I'm some bug's moveable feast
May 2, 2009 10:07 AM   Subscribe

What the heck kind of bug has been biting me??

Sometime in the last 24 hours I've discovered about 12 bug bites (a bunch on my lower legs, three in my groin area, one on my back, a few on my knees) that are itchy as all hell!

The not knowing what caused it is far worse even than the itchiness, so if you could hear out the details and suggest real possibilities for what kind of bug feasted on me, I'd appreciate it. Especially if you have anecdotal experience that matches mine.

1. None of the bites are in a straight line, but some of them are in clusters. I've seen no signs of fleas.
2. I have THOROUGHLY checked my bed for bedbugs, there's no sign of them either on mattress or any linens
3. I have no pets
4. I just moved into an apt with hardwood floors that is very clean, no spiders or dust. All the furniture is clean and in good shape, i.e. we didn't pick up anything off a curb. We did all the moving ourselves, used no hired trucks that could have brought in bugs.
5. It's true I was wearing shorts yesterday, but how would the bugs get up to my groin area?? And the small of my back was covered by a shirt all day. Except--
6. I got a massage at a place I often go, and first noticed the itching sensation about 2 hours later. But I checked online reviews of the place and no one has complained of any bug bites following a massage there. However I did have scented oil on my body for several hours following it, which could have led to attracting bug bites.
7. I did spend some time outside in shorts, but not in high grasses or anything. I didn't sit down in grass or anything, just walked around the neighborhood.
8. My boyfriend has not had any bites, and he shares the apartment with me
9. The bites don't hurt, but they are dime-sized and itchy. I tend to be sensitive to bites.
10. I live in an area that doesn't have a bad mosquito problem, and certainly haven't noticed any flying around.

So was it a spider that roamed all over me while I was outside? Was it some sort of infestation at the Massage place? Are there some sorts of mites or midges that can get under my shorts during the day if they smell scented oil? I don't know how else to check for Bedbugs except the constant looking around the mattress seams, but there's been nothing suspicious there whatsoever.

Thank you for your help!

Please advise! I'm going nuts trying to figure it out. Thanks!
posted by egeanin to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you completely sure they are bites and not a rash of some sort?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2009

I don't think these are necessarily bedbug bites, but anyone who moves into a new apartment should know that they could easily be hiding out between the floorboards and in wall-crevices and so forth. There's a big problem in a lot of places where people move out because of bedbugs and the problem doesn't get effectively taken care of before the next tenant moves in.

But again, not saying that's what I think is going on here per se.
posted by hermitosis at 10:18 AM on May 2, 2009

Are they near the base of a hair, and/or did you swim or sit in a whirlpool/hot tub recently? I had small raised bumps ( similar to red ant bites) that turned out to be Hot Tub Folliculitis.
posted by lobstah at 10:29 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: I haven't gone swimming in months, or been in a hot tub. Also there are no bites above groin level.

The apartment was empty for a few months before we moved into it, and there are only three other neighbors, none of whom has said anything about an infestation. Also it really is spotlessly clean.

It doesn't look like a rash-- it's definitely individual bites (like on my back there is just one) and the skin surrounding the bites is not irritated or inflamed.
posted by egeanin at 10:33 AM on May 2, 2009

The apartment was empty for a few months before we moved into it

Really not trying to freak you out, but nothing you've said really excludes the possibility of bedbugs. They can survive just fine without food for several months, and cleanliness is not necessarily a factor.
posted by hermitosis at 10:40 AM on May 2, 2009

Could be hives. As you can see from the link, they come in many sizes, shapes and forms. I get them in clusters, mostly on my thighs, sometimes on my arms, from allergic reactions to various things - medications, lotions, you name it, but most of the time I have no idea what the trigger was. Mine look just like bug bites.

Benadryl will take care of the itch.
posted by chez shoes at 10:41 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like chiggers to me, but I can't be sure without seeing some pics. But their bites itch like hell, can be about dime-sized, and often end up in the lower legs, groin, and waistline.

Just take a thorough shower to make sure they're off of you, and don't scratch the bites. They will eventually go away. Home remedies like using hairspray or nail polish are completely bogus.
posted by bengarland at 10:49 AM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: It's not in the nature of spiders to crawl all over you biting. Spiders generally bite defensively; they get nothing out of biting humans and therefore have much better things to do with their time.

