Look out, look out, there are Black Flies about!
Every Spring we see a large number of patients with nasty, infected insect bites, caused by a biting black insect known as a Blandford Fly. The Latin name for the insect is Simulium posticatum but it takes its common name from a town in Dorset (Blandford Forum), whose residents have suffered particularly badly following outbreaks of the insects in the past.
The Fly is found near slow-moving rivers; Chalgrove, with the brook running right through the village and the Rec, offers the ideal breeding ground. The adult female likes to snack on some blood before mating! Most bites are likely to occur during the middle of the day rather than in the evening and the Fly usually attacks the ankles or lower legs.
If you are bitten, you may feel the bite, which will leave a small puncture wound though sometimes you may not be aware that you have been bitten till several hours later. The area surrounding the bite will usually redden and may blister. Some bites may become infected and, in severe cases, infection can lead to the development of cellulitis.
Care of the affected area is important to avoid further complications.
- Wash the area surrounding the bite with soap and water and use a cold compress to reduce swelling.
- Try really hard not to scratch the bite, as this can introduce bacteria and lead to infection.
- Place a cold compress or ice pack (wrap in a towel first) over the affected area to reduce swelling.
- Take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 years of age shouldn’t be given aspirin). Take an antihistamine tablet to help reduce swelling (a pharmacist can advise on the most appropriate medications)
- Use a spray or cream that contains local anaesthetic, antihistamine or mild hydrocortisone (1%) on the affected area to prevent itching and swelling
- Do not ‘pop’ any blisters which form. Instead, cover with a clean, dry dressing.
NHS Choices also advises that if the local swelling is severe or doesn’t go down after a 2/3 days, you should contact your Pharmacist. You should get in touch with your doctor if the bite or sting fills with pus and feels tender to touch, your glands swell up or you develop flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, joint pain).
Dial 999 to request an ambulance if you have swelling or itching anywhere else on your body after being bitten or stung, or if you’re wheezing or have difficulty swallowing. If you have suffered an allergic reaction you will need emergency medical treatment.
Of course prevention is better than cure so if you are out and about the village and are near the brook, you may wish to consider using an insect repellent spray and keeping your feet and ankles covered.