(DNO)For months, a persistent nuisance has been sweeping across the island, causing frustration and discomfort for many residents. While mistaken for sand flies by many, the true source of this widespread distress has been identified as the biting midge—a tiny yet troublesome insect. Speaking to Dominica News Online (DNO), Carlton Languedoc, Chief Pharmacist and Public Relations Officer at Jolly’s Pharmacy, explained that biting midges have a penchant for being in the vicinity of pets, livestock, and wildlife. He points out that while both males and females of the insect exist, it’s the females that are the main perpetrators, feeding on blood, similar to mosquitos.
Unlike some of their blood-sucking counterparts, according to Lanquedoc, these minute creatures do not transmit diseases to humans, which may be one of the reasons why the Ministry of Health hasn’t raised significant alarms about them.
Despite the lack of disease transmission, he emphasises that the effects of biting midge bites should not be ignored, as many people develop skin irritation, discoloration, bumps, and even ruptured sores as a result of the histamine generated by the insects. The health professional went on to reveal that the traditional fumigation methods using
chemicals like malathion, commonly used to control mosquitoes, are ineffective against biting midges.
“So many people have been asking how come the ministry hasn’t fumigated using the similar chemicals that would have been used to prevent dengue, but that doesn’t work,” he explained.
“These microorganisms are around and it’s sad to say that all we can do for the time being is just to protect ourselves.”
The pharmacist attributed the recent spike to the fruit season, saying that biting midges prefer to feed on decaying fruits, pollen, and plant nectar.
“Just coming from the mango season, that’s when many people began to experience these bites even in different parts of Dominica. Some of these parts, people never experienced these bites before,” he pointed out.
Providing advice on protective methods of dealing with the pest that tends to move in groups, Languedoc recommends wearing protective clothing, much like when dealing with mosquitoes.
“Long sleeve clothing, socks, and other coverings can prove effective in reducing exposure,” the pharmacist stated.
“Additionally, citronella candles can help repel these insects, providing a layer of defence.”
For those with sensitive skin prone to irritation, Lanquedoc recommends using antihistamines to counter allergic reactions. Medicines like loratadine, Puritan, and Benadryl, available in various forms can help manage discomfort.
In more severe cases, he highlighted that doctors might prescribe Betnesol-N or a mild corticosteroid with an antibiotic, to alleviate itching and heal the bumps and the broken skin that most tend to experience once bitten.
To enhance protection, Lanquedoc advises the use of bug sprays designed to deter the pests. While not foolproof, he stated that these sprays can minimize direct contact between the insects and the skin, as they are averse to the chemicals’ scent.