Scented oil does not generally attract bugs- any essential oil is natural, and often plant based. Plants make these scents to attract pollinators (which don't care to eat humans), or to prevent herbivorous insects from eating the plants themselves. It's more likely that you are having a reaction to the oils, if the massage is the cause.

I wouldn't rule out a rash just because the welts are individual. I also wouldn't rule out bedbugs based on your information.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2009

I probably see one flea per every 300 bites I get. My boyfriend that I live with also probably gets bitten once for every 1000 times I do. There was nothing in your post that ruled out fleas to me.
posted by nzydarkxj at 11:17 AM on May 2, 2009

I had the same experience with bed bugs as nzydarkxj had with fleas. It could definitely still be fleas or bed bugs, based on all the information here.

But it might not be. Really the only way to tell is if it happens again. If it happens again, it's something in your house.

If it doesn't, it was probably just one stray something, that found you either outside, at the massage parlor, or in your bed, had a little feast, and is probably long dead.

I'm really sensitive to bug bites, too, and topical benadryl gel stuff really helps with the itching and the inflammation.
posted by lampoil at 11:32 AM on May 2, 2009

It would help if we could see pictures. Have they changed in appearance since you got them?
posted by aquafortis at 11:58 AM on May 2, 2009

In an empty apt., they get hungry. Bedbugs can survive 6 months between meals. They can survive in an empty apt. They hide very well.

Chiggers like tight areas, like the groin or waistband. The fact that the bites are on the lower body suggests chiggers. They burrow into the skin (ick) and we used to treat them by getting a pharmacist to make a solution of green soap and chloroform, and dabbing it on. Sulphur repels them; we used to put in in our socks. This was in Ohio; I haven't had them in Maine.
posted by theora55 at 2:49 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: It might also be bird mites. They are very tiny and difficult to see, and test bite in two tries. Painful dime sized welts, like areas where the body has elastic. If your unit has an attic, they might come from an abandoned nest. They can't live on human blood, but bite in early summer and late spring. You can swipe your skin with a baby wipe immediately when you feel the bite, and the mite will be on the white cloth for you to see with a lupe. You may ask how I know so much about this.

I caulked up two of my windows with spaces around the pane and it helped a lot.
posted by effluvia at 4:17 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: Definitely try the Benadryl. If it gets better, then you might have had an allergic response to something in the scented oil or something they used at the massage place. You might also try some over the counter hydrocortinsone cream.
posted by gudrun at 4:25 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: Another vote for hives and trying the benadryl or zyrtec. This is exactly what happened to me the first time I had hives - I was searching everywhere for bugs that didn't exist. Zyrtec made them go away within a few hours.
posted by emyd at 5:27 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

As another "allergy" data point, I spent months convinced I had bedbugs before I went to a dermatologist and figured out that I was having an allergic reaction to a medication I was taking. I switched to a different generic and the little "bug bites" went away.
posted by fermion at 6:38 PM on May 2, 2009

This site identifies bug bites and the photos are creepy-cool:

Nthing the cleanliness not a factor for bedbugs. They can live in the tiniest of cracks and crevices where no cleaning can reach. My experience was this: NYC apt, lots of bites on my legs and back, my then-husband bitten all over. None in a straight line. We wrote it off as mosquito bites from spending weekends in PA.

One late night, while I was reading in bed, I watched a little red bug crawl across my pillow. When I smashed it, it was filled with blood. Weeks later, I finally put two and two together. In that whole time, I only ever saw that one bug.

We searched high and low, but couldn't find them. Finally I called an exterminator. When he flipped the box spring over, he accidentally tore a big hole in the thin fabric stapled to the underside. A bed bug fell out. We tore the fabric off entirely and there they were: hiding in the fold where the fabric was stapled to the wooden frame. After exterminating, there were lots of dead bedbugs next to the baseboard by the head of our bed. So I think they were living there, too.

(I'm itchy just writing this!)

Good luck. If it turns out to be bedbugs, feel free to memail me for tips on waging war.
posted by Majorita at 11:37 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: I had an exterminator check and it's NOT bedbugs-- but it might be bird mites since we have pigeon nests near our windows. Also we found 2 spiders in my bed, but i don't know that they would account for what is now 15 bites.
posted by egeanin at 5:44 PM on May 5, 2009

Didn't post that link properly. Here it is:

ID that bite
posted by Majorita at 12:11 PM on May 9, 2009

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