Surviving sandfly bites

They come in many names; sand flies, no-see-um, sand fleas, sand gnats, but they are all the same tiny evil creatures.  Stay away from them because once you’re bitten, you’re in hell.

I got devoured by them when we were in El Nido, Philippines in August of last year.  Devour is the word because half of my body was left with bite marks while the other half flared up as an allergic reaction to the bites.  I didn’t even know I was their lunch until the next morning when I woke up itching like it was the end of my days.


This is how my left leg looked like the next day after being bitten. The bites turned dark and ugly few days later.  See photo below:


The itchiness was a complete nightmare. I wanted to constantly scratch the bites.   Then there was the sight of my legs and arms covered with reddish and darkening spots. It was so depressing it  probably required a happy pill for some to overcome.  In my case it helped thinking that it could have been worse, that I could have contracted a terrible disease, that at least I still have legs.

I had so many questions which my doctors didn’t really answer so I turned to Google, of course.  The internet didn’t help much though. I had to fill in the blanks myself.

Buluang beach, El Nido, Philippines, where I got eaten by sandflies.

Buluang beach, El Nido, Philippines. This is where I got eaten by sandflies.


There are quite a lot of repellents for sand fly bites but if you’re in the Philippines your best bet should be OFF LOTION.  It’s sold nationwide in pharmacies and “sari-sari” stores.  I had a big bottle of it when we were in El Nido but for some reason I forgot to use them that day. Just my luck.


In the course of two months I went to four different doctors and got prescribed the following:

First doctor in El Nido, Philippines, gave me hydrocortisone cream, applied 7 days twice a day and a round of antibiotics for a week which I didn’t take.

Second doctor, a dermatologist in Cebu City, Philippines, told me to take Cefalexin 3 times a day for ten days, 1 tab of Virlix for 10 days and Cutivate cream applied twice a day for 2 weeks.

Third doctor here in Prague, Czech Republic,  injected 40mg of Solu Medrol in my right thigh.

Fourth doctor, a travel medicine specialist also here in Prague told me to apply Bactroban cream on bites that are still itchy twice a day for a week.

Q & A

These were the questions I had in mind and the answers I came up later through research and ultimately, through the experience of living and surviving the nightmare:

Q:  Do sand fly bites bring any kind of disease, like mosquitoes causing dengue or malaria?

A:  Yes, it’s called Leishmaniasis.  Some African and Asian countries are known to have sand flies that carry such disease.  Luckily Philippines is not among them but the first doctor here in Prague still took samples from one of my bites.  It came out negative, thank goodness.

Q:  How long does the itchiness last?

A:  In my case, the worst lasted for 6 months.  Then it was on and off for another half of the year.

Q:  Will the spots ever go away? What’s the best cream or ointment to use so there won’t be any scars?

A:  Yes, they will go away but it may take time.  It took a year for mine to disappear. 

For them not to scar, I tried Palmer’s scar serum but it didn’t seem to help.  Then I remembered what the second doctor in the Philippines said.  She said the bites will darken and will look awful for a while but they will go away eventually.  She also said the most important thing to do is to not scratch the bites.  If you scratch they will definitely scar, otherwise no need for any lightening cream.  She’s right.

Q:  What helps relieve the itchiness?

A:  Tea-tree oil, Fenestil cream, baking soda and water paste.  The most effective for me was tea tree oil.

Q:  Hot shower or cold shower?

A:  Both.  Hot shower helped relieve the itchiness but it also made the bites looked more swollen.  So I always ended each shower with a squirt of cold water on most affected parts.  I also made sure to just pat my skin with the towel when drying myself.  The cardinal rule in surviving sand fly bites is to never scratch.  Not ever.


It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if I took the antibiotics prescribed by the first doctor.  I was just so wary of them.  I had terrible allergic reactions to Augmentin and Zinat just a couple of months earlier.  I felt like any kind of antibiotics would just be a menace to my health.  This was also the doctor’s mistake.  Had she took the time to explain why I had to take them, I would have swallowed one in a heartbeat. But no, she just told me to take the medicines as prescribed and off you go.

I know some would think C’mon they are just bites, they wont kill you. Just that there’s something about the combination of not sleeping well due to the itching and the sight of yourself turning into a cheetah that makes you lose your cool.  If you’re experiencing it now, hang in there.  It will pass.

If you have more questions about how to survive sand fly bites, please feel free to ask or write in the comments section below.


11 May 2014

Dina’t Hart pointed out that antibiotics should only be taken if the bites are infected. (Please read comment below.)  She’s right, of course.  I shouldn’t have taken them since I only had an allergic reaction and not an infection.   Doctors are supposed to know what’s best but this is proof that not all of them know what they are doing.

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109 Responses to Surviving sandfly bites

  1. Kat S says:

    I had the exact same bites all over my ankles. It was one of the most excruciating experiences. I recently moved to Puerto Rico and didn’t take precautions on the beach. It took at least two weeks for the bites to go away. I went to the doctor and received an anti-inflammatory shot which only helped for the first day or two. I took benadryl for about four or 5 days. Now, however, nearly three weeks later, I noticed a new mark in the same area. It looks a bit different and has been changing in size. I think I need to go do a biopsy of it to rule out larvae or other things. It’s absolutely devastating that something as simple as going to the beach can turn into this nightmare.

    • Constance says:

      Me too!! Singapore changi beach.. it’s a nightmare for me!! It’s already 1 month and it’s still itchy and brown!! I’ve taken antibiotics and Jabs etc!! Still extremely itchy, gotten about 50 bites on both my legs!! Never been. Do devastated 😔 just brought my kids to see the nature and gotten surrounded and attacked by sand files. I have no choice, hot water, calamine lotion, steroids etc.. no use. It all became water blisters and I have to squeeze the water out to get some relief from the itching. In the end my mother in law gave me this Chinese cream that at least helped in the itching. Any one going to any beaches better to take precautions and check if there’s sand files coz it’s really not worth it!! It’s real suffering for me, my 2 teenager kids and my husband.

  2. hello says:

    Use suction cups to get all the eggs out. They bite and lay up to 60 eggs.

