Bed bugs or rash from sunscreen?
July 25, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

YANMD but need help--is this bedbugs? Can a prompt care tell? And if so what do we do?

We are traveling and have been for 6 days. Yesterday I noticed a rash on my wife's lower legs from ankle to knee. I noticed it mid day and not earlier in the day (and I was looking at her lower legs due to terrible blisters she got from walking).

As the day went on these seemed to get worse. Her legs swelled and took on a mottled appearance. When she woke up though it was back to the red spots.

A picture of the spots is here:

Another photo with flash on:

These don't itch and don't feel raised. But we are returning home today an our big fear is bedbugs. We don't want to bring them into our home.

We are thinking of going to a Prompt Care in the area to have them look but google says diagnosis is hard if we didn't see the bugs. Also I have no spots but google says they could take 9 days to show up

Advice on what to do to keep bed bugs out of our house would be appreciated!
posted by arniec to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Go to prompt care anyway because it could be something besides bug bites, especially if you've been travelling for days.

Swelling in the extremities can be a really bad thing or a really not-bad thing, but it needs to get checked out by a doctor.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:20 AM on July 25, 2011

Where have you been traveling? Anywhere that you've been walking around a lot on pavement? It sounds and looks to me like Golfer's Vasculitis (or, Disney rash).
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2011

Response by poster: We were at San Diego Comic Con and then...DISNEY!

So on our feet 5 days from 5am to 1am

Also the swelling went away as she slept. But the spots remain.
posted by arniec at 10:25 AM on July 25, 2011

Different people can have different allergic reactions, but that doesn't sound or look like bedbug bites at all. I wouldn't be concerned about bringing them home at all.

Whether you should be concerned about the rash, I'm not sure.
posted by dragoon at 10:34 AM on July 25, 2011

YMMV, but when I got bit up by bedbugs, I had red welts like a quarter sized, with a clear pustule (?) in the center. They were very distinct from each other. However, I also get big welts from mosquitos.
posted by cabingirl at 10:35 AM on July 25, 2011

It doesn't look like bed bug bites. As you probably read, they tend to occur in little clusters, typically in threes.

Although it is impossible to diagnose over the internet, it could be heat rash and heat edema, which is basically what roomthreeseventeen said.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:37 AM on July 25, 2011

Bed bugs usually look like fairly symmetrical rows of similar looking bites, so I vote no on bed bugs.

It looks sort of like poison ivy to me, but if you've been on concrete and pavement for the last week that is unlikely too.
posted by COD at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2011

I get a rash on my legs like that when I walk around on pavement all day, like when I am at an amusement park. Supposedly, it's quite common, and once I started looking for it, I see LOTS of people with the same rash. Spreading aloe on the rash helps, keeping your feet up, and cold compresses. It's the heat that reflects off the pavement that is doing it, so, theoretically, if you can stand to wear pants, it won't get worse.
posted by molasses at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2011

If you are worried about bringing bedbugs home, here are some suggestions I've gotten from bedbug treatment websites. I actually do some of them after all air travel and hotel stays, just for peace of mind:

You may need to stop at the store on the way home and pick up some trash bags.

Before going into your house, bag up all clothes and fabric you've been traveling with. It's summer and you're not wearing a heavy coat or multiple layers, so it's relatively unlikely that there are bedbugs traveling in the clothes you're wearing.

Each bag should contain no more than a dryer-load.

If possible, bag up your luggage - if you travel with soft luggage that can be tossed in the dryer.

Seal the bags, making sure that they're airtight.

One bag at a time, heat all your stuff in the dryer.

Most home dryers reach ~113 degrees Fahrenheit on high, which the temperature needed to kill bedbugs and eggs. (This is from research that I saw posted on Bedbugger but can't find right now....) did some tests showing that ~5 minutes at ~113 degrees is enough, but recommends at least 20 minutes to insure that everything heats evenly. If you're heating things like pillows or heavy clothing, allow longer. I usually set things for 40 minutes because I'm paranoid like that and because I have my own dryer, which I tested with an instant-read thermometer - it goes well above 113 degrees.

I've had good luck with wrapping shoes in multiple pillowcases (fasten the cases) to prevent thumping in the dryer. But bedbugs generally don't travel in shoes unless there's a very heavy infestation.

If you can't heat your luggage - if it's hard-walled, for example - you can wipe it down with alcohol or vacuum it carefully, throwing away the vacuum bag right away.

I travel with soft luggage only now - I've got a couple of unlined soft leather bags that survive occasional heating just fine, and some fabric ones. It's not as convenient as a wheeled case, I admit, but it's a heck of a lot more convenient than paying thousands of dollars to treat for bedbugs.

Also, if you've been carrying a purse, messenger bag, etc, bag it, shake the contents out over a sink and check them carefully, then heat the bag in the dryer. (Make sure the bag isn't one of those melty vinyl ones, of course. )

Anyway, this probably seems crazy paranoid - and those don't really look like bedbug bites to me - but if you feel like doing the whole anti-bug nine yards, this is what I do. (Again, I plan my luggage and bag-carrying so that this is quick and easy - it's not actually too complex if you don't have hard-sided or vinyl bags.)
posted by Frowner at 11:15 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can't diagnose bedbugs just by looking at the bites, because people have different reactions and the bites could really look like anything. Do a thorough search of your bedding for bugs, eggs, bedbug poop, or discarded shells or casings. Read to find the best ways to do this. If you find physical evidence of the bugs, follow the steps to get rid of them. If you don't, then try your best to calm down, because you probably don't have them.

In other words, BUGS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:51 PM on July 25, 2011

From my unfortunately recent experience in similar circumstances, those don't look anything like bed bug bites, and I don't see any reason to believe you have them. However, others are right that different people respond differently (some people don't really react at all), so I guess there's no reason to think you don't have them... and this way lies madness!

If you're still staying where you think you would have gotten them, search under the mattress and around the headboard as Afroblanco says. We found bugs, got the hotel to replace stuff that couldn't be cleaned and dry clean the rest (we also ran it all through a hot wash and dry), and fingers crossed, came home bug free.

But FWIW, I don't think you have them.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2011

My suspicion would be Golfer's Vasculitis as well. Earlier this year, I took a trip that involved a lot of walking around in the sun. I developed a rash that was neither itchy nor raised. My spouse did not get it, so I assumed it was not bedbugs. It went away in a little under a week.
posted by Morrigan at 3:09 PM on July 25, 2011

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