Each summer, I think to myself that the mozzies won't be around, but then out of nowhere they usually appear around late November. It is a part of Australian life unfortunately, and despite their ferocious bites, they are nothing compared to that tiny pest, the sandfly!
Recently, I took my kayak down to Winda Whoppa in Hawks Nest (late November). I have a blow up kayak, so I pumped it up on the sandy beach amongst Mangroves. Yes, I know what a risky thing to do! I could feel tiny little bites but didn't have the foresight to get out of there ASAP. So I continued preparing the kayak. When I finally hopped into my kayak I felt a little itchy, thinking it was mozzie bites, and I splashed salt water on my arms and legs thinking it would all be over in half an hour. In my mind I prepared my mozzie escape plan for when I came back to shore.
I didn't appreciate my time on the water because the bites were starting to itch and it seemed I had heaps of them. Once I floated back onto the foreshore, I quickly took the kayak to the road to deflate it, not wanting to risk any more bites.
A few hours later I realised they were not mozzie bites, it was actually sandflies that had bitten me. At this stage it wasn't too bad, but by the next day I was scratching myself into more misery and by the second day I counted about 130 sandfly bites. It was more than unpleasant and not only that, I looked like I had the Chickenpox!
No doubt, you are reading this to find some relief because you are going through the same thing. Maybe you are on one of the fabulous camping spots in NSW, and you let your guard down on a balmy summer's evening only to be attacked by the tiniest enemy in Australia (well not counting COVID, I guess).
At the time of writing this I am day 5 after the attack and although the bites are fading, they still itch a little and thank goodness, nothing like when they first came up.
This is what I did in order of what helped the most:
If you are searching around the internet for relief from sandflies, you will notice that many people swear on using hot water or the hot spoon method (dipping a spoon in hot water and applying the back of the spoon to the itching bite). I had too many bites to do that, so I opted for the fiery shower. It brings instance relief which lasts a few hours. I did get up in the middle of the night a couple of times on a few nights to treat the bites with this method because I couldn't sleep with the discomfort, and it did relieve it. Obviously if you are camping with no hot water this is not an option so you will have to find a way to heat a spoon or some other utensil.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and I am not recommending this treatment, I am only documenting what helped me. This is a risky thing to do, and the heat is very uncomfortable. You also risk getting scolded. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD ON CHILDREN.
I am half-way through an Aromatherapist course so I turn to essential oils on a regular basis. I used lavender, tea tree and basil. Never apply essential oil straight to the skin, you must dilute it in a carrier oil. A quick recipe is 25ml of Coconut or Avocado oil, 6 drops tea tree, 6 drops lavender and 4 drops of basil. Massage into the skin. This also takes away dryness.
I did buy a packet of non drowsy antihistamine, but to be honest, it didn't really help.
Yes! Tell yourself this will pass in about a week or less. And don't scratch (good luck with that). Mindfulness is helpful here, distract yourself with something else.
Oh! Boy, have I ever learnt that lesson. In high risk places I resort to Bushman's 80% Deet and to be honest, every time I apply that chemical created over 70 years ago to protect soldiers at war in the tropics, I worry about what it might be doing to my body.
I prefer to use my essential oil mix (yes that also helps with prevention) and, natural mosquito and sandfly repellents.
If you end up like me, I can honestly say as I am typing this, it will pass in a few days. Be more vigilant in the future, especially during dawn and dusk.