  3. Rory Quin says:

    Thanks so much for your advice. My wife had the same affliction. She got bitten in Umfolozi , South Africa. Symptoms match yours pretty much identically . She was also diagnosed by a doctor. This happened in late November, so 2 months ago. Very curious to know how long it took for your scars to fade. Hers are red to purple. They are perhaps looking slightly less angry now. Regards Rory

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Rory, my scars took around a year to fade. Please tell your wife not to scratch the bites. It’s difficult not to but I think they heal faster and better this way.

  4. Cen says:

    Hi, can you tell me the effective way to heal the bites. I’ve been struggling for year, but and it getting worse.

  5. Rochelle says:

    May I know if u also experienced that the bites hone off and then suddenly appeared again? and itch was gone and flatten then suddenly back again same spots and same redness and same itchiness again 😦 help ive tried different doctors and creams ointments still same ;( will work for awhile then back again…

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Rochelle, I’m sorry I left my blog unattended for so long it’s only now I read your message. Yes, that happened to me with some of the bites as well. What really worked for me was tea tree oil and refraining from scratching the bites as it would aggravate them some more. Hope you’re feeling a bit better now.

    • Constance says:

      Oh yes, mine is just like yours!! Doesn’t seem to have any remedy. I just gotten it a month ago!! 😫😩. Yours already going 2 years do you still have scars?? I really don’t know what to do the the scarring. Have been wearing long dresses for a month already 😭

      • Constance says:

        My life saver was a cream given by my mother in law coz all methods tried and nothing works!! The cream is TJHYML. It’s a Chinese cream I’ve never used it before the bites. I was in desperation and used it. At least it’s really cooling and helped to control a bit of the itching.

  6. Lyop says:

    So I got mine when I was three years, couldn’t really comprehend a thing. But now they have left terrible scars all over my arms and legs. I am now 15. Black rimmed scars. How do I get rid of them. Any suggestions? They don’t itch or anything. They are just there. I have tried lightening cream, seba med products…

  7. Liza says:

    EI just got back from nz: loved it but sand flies loved me:I took anti histamine and it helped a great deal, it took the. Itching away so no need to scratch; I still have. The bites but I’m sure they will go

  8. Carsten says:

    Nice post.

    I got around 300 bites 2 days ago, and i have done a little scratching. I Can’t help it. Its Hell 😃
    Got some creme from the hotel but Its not Working that Good. I dont Care that i look like shit, but the itching is killing me. I hope to find some tea three Oil in El Nido.

  9. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this post. I have just returned from Palawan, Philippines and have what I can only imagine are these sand flie bites. The backs of both of my legs are COVERED and I’m in absolute agony. I think the day I got bitten was 7 days ago. The next morning I had a patch of bites on the back of each thing and every single day since then it has gotten worse. The most concerning part to me is that it is continuing to spread. Why is that!? Is it because it has entered my bloodstream? It has moved up my leg as far as to cover my left butt cheek. I did go to an Urgent Care facility but the doctor barely glanced at it, asked me what I thought it was, and then prescribed doxycycline and hydrocortisone cream. I have no idea if that’s the right treatment. It had been almost 48 hours on the doxy so far and it definitely isn’t getting better yet. I had to travel from the US to London today so I’m wondering if I should go to the Hosptial for Tropical Disease here in London for a second opinion or just give it a few more days to see what happens.

  10. Sunrita says:

    I got sand fly bites from my visit to Koh Mak (Thailand) 9 days ago. The bites started getting worse upon my return home, which was after two days of being bitten. Doctor gave me corticosteroid cream and antihistamine tablets. What really gave me relief are as follows:
    1) Homeopathy medicines – “Rhus Tox 200” (once daily), “Natrum Sulph 6x” (4 tabs 4/5 times after a gap of one hour each), “Ferrum Phos 6x” and “Kali Mur 6x” for the swelling (4 tabs each once every one hour 3/4 times a day).
    2) The corticosteroid cream.
    3) INSTANT RELIEF FROM SCRATCHING – heat the back of a spoon over a lighted candle or a lighter and touch the bites directly with it (as much heart as you can take). The histamine in our blood responsible for causing the allergic reaction dissipates when in contact with heat. You’ll be surprised to see the red swollen bumps collapse and the itching vanish.
    4) Today is the 10th day of my bites and the itching has subsided by 80%. In the grace of God, I tried my level best to control the scratching and tried pressing or scratching the surrounding area of the bites.

    If you are going through the irritation of sand fly bites, I hope these will bring you great deal of relief. Wish you a speedy recovery.

  11. inan says:

    I was also a victim of that pesky bug here in Brunei first i didnt knew it till i experience it for the second time that i learned that the culprit was that bug called sandfly.Just hoping that sandfly here in Brunei has no record of that dreaded diseases called Leismaniasis same in the Philippines.Hope you reply with this thanks.

  12. stef says:

    Am trying the heat up bite technique- saw it in the commet thread- it’s second place I saw on the net that says its a good technique. optimistic that both times it says this will make it disappear in weeks rather than months!
    hoping it’ll work- its only day two and am trying real hard to avoid scratching!

    good luck all- maybe give this a try if all else fails.

  13. holthorn says:

    Hi, scrolling through this thread because I’m currently feeling everyone’s pain. Got bitten numerous times on my legs on a beach in Hong Kong in June 2016, it’s now March 2017 and most of the bites are gone but some remain and still itch like CRAZY. That’s not what scares me the most, though – it’s the fact that previously healed bites reappear when i scratch the area or a bite near it, and even worse, new ones have appeared on my arms as well.

    I’m really alarmed considering it’s been 9 months. I’ve tried all kinds of creams including SOOV (it works but only temporarily) and I’m slowly losing hope that it’s ever going to get better. I think I’m going to see a doctor because I hope to rule out leishmaniasis if anything. Sandfly bites are absolute HELL.

