Sand Flea Bites: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Sand fleas can be pesky creatures causing bites primarily on the ankles and lower legs. Read this lesson to learn more about sand fleas, symptoms of their bites, and how to treat them.

Critters in the Sand

Jake takes his partner to the beach for a day of fun in the sun. He sets up the beach umbrella, a few lounge chairs, and the cooler packed with icy drinks. After a nice day, they sit on their lounge chairs and watch the setting sun. As the darkness begins to set in, both Jake and his partner start to feel bites on their ankles. They quickly pack up and leave the beach.

What is a Sand Flea?

A sand flea, otherwise known as a sand fly, is a tiny creature ranging from the size of a pinhead to two and a half centimeters in length. Sand fleas are off-white to brown in color, which makes them difficult to see, particularly in sandy areas. Even though its various names indicate that this creature is an insect, the sand flea is actually a crustacean. A crustacean has an exoskeleton, which means it carries its skeleton on the outside of its body (like a lobster or shrimp).

Sand Flea
A sand flea blending in with its surroundings.

Sand fleas are commonly found near bodies of water, such as the ocean or marshland. They usually feed on dead and rotting plant material. At the beach, for example, these tiny crustaceans prefer dead seaweed that washes up on the beach during high tide. When in search of these washed up ocean plants, sand fleas can mistakenly bite humans.

These tiny critters are known for their jumping ability. They generally bite the lower legs and ankles because they can only jump so high. If you're laying down on the beach, you may experience bites in other areas. They are more likely to become a nuisance during sunrise and sunset, and until late in the evening as they prefer cooler temperatures.

Bite Symptoms

Jake and his partner return home and find their ankles and lower legs covered in small raised bumps, indicating that they have been the victims of sand flea bites from the beach. Symptoms of sand flea bites include:

  • Small, raised bumps
  • Redness
  • Pruritis, or itchiness
  • Bites located primary on ankles and legs (bites may appear in other places if you have been laying in the sand)

Treating Sand Flea Bites

Uncomfortable from the bites on his ankles and lower legs, Jake calls his mom to ask her how to treat them. As a nurse, his mom explains that treating sand flea bites is similar to treating mosquito bites, and there are just some simple instructions to follow.

Infection Prevention

While the bites are extremely itchy, Jake should try his best not to scratch them. Scratching the sensitive areas may break the skin open, leaving the bites open to infection. Thorough cleaning of the bites can further reduce his risk for infection. Cleansing the area will also remove any dirt, debris, or sand flea eggs that may have been left on the skin.

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