11 Jan How long do sand fly bites last? Typical stages of sandfly bites!
Posted at 15:12h in sandflies, Sandfly, sandflybites 8 Comments
How long do sand fly bites last?
You didn’t pay attention, the sandfly spotted you in the sand, sat down and bite you. What is happening now? How long do sand fly bites last?
Stage 1 – bite and first itching
Directly after a sandfly bite has taken place the first visible thing on your skin is a tiny swollen red dot, which might either stay only a dot or resemble a very little mosquito sting.
After the sandfly has bitten (or better scratched) your skin it usually takes a certain time until the itching of the sandfly bite starts. This might vary between around 10 minutes and some hours.
After the itching of the sandfly bite has started its intensity is much higher than a mosquito sting. A subjective feeling would compare the grade of the itching of one bite with 5-10 mosquito stings at once. Besides this, the itching of sandfly bites is very hard to stop. As we have already pointed out the best sandfly bite treatment is not to touch the sandfly bite at all. But as an initial scratch or touch is hardly avoidable the painful itching will last for some days, depending on the individual sensitiveness up until 1 week or longer.
The reason for the intense itching and swelling is the histamine in the salvia of the sandflies. They have an anti-coagulating quality in their saliva, which helps them to feed on the blood after they have ripped and torn the skin open to access it. They also drop agglutinins proteins in the human blood, which makes it easier for them to digest the human blood.
This mixture of histamine and agglutinins is causing itching and scratching. Some people even develop an allergic reaction and the bitten areas of skin will be intensely swollen.
Theoretically, the best after a sandfly bite is not to scratch or touch the sandfly bite at all. This is nearly impossible. But the very strong itching will lead to intense scratching, which on the next level will lead to an even higher itching and a vicious circle begins. This causes the long duration of the healing.
Stage 2 – liquid-filled blister and more itching
After the first 1-2 days where a sandfly bite resembles a common mosquito bite the sandfly bite itself will build a liquid-filled blister in stage 2, which is still itching very strong. This blister will break after some time and the lymph liquid will be running out. Usually, this happens after 2-3 days after the sandfly bite has hit you.
This is a very important stage of the healing because the minute the blister breaks open you will have a small open wound on your skin. Besides the fact that this doesn’t look nice at all, it is important to keep this wound clean and healthy.
Intense scratching will not only lead to a very unhandsome look of the bitten skin, which might be compared to the pox. It will most likely result in breaking the skin, new bleeding and scarring.
So a sandfly bite holds the increased danger of not only scarring but also infections
With sand, sun, sweat and sunscreen it can sometimes be quite difficult to keep the wounds of the sandfly bites clean and avoid infections.
So it might come in handy either to cover the sandfly bite with some healing cream or to carry a small bottle of disinfectant and some tissues.
Especially in some areas where a lot of wastewater is pumped into the ocean or rivers this might be a thing to consider when it comes to sandfly bite treatment. We have seen this in Cambodia where they still pump everything into the sea. When you take a dip in those areas with an open wound of the sandfly bite it is better to clean the wound after the swim to make sure it doesn’t get infected and the sandfly bite can heal fast.
Bit not only dirty water is dangerous. The humid and hot tropical climate itself is a good condition for bacteria.
Stage 3 – hard lump and fading away of the itching
The last stage of the sandfly bite healing is that it turns into a hard, firm, and painful lump.
This usually happens after 5-7 days after the bite. This little lump, which can be quite red and therefore again resemble a mosquito bite, will stay with you for another week or so. The itching of the sandfly bite will slowly go away and only come up again when you touch it. You can still use some creams or lotions to help it heal completely but have nearly made it until it will be gone completely.
Stage 4 – remember the holidays?
So this last stage will surely not come up for every bite and for every person but we have experienced it quite often.
When you are back in normal life and the days of the sandfly bite are long gone and you wouldn’t think of it anymore a little sensation might come up.
All of a sudden, weeks to months after the sandfly bite, the bites will start to itch a second (sometimes even a third) time.
This might sound completely crazy – but it is true.
The itching then is much, much weaker than the original sandfly bite was, but it is unmistakable the same itch.
So you have 2 options then:
1) freak out again and get angry and annoyed
2) stay cool, lay back, take out your pictures of sunsets and waves and say to yourself „Wow – I can still feel the holiday.“
KatiePosted at 01:22h, 18 November
Thank you so much for all this great content!! 🙏 Unfortunately I am a sand fly sufferer and this info is super informative!
EwanPosted at 14:27h, 17 Januar
Thank you! I always get Mosquito bites. Hadn’t had the pleasure of sandfly bites until this year from Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia. My God! The MOST incredible itching I have ever experienced. Like Mosquito bites on steroids! Couldnt sleep for days and impossible not to scratch. Still have them 3 weeks later. Still itchy! Will never go to an island that has sandflies again. The bites are SO bad.
Ian shmeegzPosted at 04:03h, 05 Juni
Thanks for the info. Got bit by them on my arms and feet in ft Lauderdale on the last day I was there. I got them a week ago. Itching was the worst itch I’ve ever had by a long shot. Bites started healing and going away after 3 days, now they are back and just as itchy as the first time, possibly worse. 🙁
Tori MichaelsPosted at 19:24h, 01 Juli
My hands are on fire😩😩😩
LenaPosted at 04:48h, 07 Januar
How long took it for the bite to be gone for good? I have several bites on my feet and it starts itching during nighttime it is horrible.. normally I make it without scratching but the road they created on my feet … no way…
Thanks for an answer
LuisePosted at 10:56h, 26 Januar
Thanks for letting me know they itch again after they’ve healed. I got so badly bitten on my feet in New Zealand, I rubbbed the skin off my toes whilst I slept. I used an antihistamine so I wouldn’t rub them. They healed up but are still very red & itching again 6 weeks later. I must be very alergic to them. Definitely not a nice memory of my holiday.
MatthewPosted at 02:19h, 24 Februar
Ok so why don’t the people who are native to area or country suffer like I did? Does one build up a tolerance against such a reaction?
Dena LipmanPosted at 08:58h, 18 März
Thank you for helpful article. Back from rain forest in Costa Rica and bites are still itchy especially at night after 5weeks – upper arms and side and back of legs and a few on my back. This is driving me crazy and oral antihistamines and strong steroid creams are not resolving. Would really appreciate any additional suggestions .
Planning another trip there next year and suggestions for prevention welcome! We had 3 sprays and are a Dr and Pharmacist bit have failed to prevent and treat!!