    • Felicia says:

      I’ve had the same situation happen twice now.
      First – April 2015 Cancun, Mexico
      Dinner in the sand lead to sand flea bites on feet, 1 on arm. I started itching immediately. Mine also oozed a clear liquid. Then a day later broke out in LARGE hives, off and on for 3 weeks. The bites itched off and on for two years. They are just now disappearing.
      Second – April 2017 Aruba
      Another dinner on the beach (event planner) landed me with multiple bites on my feet and legs and elbow. Again they oozed, itched unbearably and a day later broke out in large warm itchy hives only this time the hives have continued. Allergy/Immunology doc can’t test for things in other countries…I find they don’t really listen to you. They put me on Allegra & Zantac for 30 days, 1 of each twice a day. I also did a raw/vegan fruits & veggie diet for 2 weeks the combination of all that seemed to work for the hives. The bite marks are now black dots but some are still there my ankle has been itching the last couple of days. It’s like the bites left something in my system.

      I’m usually the person that get bit by mosquitos so I normally take precautions Aruba was really windy so I didn’t think I would get bitten. I have been to other countries between 2015 and now with no bites and no new issues.

    • Sara says:

      I love going to the beach and first time i got bitten when i went to Sri Lanka.Feeling so depressed because it’s going 9 mos now and having the same dilemma here, I also tried all kind of cream and it’s not going away.

  14. Abzilla says:

    Thanks for this! Glad to know the bites resolve themselves! I acquired my bites in October during my visit to Machu Picchu in Peru. Exactly the same thing and I still have them but progressively getting better. I’d say a lot of time swimming in the oceans of Coron, Palawan in the Philippines a couple of weeks ago absolutely helped with healing process. That salt water dried them up. I know the only reason they haven’t healed completely is the scratching. The way these bites itch is ridiculous sometimes I catch myself scratching. The Katinko stick works for me to relieve the itch which I purchased in the Philippines. Back home in the US now and I can’t wait for all this to be over. Unfortunately I’ll be headed to Cozumel with my boyfriend next week, my legs still full of “peklat”. Definitely use preventative bug sprays and lotions in South America! Pseudoshrink, my mom said the same thing about kulam! Lol!

  15. Nelly Pulido says:

    I’m so happy I found your article. I got back from Puerto Princesa a week ago (I’m positive I got bitten in Pandan Island), and the bites have gotten progressively worse! My right leg is full of bites, and they somehow multiplied and spread to my left leg and a few on my right arm. I’m on hydrocortisone cream and cetirizine tablets now, but they don’t seem to be doing anything for me. The spots would seem heal one day, and then turn red and bumpy again the next. For someone who is allergic to dust is is pretty used to being itchy, this, by far, is the worst ‘itch’ I’ve ever experienced. 😦 It’s taking all my self control and then some to not scratch these things.

    • Amanda says:

      I got back from el Nido and Puerto Princesa 4 days ago and am experiencing the same. They are progressively getting worse and spreading. Did you doctor tell you why they spread? I’m on doxycycline but I just saw an urgent care doctor and he had no idea what to do with me. Have you gotten better since February?

  16. Antonia says:

    Thank you for passing on your experience. I had a very similar one after visiting Buli beach and Nacpan beach..I woke the following morning COVERED with what seemed to be mozzy bites…or were they bed bugs..after research we realised it came from the sand bugs..itchy itchy but thanfully mine have not darkened. Good luck

  17. Ilea says:

    Thanks for the info! I was bit about three weeks ago while hiking Machu Picchu all over both my legs. The bites look like they start to fade away and then they turn dark purple again. They itch on and off but I’ve been really, really good about not itching. I’ve heard they take awhile to heal and go away so I am just keeping an eye on them before I take my crazy, mind wandering self to the doctor. In a selfish way, its nice to hear from others who have suffered as myself! 😜 Also, I’m grateful for the advice. Good luck everyone!

  18. Kim Cicco says:

    I got bitten to no end by sand fly this is horrible . The itch is the worse . Baking soda and water paste works the best for me .

  19. pseudoshrink says:

    Thanks to your blog entry, I finally know what bit me in Siquijor. My parents were close to thinking I was nakulam na. LOL! I got bitten early March and the scars are still itchy up to now.

    • marialeila says:

      Hahaha at the kulam, cracked me up big time! I haven’t heard that word in a while. Hope the itchiness will go away soon!

      • pseudoshrink says:

        Hahahahaha! You probably know what they say about Siquijor being a mystical island. And my parents are very superstitious. The thing is, last month, I am a teenie-weenie bit closer to believing that I was indeed hexed. Kasi naman ang tagal-tagal na di pa rin gumagaling.

        Still itches every now and then. So difficult not to scratch. I guess some people (like me) have more averse reaction. My husband was bitten but did not develop any redness or prolonged itchiness.

        Have a great day!

      • marialeila says:

        Oh yes, I lived un Cebu and used to travel around Dumaguete and Siquijor for work. I used to scare and play pranks to my Luzon-based colleagues whenever they were visiting Siquijor with me. Kaya ang lakas ng tawa ko sa kulam. Blast from the past hahaha.. Thanks for the laughs and don’t worry, the bites and itchiness will go away one day.

  20. Sara says:

    I went to beach 2 days ago and am now covered in hell like itch with moment to moment new spots. Now, there is no way i am patient enough to wait 9 weeks or 5 months! In my mind, if they are a parasite, an anti parasitic oil applied liberally and often should eradicate them- will be dousing myself in any and everything i have and advise of the results.

  21. Matthew says:

    Maybe this will help some and maybe not but I’m from the usa and moved to cebu Philippines and from time to time encounter thiese lovely little buggers on the feet after spending time at the beach and best cure I found was extremely hot heat seems to kill the itch in a mater of seconds and can last for hours or days depending on the size of the spot…..being a smoker I simply light my lighter, tip it sideways and allow the flame to heat the metal top then apply it directly to the affected spot and although it stings for a second it seems to do the trick for me and I’m healed up within a few weeks without issue…..the key is ((NOT)) to over heat the metal so hot it actually burns or brands your skin but it should be hot enough you feel some discomfort….experiment with lighting the lighter for a few seconds and immediately apply to affected areas….if it still itches try a second or two longer the next time….if you have 1-10 bites this should work well…..if you have 100s most likely not worth the time.

