our housekeeper gave me the best suggestion of using white vinegar in a very hot bath to pull the poison from the bites. After the bath, I had very minor itching which was relieved by a product called After Bite - which works well for mosquito bites also. Definitely left her a great tip!   

1. Try NOT to scratch - a lot easier said than done. Scratching only makes it worse, and can even cause infection. In some cases Noseeums can even bury beneath the skin like chiggers.  

2. When using a cream or lotion try to dab - not rub. Rubbing will cause the skin to blister and once intensify the itch

3. Take ibuprofen to reduce swelling, pain, along with antihistamines to help reduce itching

4. Listerine works as a good aneseptic, and dabbing Peroxide will also dry up the bites if they are oozing

5. If all this fails to bring relief, you will have to seek medical attention

In over 60 trips, I have encountered noseeums twice - which was two times too many LOL It's not a given you will meet up with them, and hopefully this info will help you avoid them.  

Happy Travels,
Travel 2 the Caribbean

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