Bugs. Biting her.
March 8, 2010 9:15 AM   Subscribe

What kind of bug could be persistently biting my girlfriend but not me? She gets anywhere between 1 and 12 new bites per day.

This has been going on for the last couple of weeks.

Pertinent details:

- They look like nondescript spider or mosquito bites, thought it's too early for the latter.
- They don't look like bedbug bites from the online pictures--more spaced out and white/clear rather than red. They don't look like ringworm either.
- They itch.
- They are usually on her back, and she's had one or two around her collarbone (never her face or legs).
- I am not getting them (or at least, not showing symptoms).
- We can't find any traces of bugs or their waste in our bed.
- We can't find any traces of spiderwebs or nests in our apartment.
- She's switched her upholstered chair in her office in case that's where they are. Didn't help.
- She still got them when we went to NYC for a week.
- We live in Toronto.

She's wondered if they might be in her clothes--is that plausible? If she went to a doctor, could they do a visual or blood test ID?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure they are bug bites? She could be getting hives. I occasionally get hives in the same areas. Have you switched laundry detergent or soap recently? Or is she under a lot of stress?
posted by sickinthehead at 9:20 AM on March 8, 2010

Best answer: That sounds very, very much like when I had hives. I'd never had them before and thought I was being bitten by bugs while my boyfriend was not. Took me several months before I finally went to a doctor and they suggested it was hives. Try taking generic zyrtec for two days and see if they go away.
posted by emyd at 9:20 AM on March 8, 2010

Best answer: I'll also chime in that I went through a longish period where I was getting scattered, isolated hives - I identified them as such because I'd had a severe outbreak a year or so before from a reaction to a medication. I never did figure out what was up with them - if it was some lingering effect of that prior reaction or some stress issue (I was badly stressed and having a number of iffy hypochondriac symptoms at the time); it just stopped after a while and I haven't had them again for something like a decade. The images on the internet mostly show really severe cases: I just had these isolated bumps, reddish around the perimeter with white/clear centers. An antihistamine like benadryl showed a marked effect (particularly eliminating itching but also decreasing their appearance) but I mainly just ignored them.
posted by nanojath at 9:30 AM on March 8, 2010

Might they look like these? I had "bug bites" that bothered no one but me throughout several trips to different cities and for many months before I was diagnosed with lymphomatoid papulosis.

I'd say a trip to a dermatologist is in order, because they probably aren't bug bites at any rate.
posted by motsque at 9:40 AM on March 8, 2010

A lot of 'spider bites' were never anywhere near a spider, but are instead folliculitis or staph infections.
posted by Ery at 9:58 AM on March 8, 2010

For a different take, raccoon mites infested my house many years ago (raccoons died under the house, mites moved in), and they only bit the women. My sister, mother, and I had 50 or more bites each at any given time, while my brother & father were completely unscathed. Once we figured out what was causing it (stupid almost-invisible mites), it was confirmed that these jerks only like to bite women, I don't remember why. So, it's possible that some sort of bug could be biting only your girlfriend and not you.

(Though it doesn't sound like the same thing -- we had up to literally hundreds of bites each, and they were all along where our clothes hit us -- around the band of our underwear, under tank top straps, etc. depending on what we wore to bed)
posted by brainmouse at 10:04 AM on March 8, 2010

i get flea bites when nobody else does. so bugs will choose one person over another.

but they tend to be around the ankles. they also go away when you aren't in the infested area.

having had wierd bug bites that no one else gets, i would say those are not bug bites.

posted by alcahofa at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2010

Best answer: Another suggestion that these sound much more like hives than bug bites. You can get them for tons of reasons - my mother gets hives from the cold, and we have a family friend who gets hives from the heat (they make quite a pair!) Even if it is bugs, your girlfriend should visit the dermatologist; they will be able to better identify the source of the problem.
posted by Mizu at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2010

It sounds like bed bugs.
For about $15 bucks, you can confirm it's not bed bugs.
Make your own bed bug trap.
posted by Nerro at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The bedbug bites I've seen have always been much bigger, redder and more irritating than mosquito bites; unless you have some really scary mosquitos (or pathetic bedbugs) the difference should be very obvious.