  22. maliha says:

    i have a similar case of sandfly bite. A boy of 12 years was bit by a sand fly 8 months back but due to lack of awareness and monetary problems he was not treated. the boy was bitten on the nose and now its swollen and dark purple. the nose was operated and a treatment of 6 month vaccine was adviced by doctors. the boy is currently under treatment by is suffering from nose bleading. the doctors say that the infection is spread into the blood. the boy is not feeling any pain but is always exhausted.
    Any suggestion or treatment for this.

  23. Charisma says:

    Hi marielle
    I have been to el nido palawAn specifically to nacpan about 2 weeks now and unluckily got bitten by sand flies in may arms and mostly in may legs. Sometimes i feel like crying coz still its so itchy after all the creams i am using. Ive been using bactroban and calmoseptine cream to relieve the itch. Some are toning down some got darken and others are like dark pimples which are a bit raised and looks like has water inside. Do you experienced this one ? I actually read your article like 3 days after the bites so i was not that scared anymore but knowing it could last up to a year and the itch can be longer i feel depressed coz i can no longer wear skirts and shorts. Specially ill be having my wedding nextyear. Haaaayyyy sad experience for all of us.

    • marialeila says:

      Hello there, congratulations on your coming wedding! So sorry to hear about your bites though. I did have a few raised ones that looked like there was water inside but most of them were just raised and swollen. In my case it did take a whole year for them to completely disappear but that’s just how my skin is. A mosquito bite for me would take a few weeks to heal. Maybe it will be different for you. Maybe it will just take a few weeks to go away. Like I said before, a friend of mine got bitten in the same place as I was and his bites only took a week or two to go away. So cheer up, don’t scratch and just concentrate on happier things like your coming wedding! 🙂

    • Sian says:

      Hey Charisma, try not to panic! I know I did after reading this blog post a few weeks back, after I’d been bitten and had 100+ bites all over my body (but mainly on my legs). But now 5 weeks on they are healing – just slower than I would like. I just posted about my experience in the comments below, but I’d really recommend you go to a doctor and see what they say. I went after a week of insane itchiness and he told me they were infected and gave me antibiotics and steroid cream, which really helped.

  24. Mahera says:

    So I was in El Nido, at Nacpan beach with 5 friends and only I ended up with Sandfly bites ALL OVER my body. Just like you said, the bites didn’t appear until about 12 hours later when I was awakened by the insane itching.

    Fast forward 5 weeks later, and I’m still covered in them and they are still severely itchy. Mine were never infected and still look fine. Although I often wake up to my sheets with tiny blood stains on them because of severe itching.

    Unlike you I never went to the doctor. I’m in the medical field and was quick to self diagnose. I’m curious to hear if the solumedrol shot helped you with the itching? I know my skin is going to scar horribly because I scratch like a maniac in my sleep. 😦

    • marialeila says:

      I’m not sure now if solu medrol helped me with the itching but it did help me with the inflammation. Post solu medrol most of the bites kinda toned down to brownish red and not that swollen anymore. Hope that helps a bit. 🙂

  25. Sian says:

    Oh wow, this blog has depressed me! It’s very informative, so thank you for the detailed info and remedies, but also very depressing because I got bitten in Tioman Island, Malaysia, a few days ago and was under the name impression (mistakenly, it now seems) that they would be gone in a few weeks. 😦 I have around 90 bites on my legs and probably another 30 or so on my torso and arms. The itchiness is driving me crazy, but I’m trying my hardest not to itch them because I definitely don’t want ugly scars all over legs as a constant reminder of this horrible experience! I haven’t tried any of the remedies suggested on here yet, but definitely will do now, anything to make the itching stop! Thank you again for all the suggestions. I’m just praying that somehow I’m luckier than you were, and all the other commenters on this post, and my bites don’t take a year to go – not sure my sanity (not to mention, vanity) would take it!

    • Chrissy Mason says:

      If it makes you feel better, mine are almost gone. A few spots that look like bites on my forearms thar hopefully won’t scar, but they are healing up well. So, it was only 2 weeks for me. The thing that worked best for me was Calamine lotion. Good luck.

      • Sian says:

        Thanks Chrissy, it’s reassuring to hear not such a bad story as most of the others on this thread! Hope yours continue to heal well.

      • Sian says:

        Update on my bites – just to reassure anyone who is reading this blog post and panicking like I was! I got bitten about 5 weeks ago now and *hopefully* the worst seems to be over. I went to the doctor in Singapore (where I live) who told me he sees sandfly bites all the time, however mine had become quite badly infected. He gave me oral antibiotics and a steroid cream. After taking them for just 24 hours the change was visible and when I’d finished the course of both they were looking and feeling so much better.

        However within a couple of days of finishing the course they started to get much worse again (itchiness, redness, raised-ness, and just generally looking and feeling like they had done a few days after I’d been bitten). So after about a week with no improvement I went back to the same doctor and he told me that they were still infected and put me back on another (longer) course of oral antibiotics and steroid cream. Again, the same pattern followed – massive improvement/healing while taking the medication, and worsened again once I finished the course.

        However, this time I have held out and am trying not to go back for more medication (I feel that it can’t be good to take a third course?) and they do *slowly* seem to be getting better. So I’m hopeful that my body is learning to fight them off by itself.

        All I would say to anyone feeling panicked and miserable like I was when I first had them and read this blog post is DO go to the doctor (that’s what they’re there for – and I say that as someone who very rarely goes to them) – the medication I was prescribed really did help, it’s just unfortunate it doesn’t seem to have totally cleared them up. They may be infected and you don’t know it (as I didn’t) and the doctor can help with that.

  26. Jami says:

    Omg I’m tearing my feet apart I’m making my self bleed. Went to flordia a week ago starting itching my feet and arms about 3 or 4 days after I came home. I know what they are sand flies them little buggers. I was up two night in row itching, itching, and itching enough to drive you crazy. All I put on them was cortisone cream that seem to help temporary. What are they, where do they come from, how long will the itching be with me. I’m leaving for Costa Rica on the 5th of April I hope it goes away by then.

  27. Latisha says:

    I’ve been fighting over 140 bites on my arms and legs for 9 months now. It has been hell. I have been prescribed everything. The only thing that works for me is to apply a freezing compress to my affected area. Hoping this will end soon.

