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How to Treat Bites from Lake Flies: A Complete Guide

How to Treat Bites from Lake Flies: A Complete Guide

Bites from lake flies can be an itchy and painful nuisance for many people who enjoy spending time near bodies of water. These small, black flies are known for their painful bites, which can result in swelling, redness, and discomfort. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments and preventative measures that can help alleviate the symptoms of lake fly bites.

Understanding Lake Flies

Lake flies, also known as non-biting midges, are a type of insect commonly found around lakes and other bodies of water. These small, mosquito-like insects do not bite, unlike their mosquito counterparts. This means that lake flies do not transmit vector-borne diseases.

Lake flies are often mistaken for mosquitoes due to their similar appearance. However, they are typically smaller and have longer legs and antennae. They also have a distinctive fluttering flight pattern and tend to swarm in large numbers.

Lake flies are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem, serving as a food source for fish and other aquatic animals. They are also indicators of water quality, as their presence or absence can indicate changes in the water’s nutrient levels and oxygen content.

While lake flies are generally harmless to humans, their swarms can be a nuisance. In large numbers, they can create a thick cloud that can be difficult to navigate, and their dead bodies can accumulate on surfaces near the water’s edge.

Identifying Lake Fly Bites

Lake flies, also known as midges or no-see-ums, are small flying insects that are commonly found near bodies of water. While they do not transmit any diseases, their bites can be irritating and uncomfortable. Identifying lake fly bites is important for proper treatment and prevention.

Lake fly bites are typically small, red, and itchy bumps that appear on the skin. They often occur in clusters and can be mistaken for mosquito bites. However, there are a few key differences that can help identify a lake fly bite.

Firstly, lake fly bites tend to be smaller and more localized than mosquito bites. They are also often more painful and can cause a burning or stinging sensation. Additionally, lake fly bites may appear as a red welt with a small, white center.

It is important to note that some people may have a stronger reaction to lake fly bites than others. In rare cases, an allergic reaction may occur, which can lead to more severe symptoms such as swelling, difficulty breathing, and hives. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Immediate First Aid Measures

When someone gets bitten by lake flies, it is important to take immediate action to prevent further complications. Here are some first aid measures that can be taken:

1. Wash the affected area

The first step is to clean the bite area with soap and water. This will help remove any dirt or bacteria that may have entered the wound. Use a clean cloth or cotton wool to gently clean the area.

2. Apply a cold compress

Applying a cold compress to the bite area can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. Use a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice and apply it to the area for 10 to 20 minutes. Repeat this process several times a day until the symptoms go away.

3. Use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream

To relieve itching and discomfort, apply calamine lotion or 0.5% or 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. This can be done several times a day until the symptoms go away.

4. Take antihistamines

If the bite area is very itchy or swollen, taking antihistamines can help relieve the symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be taken as directed on the package.

5. Monitor for signs of infection

It is important to monitor the bite area for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. If these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Cleaning and Disinfecting the Bite

After being bitten by a lake fly, it is important to clean and disinfect the affected area to prevent infection. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Wash the bite with soap and water: Use mild soap and water to clean the bite. Gently rub the area with soap to remove any dirt or debris that may have entered the wound. Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water.
  2. Apply an antiseptic: After cleaning the wound, apply an antiseptic solution to disinfect the area. Antiseptic solutions that contain benzalkonium chloride, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine are effective in killing bacteria and preventing infection.
  3. Cover the bite: Once the wound is clean and disinfected, cover it with a sterile bandage or gauze pad. This will protect the wound from further contamination and prevent the entry of dirt and bacteria.
  4. Monitor the wound: Keep an eye on the wound for any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
  5. Avoid scratching: Scratching the bite can break the skin and increase the risk of infection. To prevent itching, apply a cold compress or take an antihistamine medication.

Over-the-Counter Remedies

When it comes to treating bites from lake flies, there are several over-the-counter remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms. These remedies can be found at most drugstores and are easy to use.

One of the most popular over-the-counter remedies for insect bites is hydrocortisone cream. This cream contains a low dose of steroids that can help reduce inflammation and itching. It is important to follow the instructions on the packaging and not to overuse the cream, as prolonged use can cause skin thinning and other side effects.

Another option is calamine lotion, which can help soothe and cool the affected area. This lotion contains zinc oxide and can be applied directly to the bite. It is important to avoid scratching the bite, as this can cause further irritation and increase the risk of infection.

Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can also be helpful in reducing itching and swelling. These medications work by blocking the histamine response in the body, which is responsible for the symptoms of an allergic reaction. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and not to exceed the maximum daily dose.

In addition to these remedies, there are also natural options that can be effective in treating bites from lake flies. Aloe vera gel, for example, can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Tea tree oil and lavender oil are also popular remedies, as they have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.

When to Seek Medical Attention

In most cases, bites from lake flies are not serious and can be treated at home. However, there are situations where medical attention is necessary.

If a person experiences any of the following symptoms after being bitten by a lake fly, they should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Fever or chills
  • Signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, swelling, or pus around the bite

These symptoms may indicate an allergic reaction or infection, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

It is also important to seek medical attention if the bite does not heal within a few days or if it worsens over time. This may indicate an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

When seeking medical attention for a bite from a lake fly, it is important to inform the healthcare provider of any allergies or medical conditions that the person may have. The healthcare provider may prescribe medication or recommend further treatment based on the severity of the symptoms and the individual’s medical history.

Preventing Lake Fly Bites

Lake flies are common pests that can ruin a day spent by the water. While they don’t carry any diseases, their bites can be irritating and itchy. Here are some tips to help prevent lake fly bites:

  • Avoid areas with large numbers of lake flies. Lake flies are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, so plan your outdoor activities accordingly.
  • Wear protective clothing. Long sleeves and pants can help reduce the amount of exposed skin and make it more difficult for lake flies to bite.
  • Use insect repellent. Apply insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin to exposed skin or clothing. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  • Stay away from stagnant water. Lake flies lay their eggs in stagnant water, so avoid areas with standing water or areas with a lot of vegetation.
  • Use a fan. Lake flies are weak fliers and can be deterred by a strong breeze. Consider bringing a portable fan to keep them at bay.

Common Misconceptions About Lake Flies

Despite being a common sight around lakes and ponds, there are many misconceptions about lake flies. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Lake flies are mosquitoes: While lake flies may look similar to mosquitoes, they are not the same thing. Lake flies are a type of non-biting midge, and they do not feed on blood like mosquitoes do. In fact, lake flies are harmless to humans and do not transmit any diseases.
  • Lake flies only appear in dirty water: While it is true that lake flies are often found near bodies of water, they are not necessarily an indicator of dirty water. Lake flies are attracted to light and can be found in large numbers around streetlights and other sources of illumination. Additionally, lake flies are more likely to appear in areas with high levels of organic matter, such as decaying plant material.
  • Lake flies are a sign of a healthy ecosystem: While lake flies may be a natural part of the ecosystem, their presence is not necessarily an indicator of a healthy environment. In fact, high levels of lake flies can be a sign of nutrient pollution, which can lead to harmful algal blooms and other environmental problems.

By understanding the facts about lake flies, it is possible to dispel some of the common misconceptions and develop effective strategies for dealing with these insects.


In conclusion, lake flies can be a nuisance for those who live or vacation near bodies of water. While their bites are generally harmless, they can cause discomfort and irritation. It’s important to take preventative measures to avoid being bitten, such as using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing.