Thailand and the bite of the sand fly

THéo COurant

Travelling around South East Asia


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Thailand and the bite of the sand fly

The sand fly is a nasty, aggressive and voracious little insect and it can ruin your holiday.

It lives on the beach, preferably where the sand is wet. It is present in some areas of southern Thailand at the end of the dry season and on some islands like Koh Mak.

It tends to mostly attack people on the beach, towards the end of the afternoon, and loves areas that are sheltered from the wind

The sand fly does not fear water. You might have water up to your hips but it can still bite you.

How do you recognise a sand fly?


The sand flies of Thailand are a lot smaller than their western cousins. They look like midges with a rather pale body and little black wings with white spots.  Some of them also have a black body with white wings (we’ll admit our knowledge of entomology is limited but, unfortunately, we have met both types of insects). They are not very brave; they attack in small groups, then bite and suck your blood.

The bite…

You will not feel anything after the sand fly bites you. You might notice a few red spots here and there but that’s about it… It is only 5 to 8 hours later that you will start feeling itchy. The bites are extremely irritating and will last for several days – from 10 to 20 days sometimes. The sand fly bites are considerably more itchy than mosquito bites, they can also be much bigger and stay for a lot longer.

The dangers…

Firstly, people who have allergies can develop complications. Secondly, vigorous scratching of the itchy bites can lead to infection, bleeding and potentially more serious problems. Lack of sleep and treatment (in some cases) can also bring about tiredness and irritation.

The treatment

Head to the pharmacy to have the bites looked at. The pharmacist will probably prescribe an antihistaminic (Cetirizine for example) and a cream to soothe the area – these creams may contain corticosteroids like Betamethasone. Read the contraindications carefully.

As an alternate solution, you can use alcohol on a compress and apply it to the bites. Leave it for a few minutes: the inflammation should go down and the area feel less itchy. You can get alcohol and compresses at any seven-eleven or in pharmacies.

Using Tiger balm is not recommended as it can slow down the healing process and make the itching worse.

Here is a tip to avoid getting bitten by sand flies

The beach is infested but it’s gorgeous and you can’t resist sunbathing for a while. The flies are not going away. Here is two little tip to avoid getting bitten:

  • apply sun lotion first (never ming the level of protection!) and then spray insect repellent on yourself. It is a rather toxic cocktail but with these two layers on you, it seems the sand flies can’t bite you!
  • Ecological solution (which works very well): use coconut oil! Easy and very effective! Two disadvantages: when it is very hot, it burns! Take care of your clothes with coconut oil.