Fruit Fly Allergy: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Veronika Polozkova

Masters in International Health. Lesson development experience on different levels from basic alimentary school to academic master level. Languages: English, Dutch, Russian

Everyone knows the annoying tiny insects that fly around fruit and can cause small red spots on your skin. But do you know how these spots are actually occurring? You might be surprised. Find out in this lesson.

What Are Fruit Flies?

Fruit flies are tiny insects that can vary from 1/16th to 1/4th of an inch long. They live on average only 7 to 10 days and there are over 150 fruit fly species. They like warm temperatures and humidity and therefore fruit flies are more common in warmer months of the year. Fruit flies breed on overripe fruits and vegetables, dirty mops, in leftover juice and beer at the bottom of a can or glass and in garbage that contains leftovers.

Do They Bite?

Despite what many people think, fruit flies cannot bite or stick humans. Actually, they cannot bite at all because they do not have teeth. But how do they eat you would ask? Well, science shows that they produce a liquid that breaks up their food. When the process is finished, they simply suck up their food through their toothless mouth.

Ripe fruits are common breeding sites for fruit flies
fruit fly

Yet some people experience allergic reactions after a contact with fruit flies and notice small red bumps on their skin after a fruit fly touches it. Those bumps are similar to mosquito bites but are normally a bit smaller, which makes many people think that these are actually bites. However, it is an allergy that is caused by bacteria that fruit flies carry on them. These bacteria are picked up by a fly when it contacts rotten fruits or other spoiled food. When the fly touches a person's skin afterwards, the red bump appears.

It is difficult to estimate how common fruit fly allergy actually is, because it strongly depends on the kind of bacteria that different fruit fly species spread and an individual's response to it. Measuring fruit fly allergy prevalence would come down to estimating reactions of all individuals to millions of bacteria on our planet that can be transmitted by these flies.

Is Fruit Fly Allergy Dangerous?

Fruit fly allergy is not dangerous in itself, but the bacteria that are spread by the fruit flies can be harmful. In fact, the bacteria is a common cause of diarrhea and dysentery. If you have noticed several red spots caused by a fruit fly there is no need to visit a doctor because the spots are not a health hazard. But it is highly recommended that you take a good shower to scrub off bacteria that is left by the fly to avoid possible adverse health effects from the bacteria.

How To Avoid Fruit Flies

Pesticides and insecticides are often ineffective in fighting fruit flies. Removing breeding sources is therefore the only effective way to get rid of them or to prevent them from coming in the first place. Make sure your kitchen is always clean, especially in the summer months. Covering your garbage bin properly and storing your foods in plastic bags or under foil can help to reduce fruit flies as well. Getting rid of your garbage and removing leftovers and overripe fruits and vegetables in a timely manner also helps a lot and prevents the area from attracting fruit flies.

Who Is At Risk?

Because fruit flies are more common in some places like fruit laboratories, gardens and markets, people who work in these places should be especially aware of possible fruit fly allergy that can be caused by their occupation. For instance, a study among laboratory workers that work with fruit flies closely shows that besides the bumps they also report mild respiratory symptoms. This can be because of the frequent contact with bacteria in the lab that are spread by the flies, but could also have other reasons.

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