What are biting midges?
Biting midges are small insects that have piercing and sucking mouth parts. They belong to the family of flies that are called Certoponidae. The biting midges are known to cause a lot of disturbance and nuisance when they bite especially in the coastal lagoons, mangrove forests, swamps and the tidal flats.
The midges feed during the dawn hours of the day and remain inactive during the day. The female midges are the only ones known to feed on blood while the male ones feed on vegetation, fluids and nectar.
You should however not be confused between the biting and non-biting midges. The non-biting midges are larger and look like mosquitoes. They neither bite nor suck blood or carry diseases like the mosquitoes or the biting midges.
Non biting midges are nevertheless a greater nuisance than the biting midges and cause a lot of disturbance when in the surrounding. They form swarms and fly around the entire place till night time. During the day, they make your activities unpleasant because they can gain access to your ears or eyes.
Why and how do they bite?
The biting midges have mouthparts that make them able to pierce and suck blood while releasing saliva into the skin. The saliva injected into the skin prevents the blood from clotting and this in return allows them to suck more blood.
The female midges use the blood sucked as a source of proteins for the development of eggs. Therefore, the midges bite when they need a blood meal for the maturation of the eggs.
Symptoms of the bites
The bites from midges look like mosquito bites. They are however unusually smaller, red, itchy and painful. They can at times swell up to an alarming extent. There are cases when the bites get filled up with fluid thus forming blisters.
If you look keenly at the area of bite, you will notice a small hole of punctured skin. If you have ever had reactions to insect bites in the past, you may have an allergic reaction that is accompanied with swelling among other symptoms.
The itch from the bite results when the insects release their saliva into the skin. Jonathan Day, who is a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida, tries to explain why mosquito bites itch.
The same explanation can be used to vividly explain the case of midge’s bites. Jonathan notes that the insects inject their saliva to your skin and in return, your immune system notices the saliva as foreign objects in the body.
As a result, the immune system prioritizes the release of a substance called histamine. The histamine production and release is the one responsible for the itching process and swelling that you encounter.
There is a more severe reaction that you may show especially if you have been bitten before and if you have any disorder with your immune system. The bite may result into:
- A large swollen area that appears red
- Low degree of fever
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
The reactions above are more common in children. This is according to the NHS United Kingdom.
How long do midges bites last?
The length and duration of the symptoms following a bite by the midges depends on the prevailing environmental conditions as well as the particular species that bites you. It can however take about 3 to 22 weeks although this could even be longer.
Reviews from those who have been bitten before indicate that the itch and burning sensation might take long to go away depending on whether you scratch or take care of the bitten area. You should never scratch the area because this causes more trauma and injury to your skin.
Treatment Options (Medication)
The insect bites are small localized reactions and most times do not cause any alarm. However, they call for treatment when they make you uncomfortable. You can treat them based on whether they are large or small localized reactions. The medications you should take mainly provide symptomatic relief.
You can first take the painkillers for pain relief. They include ibuprofen and paracetamol. They are available over the counter and you can take them based on the specifications by the manufacturer. They can also provide some extent of inflammation relief.
There are a number of creams that you can also apply on the affected area from time to time. Crotamiton cream is one such creams.
You apply this cream three times in day or once a day if it is your child below three years of age. You can also use other corticosteroid creams to give a soothing effect and reduce the pain.
When your skin is broken or pierced, do not apply the cream. Further, do not scratch the skin once you have applied the cream or ointment to your skin as this might break the skin and give bacteria room to enter and cause more damage to your skin.
You can also take antihistamines that will prevent the excessive production of histamine as a result of the trigger by the immune system. You should take them orally or the doctor may give you an injectable dose for severe symptoms. For the blisters, do not poke or burst them because they give room for bacterial infections to set in. If the bite gets infected, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics.
Aspirin is another very useful and effective medication that you can go for. It helps control the inflammation that comes with the insect bites. You can swallow a tablet of the medication or wash the bitten area then rub a tablet of aspirin over the area.
Hydrocortisone cream is also available for your consideration. You can apply it on the affected area and it helps get rid of the inflammation in a very short time.
How to stop and relief itching
There are a number of approaches that you can undertake at home to get relief from the itch by midges.
Use of milk paste
For successful relief from the itch,
- Make a paste using one part of powdered milk into 2 parts of water and a pinch of salt.
- Apply the mix to the bite
- The enzymes from the milk powder will neutralize the venom released by the insect and thus reduce the itch.
- Repeat this procedure as often as possible until you itch relief.
Tea tree oil
The oil has great anti-itch properties. It is also used to deliver you from the pain caused by the midge bite. All you have to do is;
- Take a few drops of pure oil and soak a cotton wool in the oil
- Dab the soaked cotton onto the bite but do not rub it in for some time
- It is an essential oil and you can therefore apply it to the affected area undiluted
This is a remedy that is most useful the moment you notice the bite on your skin. You just have to apply the vinegar directly to the bitten area. If the area of bite is large, then take a hot bath that contains about two and a half cups of vinegar. It is recommended that you use organic apple cider vinegar.
This is an excellent remedy that has been used for a long time to cure itch from mosquitoes. Since the midge bites are similar to mosquito bites, it is still useful in midge bite itch control. Aloe vera also has a wide range of anti-bacterial properties which goes a long way to protect you from the itch.
Dry bar of soap
This is a simple and easy remedy that you can get at your disposal. What you have to do is apply the dry bar of soap directly to the bite. This relieves the itch within no time. Once you are done applying the soap, wash off the area with cold water as the itch fades away.
This is a remedy that is known for its tearing effect. A fresh piece of onion is capable of getting rid of the itch. You should take a fresh slice of onion and then apply it to the area affected for some minutes till the itching slowly goes away. After that, wash off the area with a lot of cold water.
Make a thick paste by mixing baking soda and water then apply to the area affected. The itch goes away within a short time when you use this remedy.
The most preferable is the cheap and pasty kind of toothpaste- the white one. It can help relieve the itch from the biting midges. It contains a number of ingredients like baking soda and menthol. They both contribute to the anti-itch property.
It contains antibacterial and antifungal properties. Due to these properties, it can help to reduce the risk of the skin surrounding the midges bite from getting an infection by bacteria or fungi. To benefit maximally;
- Mince the leaves of thyme although you can directly apply the leaves on the skin
- Make a concentrated liquid from the minced leaves by mixing them with boiling water
- Allow the thyme to steep with the water till cooling
- Then dip a cloth into the thyme infused water and then apply on the bitten area.
- Allow the cloth to stay on the bitten area for some time. You can add an ice cube to the cloth to provide an extra relief to the itch.
This is also a readily available remedy that you can apply on the itchy bite spot and get relief almost immediately. A drop of honey reduces the inflammation resulting from the bite and reduces the temptation to scratch, a common occurrence with midge bites.
Getting rid of the midges
When midges meander or move around your home or house, they cause a lot of annoyance and this makes it hard to control. There are a number of approaches and techniques that you can use to control them before they cause such discomfort.
The first step is to put a tightly woven screen on the sides of your windows. The screens you use should have the smallest possible hole-openings. You then should keep the windows closed since midges are able to fly through tiny holes and then access your house.
Further, consider removing all the stagnant and pooled water around your home. You should ensure that you remove any potted plants away from the doors and windows of your house. Still water in containers acts are breeding and hiding places for the midges.
Traps are also useful in getting rid of midges from your home. You can pour about half an inch of apple cider vinegar into a glass or plastic bowl then add to it some drops of liquid detergent then mix them. The traps attract midges and while they attempt to land on the trap, they die off. You have to dispose the dead midges’ remains and then replace the vinegar and detergent mixture.
The other step that you can take is soak a cloth in pine oil then hang the cloth from the top of windows. This repels the midges from reaching your house. Attach the midline of the screen using pins to help make sure that the smell puts the insects away all through the entire window. You can then hang an additional cloth soaked in oil above the door.
The other step would entail the use of a fogger that is made from pyrethrin. In this case, you should follow the instructions given by the manufacturer in fogging your indoors. You should use insect repellants on your body once in the house. This helps repel the insects as well. This approach is a temporary remedy to the imminent problem.
More Prevention steps
Should keeping away the insects using the above approaches seem cumbersome, then there are a number of products that are available in the market for you to consider.
Smidge That Midge
This is a highly regarded repellant that comes with a pump spray. It is a water resistant formula that gives an immediate protection for as long as eight hours.
Avon’s skin so soft
Although this product was not initially made for the purpose of fighting midges, it was discovered that it repels midges. It is used by many people and has validated usefulness.
Buzz off spray
This one has a pungent smell that repels not only mosquitoes, nut the midges as well. You can apply it on your skin and it will provide an ideal protection to your skin against the midges. You should be aware that this repellant is capable of ruining plastics. The unique way with which it works is by preventing the midges from landing on your skin.
Some other approaches of avoiding the bites entail,
- Avoiding the swampy areas or the wet sand when it is dawn or dusk.
- Applying baby oil to your skin before you go out in the early morning or late evening
- Cover your skin preferably with light cotton clothing.
- Before you get out of the house, apply an insect repellant or lotion, especially if you have a hypersensitivity reaction after an initial bite by the same insect.