stubborn hillocks
December 10, 2008 3:01 PM   Subscribe

possible bed bugs? dermatology question

a friend had three bumps on her knee which appeared to be insect bites. they itched like crazy for a week or so. They were pretty abraded due to all the scratching.

she finally stopped scratching them and they healed.. now, almost completely healed, the bumps are returning in the exact same spot. she suspected her last apt had bed bugs so she moved. could these be related?

isn't the bumps returning a bit... odd?
posted by nihlton to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It seems more odd that the bedbugs would choose to bite her again in the exact same spot. And that there would only be three bites to begin with.

Get thee... well, her... to a dermatologist!
posted by rocketpup at 3:13 PM on December 10, 2008

Definitely could be. The bedbug bites I had would seem to be healing, then sometimes would flare up again, adding to the heartbreak and the agony of the overall experience. Didn't happen every time or with every bite, but it did happen.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:26 PM on December 10, 2008

right, obviously that would be ideal but she doesn't have insurance and can't justify a $50 clinic fee for what is only annoying and mildly worrisome. (read: painfully broke)

for clarity sake, she lived in a cheap apt when she first got the bites, moved to a newer/nicer place where they began to heal, and have since returned. To my knowledge, these are the only bumps she found.

FWIW - ive slept in that same bed while she was out of town without incident.
posted by nihlton at 3:27 PM on December 10, 2008

FWIW - ive slept in that same bed while she was out of town without incident.

Bedbugs can be pretty intermittent (like I used to discover one every couple of months at my folks' house, and after killing it bites would immediately stop), so I'm guessing that doesn't prove much.
posted by brennen at 3:33 PM on December 10, 2008

Not everybody has an allergic reaction to bedbug bites. Some people have no evidence at all until they find either the bedbugs or signs of them. For people that do have a reaction, the more often they are bitten over the days/weeks/months, the faster the reaction to the bites will occur. That being said, it seems strange that they would try and get a meal from a knee. No blood vessels for them to tap into right there.

Unfortunately, she could have moved the bedbugs to the new place. They usually spend their non-feeding times in places close to where you sleep or are sedentary. So moving your bed and other furniture that has them...well, you get the idea.

She should tell her landlord that she suspects they are in the apartment and have them hire a pest control company to come and inspect.
posted by remhof at 3:37 PM on December 10, 2008

Some people react to bites and some don't. You might not react. There are entire forums devoted to bedbugs. From personal experience, one bed can have them and the people sleeping can go about a month without any bites, then one to three can randomly show up. They are also remarkably good at hiding, so looking at the bed might not uncover an infestation.

The exact same location for new bites is unlikely, more likely is that something happened to cause them to flare back up. It happens, and occasionally happened as long as a month or two after the initial bite with me. So, this is probably that, rather than new bites.

That said, bedbugs are tenacious critters and it's possible, if she wasn't extremely careful, that she brought them with her when she moved. If she gets bumps in new locations, then she'll know.
posted by lorrer at 3:40 PM on December 10, 2008

If she had bed bugs, she would have bites in other places as well and not just the knee. There could be something irritaiting her skin in a an item of clothing, etc.
posted by scarello at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2008

If she had bed bugs, she would have bites in other places as well and not just the knee.

Not necessarily true. When I got bitten at my gf's old place, sometimes the bites were very localized.

It's odd to me that she was only bitten on one occasion, though. Mine happened every time I slept in that god-forsaken apartment.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:43 PM on December 10, 2008

If you want to take some basic cautionary measures against bedbugs do the following...

Get allergy covers for your mattress, box springs and pillows. Covers that keep out dust mites will keep bedbugs that are nesting in your mattress trapped.

Wash bedding and clothes in the hottest water possible. For things that can't go in hot water, run them in the dryer.

Pull bed away from the wall and make sure bedding doesn't touch the floor (no bed skirts).

Get some double sided tape and wrap the bottom of your bed legs and see if you trap any bed bugs.

Bed Bugs are pernicious little bastards. It took me over a year to finally get rid of an infestation and it required the cooperation of my other apartment dwellers. Before you go through the whole rigmarole, I would do what you can to be certain that you actually have bed bugs.

They don't have to eat every night (they can go for up to a year without eating).
They could have hitched a ride to the new place.
They do tend to bit in pattern of three.

It doesn't sound like you have conclusive evidence of bugs though. Try and trap one. Nymphs can't really be seen by the naked eye, but adults are look like large ticks about the size of an apple seed. You can't miss them.
posted by brookeb at 7:04 PM on December 10, 2008

Have her try a cream containing cortisone but without lanolin.

If the rash goes away, it's more likely because of a sensitivity or reaction than bites. When she gets money or insurance, she may want to see an allergist or dermatologist to make sure it's not something else.

If it doesn't (or if does and then comes back again), she should start saving up for whatever the cheap clinic in her locale charges for an office visit, as bumps that reappear can indicate anything from your bedbug theory to MRSA.
posted by batmonkey at 10:12 PM on December 10, 2008

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