Horsefly Bites: Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention

Horseflies are large flies that are classified under the 'Tabanidae' family of insects. Their bites are characterized by red bumps, pain and itching. Let's look into their biting behavior and find out what these nasty bites can be like along with ways to treat them.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2018
More than 3,000 varieties of horseflies are found all over the world, three of which are the green-head horsefly, striped horsefly and black horsefly. Horseflies live and breed in marshy or wet areas close to water bodies, and are more active in a warm and sunny climate. They play an important role in the pollination of a variety of flora. Male horseflies feed on nectar and pollen, while female horseflies feed on the blood of mammals. However, if a human is bitten by one, it can be really painful and may develop an infection or blood-borne disease as well, which can take up to several days to be fully treated.

Biting Behavior of a Horsefly

Horseflies bite and cut the skin with the help of their mandible-like, serrated scimitars (a convex shaped point). They slice off the top layer of the flesh, which feels like needles pricking in to the skin, and then lick the blood. A bite can be, at times, more irritating than a bee sting. Since they cut through the skin, the healing time is higher.

Symptoms
  • When a horsefly bites, a red lump develops immediately on the skin. The release of histamine from the tissues surrounding the area of the bite causes an itchy and inflamed bump.
  • This bite can cause allergies such as skin rashes, wheezing and hives.
  • It can lead to itchy, pink or red swelling around the lips and eyes as well as weakness and dizziness.
  • If you notice redness and pus formation, and feel extreme pain in the area of the bite; there are chances of infection. In such a situation, you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment

Normally, insect bites heal within 2-3 days; but a bite from a horsefly may take longer to heal. You should seek immediate medical care in order to prevent potential infections. Given below are some helpful tips for the treatment.
  • When you realize that you've been bitten by a horsefly, immediately clean the wound using an antiseptic soap and water. Pat dry with a clean, dry paper towel. If that is not possible to do right away, slather it with saliva to stop swelling. Your saliva has healing properties due to the presence of Histatin protein.
  • If it itches, avoid scratching if you don't want the bite to get worse and risk infection.
  • It is advisable to apply a topical hydrocortisone cream or benadryl cream on the area of the bite. This will help reduce the itching and swelling that the bite brings with it.
  • An antihistamine tablet or piriton tablet can help decrease the level of discomfort.
  • Another effective remedy is to place a tea towel soaked in hot, salty water on the bite area to relieve the pain.
  • Application of vinegar or aloe vera juice helps relieve the pain, while application of an ice cube or cooling pad helps reduce the swelling. Other home remedies for the same include baking soda paste, Epsom salt, honey, raw onion or garlic and mud therapy.
  • After any of the above topical applications, cover the area with a loose gauze bandage. If you experience allergic reactions or difficulty in breathing, your body is probably suffering from an anaphylactic shock. Consult a doctor immediately.
Prevention

There are ways in which you can prevent horsefly bites. Here's what you need to do.
  • Using an effective insecticide is an effective way to get rid of horseflies.
  • You can also use a horsefly trap to catch them.
  • If you have to travel to areas known for the presence of horseflies, wear a full-sleeved shirt and pant.
  • Also, apply an effective horsefly repellent that preferably contains N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET).
  • You can also opt for garlic supplements, which help keep horseflies away and prevent their bites.
If you ever get bitten by a horsefly, and experience symptoms such as pain, swelling and itching, seek medical help. Do follow the preventive measures. After all, prevention is better than cure.
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