    • Christine Mason says:

      Oh, this is making me nervous. We just got back from a week in Daytona Beach, Florida, and I have a lot of bites, most on my arms and shoulders. They itch like crazy. I worked out on the beach every morning. I believe that’s how I got them. New bites keep popping up each day. From what I’ve read and heard from friends, it can take days for them to break out into itchy spots. So far, Hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl to sleep at night is all I’m doing. I survived (barely) a horrible Wild Parsnip rash last summer, it was pure hell for weeks. Now, I’m worried that these are going to be just as bad. Do they really last weeks and months???

      • poetryroads says:

        If they are true sandfly bites they will take up to a day to become itchy and the itch intensifies gradually. I just got back from a trip to the gigantes islands in the Philippines and I too am covered in them all over my legs, arms and even a few on my face. I am well aquatinted with the sandfly bite, I suffered from them when I moved into a place situated by a river that was riddled with them. It has taken a solid year for scars to disappear or fade at the least. I am a pharmacist and am well informed of every cream and lotion or potion, natural or medicated. The most important and crucial thing is not to itch them if you can help it. Antihistamines will help and apply as much cream as you need to stop you from itching. Lots of people rave on about antiseptic creams or savlon or whatever else. They do not stop the itch in the slight, they are only antibacterial creams that help keep the bites sterile and will not help your cause. You are best to get a cream with anaesthetic in it to prevent itch. Apply it as often as possible and antihistamines daily. Goodluck !

  28. Gerry says:

    This helps so much. I got bitten in Sydney in October. They still itch like crazy, will definitely try what has been advised. Thank you.

  29. Juju says:

    Thank god it isnt just me! I am in NZ also and mine look just like yours in the photo (bottom one)! Its been a month and they still itch and BURN (red, hot allergic itch) …… Tea tree is working well to calm them down, but if I scratch one then all of the others in the area react and swell and itch again. I can notice a difference when I dont take my antihistamines (for hayfever) …. if I miss a day, the itch gets worse …..your post is great, I was starting to worry ….. but will just wait it out, and maybe mention it to doc next time I go. ARGH!!!

  30. Danica jean y says:

    Hi i got bitten by sandflies last September when we went to Nacpan Beach El Nido. Im getting depressed because ive been applying creams prescribed by the derma and it doesnt get any better :”( what medicine did you put that made it disappear. And ive been scratching it real hard because i cant take it anymore. Did you scratch yours as well and did it leave scars? Pls pls pls respond. Im dying to have answers. Tomorrow ill see my derma again and ask for some more medications

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Danica, that infamous Nacpan Beach, really. Did your derma prescribe you hydrocortisone cream? That one didn’t help me. Like I said, tea tree oil was the one that helped me the most. I also bandaged my bites at night to keep me from scratching them in my sleep.

      It took superhuman effort but I managed NOT to scratch them real hard so the bites didn’t scar later. That’s what my derma in Cebu told me: no scratch, no scars.

      You can refer to the list of meds I was given but your dermatologist should know what will work for you. Hang in there, it will be better.

      • Danica jean y says:

        Will the tea tree oil relieve the itch and lessen the inflammation? Im here at the clinic now, going to let the dermatologist check my bites again. Im getting paranoid already cause the ones from my friends are getting dry already but mine looks like its fresh again.

      • marialeila says:

        Both in my case though I also have to give credit to bactroban for helping relieve the inflammation. Same story with me. A Czech friend got devoured as well but the bites completely disappeared in just two weeks while mine took a year. I guess your skin is just more sensitive than your friend’s.

    • marialeila says:

      Also try the baking soda and water paste. It has natural ingredients so it won’t be harmful to your skin. If your skin is as sensitive as mine, just be warned that the worst part may last up to 6 months. But also remember that if I survived through it all, you will, too. 🙂

      • Cat says:

        I put lavender oil mixed with a drop of olive oil, as soon as I felt the itch and it was GONE in 2-3 min. 4 hrs later and still no itch. Just now googling what it is. Hoping the lavender oil will also help the bumps to go away quicker than what I’m reading 😕. We got home last Thursday from the Carribean. Bites are just appearing and starting itching this morning, 6 days later.

      • Abie says:

        When did you apply baking soda and water paste? Im suffering for almost 6months 😦 thanks!

      • marialeila says:

        After about 4-6 months of being bitten. Hope you’ll feel better soon!

      • Abie says:

        Thanks Marialeila, hope it will end soon. BTW, did you put baking soda when it has open wound?

      • marialeila says:

        No, coz I didn’t have an open wound. I used it only for the itchiness to be bearable.

    • Pauline Vitto says:

      How was your bites doing? Are they still itching? I wish I could’ve read this comment before going to Nacpan Beach because I also got mine there. Its been three months now. Some are itching, some are red, some, maroon. 😦 Im using Cutivate (im not so sure) and using liquid paraffin. Also drinking some meds at night. Im getting depressed by this because now its going to be summer here in UAE and I can’t be wearing long sleeves all the time!

  31. Valerie Baker says:

    I returned from Machu Picchu over two weeks ago and had several bug bites on my legs. Now they are raised large bumps that look horrific. Fortunately for myself I do not itch but also never itch when I get a mosquito bite as well. How long will these bumps stay and should I really go to the doctor especially since they are not open sores?

    • Pat says:

      Wow, we were at Machu Picchu Sept 24-25 2015 and were blood sacrifices for the sand flys. My legs have so many bites that I would have to mark them with a magic marker to try and count them

  32. maria says:

    Omg went camping and sandflies bites all over 2nd a grrr itching lavender oil helps a bit any suggestions to home remedies

  33. “Dina’t Hart pointed out that antibiotics should only be taken if the bites are infected. (Please read comment below.) She’s right, of course. I shouldn’t have taken them since I only had an allergic reaction and not an infection. Doctors are supposed to know what’s best but this is proof that not all of them know what they are doing.”

    i am sure the doctor knows how to tread sandfly but it is likely he gave antiobiotics because he is thinking what if it is not because of sandfly and could be bacterial skin infection that you can get easily from soil

  34. Julie says:

    After battling this parasite last summer, I still come back to this post to check on my fellow ‘sand fly community.’ after three months of chronic symptoms, I finally had a firm visit with my doctor about being more assertive with treatments, an official diagnosis, and requested to go to an infectious disease doctor. I’m thankful for the steroid shots, the antihistamines, the antibiotics from him. Plus the constant salt baths, cleansers, and Bactrin creams. But I wanted it resolved or at least good educated answers or research. He asked me to let him try one more thing first, Permethrin cream treatment. It really helped me. I have not had another breakout since. I had one area that was sensitive periodically and one raised spot about a week ago but thats it. I still have little slight painful shocks it seems in my arms like nerve or muscular injury or healing. Not sure. But otherwise., so far so good. I do have scars that are fading over time. Look like small sun spots now. Thank you Maricelle for this blog. to my fellow sand fly victims, you are not crazy. You are your only advocate, so remain assertive and diligent in your treatment of this stubborn parasitic condition.

