fiery feet
September 18, 2012 9:22 PM   Subscribe

My feet are so itchy I could punch someone. What bugs in my house could be biting me?

A few days ago, while sitting at my desk my feet started itching, mostly my right foot, along the sole and near the ankle. There are some swollen bumps but no bite marks I can see. My feet were barefoot, dry, and resting in carpet. So what creatures could be attacking me and what should I do about them? I live in southern California, we have never had pets nor any pests besides fruit/house flies in the kitchen.
posted by mnemonic to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't imagine what's biting you (actually, I'd guess it was a random spider), but I can tell you how to get rid of the itch: run very hot water, as hot as you can stand it, over your feet until the water feels strangely icy. This overloads the nerve signals and makes the itch disappear for hours.
posted by Specklet at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

do you have allergies? it sounds like hives. they are maddening! Ice can help stop the itch.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't have any allergies to my knowledge, but I did have hives once as a kid. But they were all over my body, head to toe, they don't occur locally do they?
posted by mnemonic at 9:41 PM on September 18, 2012

Anyway you got some fleas in the house? Flea bites are terrifically itchy.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:44 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

run very hot water, as hot as you can stand it, over your feet until the water feels strangely icy.

It is extremely easy to scald yourself this way. Please consider cortisone cream!
posted by Nomyte at 9:46 PM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Maybe it's ants? I HATE ANT BITES.

The only way to stop it is to put down ant traps.
posted by spunweb at 9:55 PM on September 18, 2012

I also came here to say fire ants. It's very easy to hang out a little too close to an ant's nest.
What works for stopping the itch? Toothache gel that numbs out the nerves.
posted by pickypicky at 10:02 PM on September 18, 2012

Sometimes when my feet sweat a lot and I don't change my socks after I develop very itchy bumps which I think are the result of a fungus. If I wash and dry my feet and change socks more frequently (or even better, wear sandles) it usually goes away. Another option is to get anti-fungal cream (if it is the result of a fungus)
posted by bearette at 10:29 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess that it would be athlete's foot (what I experience). Not sure if that's what's going on with you, but worth a consideration.
posted by bearette at 10:30 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Could you be at risk for diabetic neuropathy, or any other kind of peripheral nerve damage? Early symptoms can feel like a bizarrely non-specific itch that fails to be relieved by any sort of scratching. In fact, for a while I was "getting" athlete's foot like crazy, but now in retrospect I don't think it was athlete's foot at all. It's especially easy to notice when you're sedentary, as when sitting at a desk.

(Basically, your feet are so far from your brain that they are the most susceptible to nerve damage. What is effectively happening are false signals that your brain interprets as an itch or when more advanced a prickly "stepping on nettles" feeling. It's actually just referred pain.)

As a Type 2 diabetic, I've had to learn to really be in tune with my feet. I would make sure that I wash daily, moisturize, and exfoliate regularly -- you can use foot creams with pumice as well as little foot sponges for this. If you're taking really good care of your feet and this itchiness still flares up, consult a doctor. For diabetes, they'll want to do an A1C test for blood sugar levels, but if you've had one recently as part of regular blood work this is something you may be able to easily discount.
posted by dhartung at 11:13 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

they don't occur locally do they?

oh yea, they can. you come in contact with something you react to and blea - sudden itchy puffy red blotches right there. It's not just allergies that set them off, if you look at the link, they can be from heat. or cold. or exercise, or vibration. they can be pretty random.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:56 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

"but I can tell you how to get rid of the itch: run very hot water, as hot as you can stand it, over your feet until the water feels strangely icy. This overloads the nerve signals and makes the itch disappear for hours."

While this remedy is generally a poor choice for less vulnerable areas of the body, this a profoundly terrible idea for your feet. Your doctor will have a good idea of where to start in helping you understand the source of your issues, which isn't necessarily from bites, or will be able to refer you to someone who will.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:10 AM on September 19, 2012

Have you walked in a park or field in sandals or low cut shoes recently? Put herbicide on your lawn?

I had a horrific ankle itch of doom recently, after working in a field of alfalfa, even though it doesn't effect my respiration system.
posted by cakebatter at 3:15 AM on September 19, 2012

Does it look something like this? The first stage of dyshidrosis can feel a lot like bites you don't remember getting, on the hands or feet. It has no particular known cause but stress can aggravate it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:40 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing possible hives. Start antihistamines and get to a doctor. Chronic hives are different from short-lasting "local" hives. Mine started as 1 week of "bites" on my elbows and quickly became all over hives that grow into each other and become inches long and last for days--new ones grow daily, so while each cluster lasts for three days, I am never without hives. I'm now into my fifth month, on high doses of five antihistamines and still getting hives daily.

In that first week, I kept wondering why I was the only one in the house getting bitten. I tried what I call the "scalding" method of reducing the itch. It was a bad idea for me. It's clear that I cannot exhaust my body's ability to produce histamines.

Memailed me if it does turn out to be chronic hives. Primary care docs often start with prednisone, which should only be taken for a very short course (3 days). A dermatologist or rheumatologist with experience treating chronic hives will have other suggestions. Prednisone does quite a bit of damage and only suppresses the hives while you're taking it.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:44 AM on September 19, 2012

How bumpy were these bumps, and had you done any rubbing/scratching before you saw them?

My feet itch maddeningly (and the right slightly more than left) when my blood pressure is high. I will scratch my feet with the heel of the other foot until there is redness and irritation, but it's from the scratching, not the itch.

But also, yes, you can get hives locally. They're usually so pronounced that it'd be hard to mistake it for anything else.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:07 AM on September 19, 2012

I have the same trouble. On my right foot only. I have gone to the dermatologist who gave me anti-itch cream, skin softening cream, anti-fungal cream and some sort of steroid cream. It comes and goes and the itching causes the little bumps. It's not a bug bite.

I was told a few different things. It is internal and not external. One prognosis is that I have high cholesterol. In any case, I have found that regularly scrubbing with a pumice stone and applying Curel Anti-Itch lotion has helped. I tried the Gold Bond one too, but Curel is better.

Good luck. I know how you feel. I was about to hack my foot off times.
posted by Yellow at 7:11 AM on September 19, 2012

I came in here to say dyshidrosis or eczema, too... that's what I have and they itch like mad - I primarily get the bumps on the back of my ankles, the sides of my foot, and the tops of my toes. For YEARS I thought I had Athlete's foot.

Please don't scald your feet. It will probably make it worse.
posted by sm1tten at 8:32 AM on September 19, 2012

If you want to test for fleas, put on some white socks and stamp your feet up and down in the carpet. If they're there, you'll see little dark specks on your socks. The vibration makes them jump up because they think it's a host animal walking past.

Fleas can enter a house on people, and are so tiny they can get through window screens. The bites cause little red bumps.

Otherwise, it might be some sort of contact dermatitis. Try some OTC cortisone cream and if it gets worse, go see a doctor.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:49 AM on September 19, 2012

I'm very susceptible to mosquito bites, which swell up on me and get very itchy. Cortisone cream doesn't work for me. But Kanka (used mainly for cold sores) is awesome.
posted by jcatus at 9:15 AM on September 19, 2012

I'd go for the more obvious (and less serious) possibilities first before I'd consider seeing a doctor.

The first thing I would try is taking an antihistamine, because I get hives all the time and I would just assume that's what it was. