Have you ever noticed those swarms of minuscule bugs swirling around at dusk on a hot evening near or over water? These are extremely common in Australia, and they’re called midges. The first two questions people ask about any Australian wildlife are whether it stings humans or bites. Although midges are not especially dangerous, they may deliver a bite. First aid for midge bites is relatively simple.

There is some disagreement about whether midges and gnats are two distinct types of insects or whether they are synonymous (i.e., whether they are a single species or a category of insects that includes some variety). However, regardless of one’s position on this matter, there is no doubt that the two terms refer to very similar creatures.

Here are 4 ways to avoid getting bitten by a midge:

1. Do All Midges Bite?

Some midge species in Australia bite, and others don’t. Biting midges, sometimes wrongly called “Sandflies”, are the most notorious biters. Scientists refer to this family as Ceratopogonidae. They live throughout the world except for Antarctica. “No-see-ums” are the common nickname for these creatures in the United States because their victims frequently feel a bite without seeing the midge itself, which is smaller than an average rice grain, measuring around 1-3mm.

There are various other biting midge species in the world, including the Highland midge, which lives in northern Europe. More than 200 biting midge species reside in Australia. Most of those don’t bite humans, and many midge species don’t bite at all. With that in mind, when you see a swarm of midges over a nearby pond, don’t run for cover.

2. What Does A Midge Bite Look Like? 

A midge bite looks like a small, red raised bump at first, similar to those created by mosquitoes. As the bite heals, a large red patch usually grows around it, extending out around three to five centimetres from the bite itself. Midges are often found in large numbers, so more will probably bite if one does.

It is common for midge bites to be itchy (just as it is for mosquito bites), resulting in red, itchy areas in the bite area from scratching. This scratching occasionally causes the skin on the bite to be scraped off, resulting in an open wound. Red welts may also appear on the skin.

Blisters may form around the bite site, but this is rare.

3. How Long Are Midge Bites Active?

Midge bites can last up to two weeks in the form of red lumps or sores (possibly linked together by a red welt or rash). Mosquitoes drain blood from your skin using a syringe-like tube while biting midges cut your skin open with cutters around their mouths, which results in longer-lasting bites. A small cut can still be quite painful.

4. The Best Way To Deal With Midge Bites

The treatment for midge bites is simple. After you realise you have been bitten by midges (it may take a while for the bites to show up), the first step is to wash the area with warm soap and water; antibacterial soap is best. Using this method, any residual from the midge’s saliva is washed away and the risk of infection is reduced.

Itchiness can be somewhat reduced with cold water on a clean cloth or antihistamines (as some of the redness and swelling can be caused by a histamine reaction), and analgesic or cortisone creams can relieve the skin. If the itch is particularly bothersome, you should seek medical advice.

There is some evidence that putting hot water directly on the bite relieves itching by breaking down compounds left behind by the midge and disrupting the nerve signals that transmit the itch sensation. You must heat water to the maximum temperature you can tolerate (not boiling) and then dip a cotton swab in the water and apply it to the bite for 5-10 seconds. It might sting for a few seconds, then ease afterwards. Do not go directly from an ice pack to hot water, as that might make the pain worse.

It’s important not to scratch if you’re bitten, as you may scrape off the top layer of skin and make the bite even more unpleasant—and more liable to become infected. If you’re uncomfortable, this may be a good time to trim your nails—that way you’re less likely to remove skin if you scratch.

While irritating, midge bites pose no danger to humans. Having said that, if you notice that your symptoms are worsening or that you have developed severe infections (such as pus at the site of the bite or symptoms like headaches, nausea or dizziness), see a doctor.

Anaphylactic reactions resulting from midge bites are quite uncommon, although they are not unheard of. If you notice signs of anaphylaxis (like difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat or tongue, or a pale and limp appearance in children) in someone bitten by midges, call 000 immediately.

There may be times when you’re puzzled about what bit you (especially if it’s a midge bite) or whether signs of something more serious are present. Taking proper first aid training can help you prepare to assist someone with an unknown bug bite. First aid training is available everywhere from the mountains of West Virginia to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and not only does it cover life-saving basics like CPR will also teach you the fundamentals of recognising different types of dangerous bites and stings, as well as how to handle infections and severe anaphylaxis.

How To Avoid Being Bitten By Midges

To what extent can you decrease your chances of being bitten by a midge? There are several methods to do so – utilising them together can be particularly effective.

  • When you see a cloud of midges circling over water, stay away – this is likely to mean midge mating season. At these times, the female biting midge turns from feeding on flower nectar to feeding on human blood. midges don’t all bite humans, so it is not necessary to avoid every lake at dawn and dusk (these are prime mating times for midges). However, if biting midges are around, it may be best to avoid the area
  • Avoid being bitten by using an insect repellent spray – Be sure to select a repellent with the chemical DEET (diethyl-toluamide), like Rid or Tropical Strength Aerogard,). Ordinary Aerogard will not be enough
  • Burning citronella candles is an excellent strategy to keep midges away as they dislike the smell of citronella oil. However, they work best in an enclosed area
  • Cover your exposed skin – You should at least wear closed shoes, long sleeves, and long pants to prevent being bitten by a midge


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