For many people in Australia, summer means sun, beach and ocean. With many happy hours spent swimming, surfing, fishing, beach walking and sunbathing in gorgeous, tropical temperatures.
However, whilst these are all very attractive elements of summer, the warmer months on the sand can also be a negative for some beachgoers. As it means they are often relentlessly attacked by those pesky midges and sand flies.
Stings and bites are part and parcel of the beach experience for many Aussies. So in this guide, we will provide you with some ideas of how you can stave off the threat of midges or sand flies while at the beach.
If you do get attacked, we’ll also highlight how you can treat the affected areas, as well to ensure the swelling goes down as quickly as possible.
Why are midges or sand flies such a problem?
In Australia, midges and sand flies are a huge problem in coastal areas, which thrive in those humid, watery conditions, especially in the summer.
As most Australians dress in little more than bikinis and shorts when they hit the beach, they leave themselves very exposed to biting insects like mosquitoes, and midges. The latter of which is almost invisible to the naked eye.
According to a study by Aberdeen University in 2010, taller men and larger women were prime targets for midges or sand flies as they are more commonly known, as statistically, they are more likely to get bitten.
These bites can be potentially dangerous because although midges are not known to transmit diseases to humans, they can cause a severe allergic reaction, as well as quite a bit of pain and discomfort for some people.
Different Types of Midges
Overall there are more than 200 species of biting midges in Australia, although only a few of them have the potential to be a nuisance to humans.
Midges might attack exposed skin in fairly large numbers. Though only the females bite, using the blood they procure as a source of protein to develop their eggs.
Typically bites from midges can take up to 24 hours to swell up. That is because they tend to inject a salivary type of secretion that can cause the skin of a person to break out into a reaction.
How to prevent getting bitten
There are several ways to prevent yourself from getting bitten by midges or sand flies.
One of the easiest ways is to simply cover-up. As sand flies look for exposed areas to bite, they are less likely to attack you if they can’t find any skin to land on.
If you can, try to wear a rashie and longer board shorts when in the water. While a longer cotton shirt and pants is a great option if you plan to walk on the beach.
Another very effective strategy is to spray on plenty of repellents prior to hitting the beach. There are many different brands around so be prepared to experiment over time to find the right one for you.
When you leave the beach, another important thing to do is to remove excess sand that might settle in your car, campsite or caravan. As this is a potential breeding ground for any flies you may have unwittingly carried with you.
Once they get into clothing and other materials, midges do tend to stick around for quite a while. So to prevent yourself from getting bitten away from the beach, be sure to wash all towels, beach clothes, bed sheets, and blankets, where sand residue might have settled.
Alternative natural repellents
If you would prefer not to wear a brand repellent that may have chemicals, there are several ‘natural’ remedies you can try to stave off an attack from midges.
A popular one is to apply a solution of a mix of 50% Dettol and 50% Baby Oil to your skin. Just be sure to include one teaspoon of Eucalyptus Oil for every 400 ml of liquid in the mix as well.
Some people also find a 50/50 mix of baby oil and water an effective method of repelling sand flies too.
Popular Treatments for bites from midges or sand flies
There are plenty of creams around that can significantly reduce the itchiness and swelling of a bite with DermAid cream being very effective for some people. Others seem to have better luck with Soov, Stingose or Calamine lotion.
It is important to note that some of these creams will work for certain skin types, but not on others. That is because our bodies are all made up of different blood types and chemical balances, which react differently to them.
With this in mind, it is important to keep trying different creams and lotions, to find the one which works best for you.
If you are looking for a treatment that is chemical-free BitePatch is a decent option that provides
relief, especially from mosquito bites.
Other Treatment Tips
If you find yourself covered with bites, a really good initial treatment is to have a very hot shower.
Alternatively, you can apply hot water to a spoon, until the spoon is as hot as you can manage, and then place it directly on the bites. Just be sure not to burn yourself!
This works for many people because the heat breaks down the protein from the salivary secretion the midges insert into you.
Another option which works for many people is to rub vinegar, lemon or lime directly onto the insect bites, which can quickly nullify the itchiness and reduce the swelling.
Likewise paw paw cream also seems to work for many people too.
Whatever you do don’t….
This is the most important consideration to be aware of because as difficult as it might be, scratching can make the bite worse. To the point that it could become infected.
So there you have it, our guide to how to stave off the threat of midges or sand flies while at the beach.
We hope you have found this information useful.
If you take heed of what we have said, you should find that you won’t get bitten as often, and on the rare occasions when you do, the stings won’t hurt as much.