  35. Jane says:

    Thanks so much Marialeila! I have just returned from NZ covered in sandfly bites and I am going crazy with itchiness. I will make an appt with my doctor to get bactroban and will try tea tree oil. While I was away I found lavender oil very helpful for the itching too!

  36. Kayla says:

    I’ve been bit in an artificial sand court in Metro Manila and initially there was no itching..24-48hrs after a beach VB tournament, tons of players were complaining about itching on their lower back/butt/upper hit about a dozen people! I was fine initially..then noticed dots on my left butt cheek, no itching.. Fast forward a few days later and now the dots have progressed into red bumps all over my left butt cheek and itch like crazy! I’ve applied Calmoseptine ointment and Nizoram cream over the last 24 hours but now I’m noticing a few bumps have appear on my right butt cheek now.. It’s comforting to read others stories however 6 months to a year is quite some time!! The location of my bites doesn’t help as sitting irritates it! Not sure how soon I can get treated for allergic reaction but I will definitely try to get my hands on tea tree oil..any other tips while living in Manila?? Thank goodness I came across your page!

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Kayla, don’t worry, people react differently to the bites. I have a friend who got “eaten” in the same beach I was but he only suffered for two weeks. Hopefully you will feel better soon, too. My body just really reacts terribly to bug/insect bites. If you can get fenistil gel in Manila, that could help. Baking soda and water paste also works wonders.

  37. DOINA says:

    Thanks God for you Marialeila! I am desperate since few days ago coming back from Cuba… it is spreading all over my body and now it starts with my face. I saw the doctor today and he gave me only BENADRYL and CORTIZONE. Did you have it only on your legs? I think that I need antibiotics, I am really afraid!

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Doina, I was bitten on my legs but the allergic reaction spread all over my back. I’m sorry to hear that you have them on your face. 😦 Don’t be scared, the bites look really awful, not to mention the sleepless nights the itchiness would give you, but it will pass. As I have mentioned over and over again, it’s important not to scratch the bites so they wont get infected and wont scar later.

      • DOINA says:

        Thanks a lot Marialeila. Your experience and site is a blessing. Meanwhile, I used Tea-Tree oil and it works, less itching. I am less worried about myself (Monday I will have an appointment to the Tropical Diseases Clinic in Montreal – to find out more -and will let you know), I am wondering if those bugs are spreading in our house. Clothes, beds, did take additional measures?

      • marialeila says:

        I’m glad to be of any help, Doina. I’m also glad you’re feeling less worried. No, I didn’t take any additional measures like constantly changing sheets because we were still travelling around the Phils for two weeks after being bitten and were mostly staying in hotels. Goodluck to your doc appointment on Monday!

  38. chrisfey says:

    Hi Marialeila,

    Thank you for writing your story down here. I suffer the same at the moment since I was bitten by this damn sandflies on Monday at Nacpan Beach El Nido. They are so itchy and now they turned into deep dark big welts. 😦 I am so desperate because my legs are covered with over 70 bites and they’re sooo know ugly. Will they ever go away? And what would work best from your experience.
    Thank you soooo much,

    • chrisfey says:

      And when will they finally start to disappear? 😢

      • marialeila says:

        Mine started disappearing at around 6 months. After a year my legs were good as new. Hang in there, it’ll be fine. Just. don’t. scratch. 🙂

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Chrisfey, oh that’s a lot of bites! So sorry to hear. First thing, DON’T scratch the bites so they wont get infected. I also suggest you go to a doctor to be sure if you’re not allergic to the bites and to get the right prescription. The one that really worked for me was teatree oil which I bought online here in Prague. Try also the baking soda-water mixture to ease the itchiness…Yes, they’ll go away even without applying any lightening cream later (as long as you don’t scratch now) but it may take time, like six months to a year. 😦

  39. Great thread going. It is odd they continue to spread days/weeks/etc. after initially getting bit.

    I am fair skinned and seem to attract a lot of f*ing -buggers, always wanting a sweet drink. I have had sand flies bite me before in Korea a few years back which left a few random scars on my hands, reclining back with my hands in the sand to support my weight. Those eventually went away after a year or so and that was the result of only a few bites. That time however the bumps didn’t seem to progress after that beach trip.

    I live in Huntington Beach, CA and surf roughly 4 times a week. I went out last Friday came in from the ocean and stopped to chat with a friend for roughly twenty minutes. I must have buried my feet in the middle of a sand flies baptism because they got me pretty good. It is now the following Tuesday and I had a few “newer” looking bumps come up. Hydra-cortisone cream has seem to reduce the inflammation for me the greatest but mine really don’t itch all that badly. It’s nice to know that other people have had them come up after the initial day because disturbed me at first. I have actually been back out in the ocean twice, what with the cold right now it feels nice.

    I’m wondering if anyone knows if they can latch onto you and then perhaps fall off on other surfaces and continue to live?? The carpet on my floor board, my wet-suit, etc.. I have cleaned those surfaces but still would like to know.

    As someone who has suffered from poison ivy while growing up, these bites do suck but are not nearly as uncomfortable as poison ivy, even though the rashes and persistent “new” bumps are similar. Additionally, I would rather take these flies’ bites over the shocked stingray lashing I took this summer…now that’s some “bring a grown man to tears” pain…if they get you just right.