It's not at all unusual for insects to go after one person while ignoring others. For example, most species of mosquitos are attracted to a particular chemical in animals' sweat. Specifically, it's the chemical that makes sweaty feet smell cheesey. Since different people produce different amounts of this chemical, some people are all but invisible to mosquitos while others are huge, walking, all-you-can-eat buffets. The same is true for all sorts of various blood-feasting beasties, albeit with attractions to different smells.

Mosquitos tend to go for the most delicious-smelling parts of the body (feet, groin, armpits) rather than upper back and collar bone, but don't like going too far away from an escape route so if your girlfriend's collar bone and upper back are the bits exposed when the bugs are around (e.g. when she's asleep) it makes sense that she'd be bitten there. They're also widespread enough that it's not a surprise that there'd be some in New York... although I know nothing about New York so I could be wrong.
posted by metaBugs at 11:50 AM on March 8, 2010

Best answer: You said they "don't look like ringworm" indicating they may be circular in shape. From this, I'm going to go with the hives hypothesis, as those should like wheals. My girlfriend gets them after showering
posted by phrakture at 12:06 PM on March 8, 2010

It's possible that the bugs are biting you as well and you just aren't showing a reaction. I had a boyfriend who claimed he had never had a mosquito bite, and then one day we watched a mosquito bite him but an itchy bump never developed.
posted by defreckled at 12:33 PM on March 8, 2010

This happened to my boyfriend and I, who live together, when our next door neighbor got dogs who had fleas. We couldn't figure out what was going on (I had bites all over my legs and arms.) Then we found out about the new dogs. We sprayed flea spray all over our apartment and upholstered areas. Then it was fine.

FWIW-- some people don't react to bug bites and might be getting bitten and don't know it. I react BIG TIME so I always feel munched upon.
posted by egeanin at 12:34 PM on March 8, 2010

Do they hurt? I might add shingles to the list.

I would certainly, and heartily, second the dermatologist recommendation.
posted by mce at 12:37 PM on March 8, 2010

If there is a flea in ANYONE'S house, It will always bite me first. I hate fleas.
TEST: Put on a pair of white socks and walk around your common areas for a few. Check socks, little blackish/brown specks moving all around - FLEAS!

Mosquito's bite me but, not my wife. Go figure?
Mosquito repellant (to see if the biting stops): Try Avons' Skin-so-soft. I live in the south and the Mosquito's are starting to come out.

Redbugs will get you where your clothing fits snugly. Tops of socks, under the elastic bands on your personal articles, armpits. They're ruthless and will release an enzyme in your skin that will itch until you scracth to the point of secondary infection. Usually, you will get redbugs but won't feel the effects till later the next day(especially at night) They could be in some woods? Maybe you walk a special path with tall grass that you brush up against? Or in spanish moss that hangs from Oak trees
REDBUG Repellant: Flowers of Sulphur mixed into the Avon Skin-So-Soft.

Hell, we have no-see-ums. little gnat-like creatures that spit some secretion on you that will itch and leave a little red mark for a day or two.

Maybe you could eliminate the things that aren't biting you on your way to finding a solution.

Good luck, I HATE biting bugs
posted by winks007 at 1:47 PM on March 8, 2010

Best answer: My hives are bright red so HMMV, but my first step would be to determine if it's an allergy rather than search for so-far unseen bugs.

Go to a pharmacy, buy the strongest over-the-counter fexofenadine hydrochloride available (here in Oz it's 180mg, marketed as Telfast 180 or Fexo 180), have her take two, and see what happens.

If the bumps disappear soon, within say 10 or 15 minutes, it's most likely an allergy and she needs to see an allergist rather than a dermatologist.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:46 PM on March 8, 2010

If it's shingles, two weeks is not at all surprising. Can last up to six weeks and drive you mad. Things to check: are they primarily on one side of her body, mostly on the torso and upper body?

Hives is another possibility.

She might also just have really dry skin, though I think this is the least likely option.

I'm thinking she should go to the doctor, rule out bug bites and shingles. Dermatologist is the next step.
posted by misha at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2010

Bed bugs.
posted by stealabove at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2010

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
For the information of anybody who finds this question and wonders: it was hives. Aerius allergy pills completely solved the issue.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:26 AM on August 28, 2020

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