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What The Papers Say:

In parts of South East Asia and Latin America, you need to be very wary of sandflies.

Some areas / islands have many, many bugs, and most of them like to bite you and suck your blood.

DEET-based repellents will keep off the mosquitos, but won’t make any difference at all to the sandflies.

People on the internet recommend the FREQUENT application of oil-based products:

  • The cheapest and easiest is baby oil, though it’s no good if you have sun-sensitive skin;
  • Deep Ocean bug repellent also works well enough, but is pretty expensive;
  • Avon’s Skin-So-Soft (originally a bath oil) as it repels mosquitos, sandflies, even gnats. It smells nice and doesn’t have the really worrying chemicals that other products do. The only catch is that you can only buy it through or, so you have to buy it before you go as it’s not available locally. You also need to reapply it every few hours for maximum protection, like sunscreen, but it’s worth it if you don’t want your lower legs covered in bite scars!
  • Tea Tree oil…put a few drops in your sunscreen, so you apply it regularly.

Apply oil directly to your skin before leaving your room in the morning and again before going to dinner at night.

Make sure not to set your beach bags or towels on the bed when you return to the room as the critters will migrate back with you and get into your bed.

Put a few drops of Tea Tree on or in your shoes in the closet.

Affects Some More Than Others:

Sand flies seem to affect some people more than others. Often one or two people will react to the bites extremely badly while others in a group will only present with mild irritation. It may be that humans are capable of developing a natural tolerance and resistance with repeated exposure or it may be simply that one persons immune system reacts differently than the next.

Many compounds are reported to be both repellent and cure for the bite of the sand fly and many of the things on the list below have slipped into popular culture and bush mythology.

List of Repellents:

  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • 90% to 100% concentration of DEET.
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil mixed with Dettol
  • Chinese Herbal Oil
  • Orange Peel
  • Listerine
  • Tiger Balm
  • Eucalipto
  • Viks Vapor Rub
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lime juice
  • Any Citrus Juice
  • The inside of Banana Peel – applied by rubbing
  • Vinegar.
  • Essential Lavender Oil
  • 1 part Methylated Spirits, 1 part Baby Oil, 1 part Dettol
  • Tee Tree Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Vitamin B
  • Marmite, Promite, Vegemite – anything with high Vitamin B content
  • Vitaman B1
  • Vitaman B6
  • Garlic – taken orally and applied locally
  • Berocca
  • Crushed leaves from the Ngaio Tree

List of Remedies:

  • Soap
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Rub with Garlic
  • Baking Soda and Water – make a paste and spread it over bites
  • Topical Anaesthetic
  • Application of Urine (?)
  • Ibuprofen Gel
  • Hydrocortisone Cream 1%
  • Xylocaine Gel 2%
  • Vinegar
  • Steroid Cream
  • Essential Lavender Oil
  • Antihistamine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide & Betadine – equal parts to dissolve scabs
  • Tea Tree Oil – dab on bites
  • Avon ‘Skin So Soft’
  • Aloe Vera
  • Toothpaste
  • Onion – rub bites 30 mins before having a shower
  • Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Salty Water – allowed to air dry and form a crust
  • Moist Aspro Tablet – rub affected areas
  • Turmeric Root – apply by rubbing

What To Do:

So it seems that the best cure is prevention. Sand Flies cluster down low on the outward branches and limbs of vegetation waiting for passing prey. Consequently the first areas of attack are exposed legs and ankles followed by other extremities like the hands and arms and neck and face.

Covering these areas can help reduce biting although sand flies are, of course, found in hot coastal environs where the wearing of light summer clothing is preferable.

Try whatever natural remedy works the best for you from the list above. If it seems to work for you while others get bitten then well and good, although it is more likely that you have a better natural resistance. If you are one of the unlucky people who get devoured and react badly, then you can really only hope your resistance will develop and in the meantime avoid being bitten and quickly clean and disinfect any bite sites.

Sand flies seem to dislike windy areas, so keep yourself moving and congregate in the breeze. It has been reported that these insects have a preference for darker colours which contain and radiate more heat and help sand flies track victims through infrared detection. Plausible but unproven. Wearing light coloured clothing is a reasonable defence against mosquito bites and being cooler in hot weather – there is nothing to lose.

Be aware that dawn and dusk are the high risk times. By taking cover for an hour at twilight you may avoid days of irritation.

The consumption of vitamin B has never been proven to help repel sand flies or mosquitoes but if you are enjoying a holiday in an infested region then your lifestyle may benefit from a few additional vitamins anyway.

DEET seems to be the chemical that continually raises its head as the best defence against fly type biting insects. It was developed in 1946 following the experience of American soldiers involved in jungle warfare and was again used in Vietnam.

It’s an entirely personal decision whether you want to cover your body in a chemical developed by the U.S. Military, nearly 70 years ago, with the scientific name N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide.


Some beach resorts rake their sand several times each day. It is believed that by doing so, they are constantly disrupting the sandflies’ ability to establish a home.

It seems to work. So, look out for any resorts who are doing this and hang around here.

The Moon:

Sandflies are much more common on spring tides and not neap tides. The extra movement in the tides stirs them into action and as we know, tides are affected by the moon.

One of the best treatments is heat… usually from a very hot shower, as hot as you can take it for about 5 minutes; this will neutralise the toxin causing the histamine response. If you get it early, you may only need one application of heat, but if not a couple of times a day may be necessary!

In Conclusion:

People from countries that have sandflies can build up a natural immunity to sandfly bites. BUT don’t be complacent.

In some countries, where sanitation is poor, sandfly bites (whether you have some natural immunity or not) can turn nasty and get infected. I, personally, have many sandfly scars on my feet and legs. Some of which turned infectious and needed to be treated with creams.

After such an experience, I lost my complacency early. I now travel with my own remedy made up of 2/3rds Baby Lotion and 1/3 Betadine (an antiseptic). As soon as I get a bite I put my lotion on – it definitely helps keep on top of them and stops the risk of infection.