    If things don’t start clearing up I may visit the clinic just to test for Leishmaniasis, a pretty gnarly sounding disease that is spread by sand flies that apparently can kill you if untreated.

    Anyway, my lesson learned – keep a can of OFF near my sunscreen in the car. A few seconds of spraying is worth it!!

  40. nindy says:

    Witch Hazel put in a squirt bottle and applied to the bites works the best for me. Also Vicks Vaporub works well too

  41. nesbittie says:

    Hey, I am from New Zealand and we have lots of sand flies here. I have some bites at the moment but nothing comparable to what any of you guys have. I was searching remedies just hoping to get them cleared up within the next week! But, here in New Zealand when the bites are infected (which is the case for all of you who continue to get bites after the initial bites) the doctor prescribes steroids if other remedies haven’t worked. It may be worth researching this and suggesting it to your doctor. Also, I currently have Peppermint foot cream all over my legs and its working a treat!
    Good luck!

  42. LynZ says:

    Marialeila did you apply anything to lighten the scar or just leave it be? I am applying aloe vera gel to lighten the scar now and I’ve got to agree the TEATREE OIL works! Thank God I found your blog when the itchy was going crazy and I immediately went to Watson to buy it! Your blog has saved my life opps I mean legs hahaha so a big thank you to you 🙂

    • marialeila says:

      Hi LynZ, you’re welcome. Glad to be of any help. 🙂 I tried Palmer’s scar serum for only a week or so then I just left the scars alone. They were gone after about a year. I was bitten 4th of August, I think, then by July the next year the scars were hardly there.

  43. Marra says:

    I went to the beach here in Canada almost 2 weeks ago & sat in the sand.

    2 days later: 25+ bites on the backs of my thighs. Horrible itching & burning. The welts lasted about 4 days & they stopped itching & turned into dark scars.

    2 days after that: more bites show up right next to the original bites. These too are itchy red welts like in the picture. They go down after 2-3 days & turn into dark scars

    The next morning: 5-6 new welts around the original bite area. Itchy red welts.

    The next morning: 6-7 new welts in the same area.

    Tomorrow will mark 2 weeks since going to the beach & it’s so upsetting to have new marks every few days. The doctor told me I’m allergic to the bites & prescribed Reactine 20mg and Betaderm cream. Neither are doing anything & so I will go back to the doctor again tonight.

    I don’t even care that my legs are scarred at this point, I would just like to know when new welts will stop showing up. Can someone please tell me this? When did you stop getting recurring bites?

    I’ve been in tears, I just want it to stop!

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Marra,

      So sorry to hear about it. It was exactly like that for me – new welts turning up every few days for about three to four weeks (yes, that long), then in the course of six months there were about two or three welts that would wake up and torture me now and then.

      I hope your doctor would give you something to at least lessen the itchiness. Just hang in there. You’ll make it through as I did.

      • Marra says:

        Thanks for responding. It’s nice to know I’m not alone & that you were able to make it through. It’s also good to hear that in a couple more weeks I hopefully will not have “new” bites showing up.

        Friends/coworkers I talk to about it seem to think bite showing up weeks later is crazy & I agree. I’ve never had any of my bites react like this in the past but usually I’m just dealing with mosquitoes. People (other than doctors) are trying to tell me that if bites are showing up today then I must have gotten bit by something yesterday/recently. I know this is not the case as I’ve been petrified to even spend more time outside.

        I’ll ask my doctor tonight about the medications that helped you below & maybe I’ll be feeling better tomorrow. Did you find that the antibiotic helped a lot?

        I’m glad to hear that I’m not the 1st person with this kind of a reaction. Thank you so much for the quick response!

      • marialeila says:

        No problem, anything to help…I think what really helped was the Solu Medrol injection for the severe allergic reaction I had. But I also think this drug is quite strong and anyway, your doctor should be able to prescribe what’s best for you.

        Bactroban cream also helped and tea tree oil was my best friend till the bites and dark spots disappeared.

        Goodluck and don’t worry, it will pass. Just try not to scratch so your bites wont get infected and by next summer your legs will be good as new. 🙂

      • Marra says:

        Oh & also side note to future sufferers.

        The best thing that took away most of the itch was New-Skin liquid bandage. It kept most of the itch away for long periods of time & I could survive my work day. I will forever bring this stuff on vacations in future.

        One weird thing that temporarily stopped the itch was Nasonex nasal spray- I know that sounds super weird but I read it somewhere, I was desperate & had it next to me already.

        Did not work for me – Benadryl Anti-itch stick and also the pills, Reactine 20mg, Betaderm cream

      • Julie says:

        Mara. My doctor also told me if I have prescription Flonase nasal spray use it cause it has a antihistimine in it that would be helpful during the day without causing drowsiness. So yes your Nasonex was helping.

  44. Dina 't Hart says:

    I realise this is an oldish post but I still wanted to comment. I am covered in sand fly bites right now that’s how I found this post. Yaikes, is it ever awful!!!!!
    Thanks for putting all the information out there. I found the tee trea oil works, I also often apply ice, it seems to soothe the itch.
    But I cannot believe that doctors would give antibiotics!!! Antibiotics are for bacterial infections (and would only help for infected insect bites) and will do nothing for insect bites. They only ruin your immune system (gut flora). I would NEVER even consider taking them for insect bites and I also think lots of doctors cannot be trusted. This is only day three after getting bitten and it seems like I have long way to go but I will avoid going to the doctors (especially here in Papua New Guinea) as much as I can and just deal with the itch until it’s gone.

    • marialeila says:

      Hi, thank you for pointing that out about antibiotics. You’re right, it should only work for infected insect bites. I guess I was just desperate (and well, ignorant) for whatever works that I just believed what I was told and passed it on here. I’ll amend the last part of this post for people to be more cautious in taking them. Thanks again and goodluck. Maybe it wont be that bad or that long for you.

      • Julie says:

        If you want to revise that it’s for allergic reactions only that’s fine. But really I think anybody that has 25 bites or more should have antibiotics right away due to the infection the toxins can cause to your cells. This post was great for me. Thank u.

