A four-year-old girl had multiple black spots on her arms and the legs. The spots seemed to disfigure the girl and they itched badly, forcing her mother to take her to several hospitals in search of cure.
Some friends of the young girl’s mum told her the ailment was chicken pox. Others said it was either measles or scabies. None of them could tell exactly what was wrong with the girl. Eventually she was diagnosed with a form of allergic dermatitis from simple sand fly bites.
What are sand flies?
Sand flies are tiny and worm-like. They are usually brown or grey in colour. Although they hardly transmit diseases, there is a subset of sand flies that can transmit a severe condition called cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Sandflies are also more likely to be found within 10 metres of running water, around rivers, lakes, grasses or wetlands. They are more active at dawn and dusk, as well as on warm cloudy days.
Since they are also attracted to dark clothing, it is better to wear lighter colours and cover up yours body as much as possible. Sand fly bites can range from a nuisance to a severe occurrence.
A sand fly bite can cause swelling, itching and redness. The size of the bite does not always matter when it comes to telling what fly bit a person. A very small fly can cause a very large and irritating bite. A person can usually tell if a fly has bitten him if the following symptoms occur: swelling, itching, redness, a small but visible hole in the middle of a bite-like bump. Some people may have an allergic response to a fly’s bite.
Examples of symptoms of an allergic reaction to a sand fly bite include dizziness and weakness. A person may start to develop trouble breathing or swelling in different body areas. Flies commonly make multiple bites in the same parts of the body.
A doctor can examine a bite or areas of biting. He may ask where the person has been to. They will consider the bite’s appearance and its location on the body. A doctor may be able to determine the type of fly that bit the victim. Unless a person is having very severe symptoms, a doctor will not usually need to conduct more tests to determine the type of bite.
Prevention is better than cure. One must possess the necessary information that will enable him to avoid these blood-sucking insects. The following tips can help you lead a life free of sand fly bites:
A hat with protective netting can help keep the flies away from a person’s head. If possible, avoid spending time in areas where sand flies are common. Keeping your compound neat can also help to minimise the concentration of sand flies in the area.
Wearing a long-sleeved shirts, pants, hat and possibly an insect repellant, although the latter is not always effective against all biting fly varieties. Wear a hat with protective netting, such as a beekeeper’s bonnet. This can help to keep flies away from your head, which they often like to bite.
Avoid going outside at certain periods, such as late afternoon, when flies like to bite.
How to treat Sand fly bites
Perhaps the best treatment is to avoid getting bitten. If an individual has an infected-looking bite or numerous bites on his body, he should seek medical attention.
If he gets bitten, he should try the following steps:
Clean the area with water or soap and water. Place a cool compress or cloth covered ice pack over the bite to reduce swelling and minimise irritation and pain.
Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as chlorpheniramine and NSAIDs, to reduce discomfort. Apply a topical corticosteroid, such as OTC hydrocortisone 1 per cent. Antihistamine tablets or creams can help.
Bites should never be scratched as this increases the chance of the wound becoming infected.
If he experiences an allergic reaction to a bite, such as wheezing or hives, he should seek emergency medical attention. If the person experiences symptoms of an infection after a fly bite – such as fever, nausea, headaches, or swollen lymph nodes –he should also see a doctor.
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