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Relieve the Itch… Midges & Sand Flies – facts/remedies

Darwin FreeSpirit Resort, Darwin Caravan Parks

(Original article by Caravan Living but has been adapted and updated)

Have you ever been on a caravan or camping trip and been bitten (or eaten alive) by those pesky bugs known as midges or sand flies?

Well I have and it isn’t pleasant.

Many of our guests have also been a target and while it is unfortunate – it happens, so we thought best to share some tips and tricks to help keep the little buggers away, or at least at bay.

Midges live in the sand and mud of swampy waterways and mangroves. They are very small and even though they do look like a fly, they are too small to see their wings; they look like a small piece of fine dark cut hair, so this makes them difficult to see. Because they are so small, they can easily fly through normal fly screens.

Midges will attack all animals, so you will generally notice birds reacting to being bitten. For those of you with pets, you may have noticed the same.

It is said that midges/sand flies do not bite but actually urinate on you – so we thought I should investigate that further and this is not correct. According to the Department of Medical Entomology of the University of Sydney, they are blood suckers and inject saliva into the skin to allow easy extraction of the blood. They bite during dawn and dusk when there is little to no wind, so best to avoid swampy areas during these times.

Locals in midge-prone areas tend to build up immunity over time, whereas for travellers – they generally do not, so we recommend that all our guests take preventative measures (and stock up on remedies), just in case! Darwin FreeSpirit Resort, Darwin Caravan Parks

Generally you will find once you have been bitten – the first few days/nights can be a challenge. The bites are often not itchy straight away, they then can become unbearably itchy, can weep and also form small blisters – this is not uncommon and obviously varies to the individual. After a few days, the bites decrease in size and become a darker purpley-red colour and are not as itchy and they become bearable.

Preventative Measures

  • Avoid swampy, wet sand during dawn and dusk
  • Cover your skin with clothing (this can be a little hard when you visit the tropics)
  • Before going outside, use tropical strength insecticide spray/lotions – for those of you conscious about toxins on the skin, you may prefer the next option
  • Apply baby oil (mixed with Dettol) before going outside
  • Take high doses of B12 [1000mg] daily, at least two months before going to the location
  • Home made insect repellent – midges don’t like Listerine
  • Eat lots of bananas- taking the B12 tablets makes much more sense

Remedies

  • Bath the affected area with salted cool water. The ocean is great for this
  • Showering before bed (excessive heat will exacerbate the itch, so opt for cooler a temperature)
  • Applying SOOV cream to the affected area/s – the “cool” in the gel takes relieves the itch.
  • Calamine lotion. Ok for kids but maybe not the most suitable option for adults
  • Numbing spray for instant, short term relief
  • Tea Tree oil
  • Stop Itch or Stingoes lotion from the pharmacy
  • Antihistamine. You need one specific for bites – speak to the pharmacy on which would be best
  • For severe or even allergic reactions – seek a GP’s professional opinion.  In the past,  when I have been bitten badly which resulted in welts – I had to receive special medication and steroid cream to assist with the bites.  The cream/lotion that the doctor prescribed me, once applied to the affected areas – had to also have glad wrap put on around the area, to allow the cream to really soak into the bite – I would generally leave this overnight and it worked very well.  Everyone is different though so do what is best for you!