  45. Arzyan says:

    I’m literally “dying” from this irritating itch!! I was in Lombok,Indonesia last week and only got the itchy symptoms when I’m back home in Singapore!! I was panicking as I thought I had the chicken pox but the doctor said there is no possibilty of a person getting chicken pox twice in their life. So yeah,they prescribed me with Zrytec and Uniflex cream. They worked for a while and my skin start to itch again!! Every morning there would be new spots and they will itch like hell!!! Arrrrghhh!!!! So ANNOYING!!!!!!!

    • Nancy says:

      Just returned from Nusa Dua Bali and was eaten alive on the beach there too! First time in my 60 years. Horrible welts and wish I had stayed in ubud the entire trip now. I’m also still getting new ones popping up! Using benedryl oral and cream. Marks look so ugly!

  46. Mimi says:

    Hey fellow sandfly sufferers I just got back from Malaysia suffering sandfly bites. I left a day and a half ago and I’m still discovering new bites that start to itch is this normal or are they spreading? I’m really trying not to itch and doing all of the suggested advice. Thanks guys :/

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Mimi, yes it’s normal. I experienced the same thing and my dermatologist said they were not actually bites but an allergic reaction. See a doctor if it bothers you a lot. You might have to take anti-histamine pills or something. Anyway, try not to scratch the bites so they wont scar. 🙂

  47. Mary says:

    I went to Puerto Rico in July 2013 and I got bitten by sandflies. I have at least 200 bites on both legs. The itch on my legs subsided but it all turned dark black/purple. Did this happened to you too? How soon did they fade? Im worried that I can never wear shorts or skirts again. 😦 Also, the itch on my legs subsided after 3 months by a lot (original bite site), but now I am itchy on my head, the palm of my hand, buttocks, and stomach. Did this happened to you too? I went to the doctor and he said its just an allergic reaction. I don’t think the doctor know what he is talking about. He also took a biopsy of one of the bites and has not gotten back to me with the result yet (he is on vacation). Please reply to let me know if you received this symptoms as well. It might ease my anxiety a bit. Thanks in advance.

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Mary,

      Yes, everything that you’re experiencing now happened to me. All the bites turned dark and ugly which made me so depressed it alarmed my husband a bit. 🙂 In my case the dark spots started fading 6-8 months later. (Yes, that long. My only consolation was it was winter here in Prague that time so I was mostly in tights and pants when out.) A year after being bitten most of the dark spots were gone and I was back to wearing shorts and skirts. You will be, too. Just don’t scratch them. Never ever.

      Yes, the allergic reaction happened to me as well though it happened a week after being devoured by sand flies and not later. Did you get prescribed with an anti-histamine? I was given Virlix plus some antibiotics for it. They helped a lot.

      Actually, three out of the four doctors I went to see didn’t seem to care much about my condition. They were like ” Oh, they will go away eventually, don’t worry about it.” Or “It’s just an allergic reaction, here take these pills.” Only one took a swab which later called to say the results are negative and “not to worry about it.” Hard to believe especially when you look at yourself turning into a cheetah but you know what, they were right. The spots will go away eventually.

      I hope this eases a bit of your anxiety, Mary and I hope your doctor will call you soon. Goodluck and just message me if you have more questions.

      • Mary says:

        Thank you so much for your quick response! Yes, your message definitely helped me with my anxiety.

        Unfortunately I have been scratching these bites in my sleep for the first 2 months. I would wake up every morning with bloody clothing and bed sheets from my unconscious scratching. 😦

        Yes, I am currently taking many anti-histamines. My bathroom looks like a pharmacy. I have used calamine lotion, diphenhydramine, atarax, lidocaine, halog cream, zyrtec, allegra, claritin, hydrocortisone, and multiple over the counter anti-pruitic sprays. Most of these medications did not work for me. I was so desperate in relieving the itch that I put 70% alcohol on it, nail polish (yes, nail polish), and hairspray. The alcohol, nail polish, and hairspray was not my idea by the way. LOL. I read these suggestions online and it did not work for me.

        My doctor prescribed me doxycycline (antibiotic) but I am debating if I should take it or not. I am just afraid it my suppress my immune system. But since the antibiotic worked for you, I am considering taking it now.

        But thank you so much for your response. I love your blogging by the way. Very creative!!!

      • marialeila says:

        Thanks and LOL at the nailpolish! I also didn’t take the antibiotics at first but my second doctor insisted they were necessary to kill the bacteria or something. If the original bites would get itchy again, try to apply tea tree oil and cover them with band-aids or wrap them in gauze bandage before you sleep. I did the tea tree oil + band-aid combo and it worked wonders. 🙂

  48. Ryan says:


    Im still suffering from the bites badly 😦
    May i know if any of the medicine prescribe from your doctor actually helps?
    Or tea tree oil works the best?

    Thank you!

    • marialeila says:

      Hi Ryan, Sorry to hear that, I surely know the feeling…Bactroban did help. It eliminated maybe half of the bites. Tea tree oil took care of the rest. It also helped relieve the itchiness so I was able to sleep at night. I hope it will work for you,too. Goodluck!

  49. airah says:

    you’re an angel! been struggling with my on-off sandfly bites since feb of 2012..i can relate with your story, on feeling upset with how my legs look like but just looking at the brighter side that at least it’s not something really serious. i have tried ampho-B, pimafucort, locoid cream, etc, etc but nothing seemed to work. some spot-bites are gone now but there are two that keep coming back..i used to hide them with stockings..but hell, enough with it. im flaunting it now! I’ll try tea tree oil, i hope it’ll work for me!

    • marialeila says:

      yep, flaunt it! I used to wear stockings, too till my colleague told me to just flaunt my bites because they meant i was in some exotic location and that’s something to be proud of. i guess she just wanted to cheer me up and it did help hehehe….i hope the tea tree oil will work for you as it did for me. don’t worry, those bites will eventually disappear for good 🙂

  50. Dawn says:

    Oh my god!!!!! Hope ok na ka. I thought it was dengue. No wonder i never like the beach part. 🙂 aside from the sun. I just go there to eat.

    • marialeila says:

      i’m now ok dawn, thanks. finally most scars have faded and the itching gone. better rub off lotion next time you go to the beach as precaution. unsaon nalang ang kahamis sa imong kutis, aguuy!

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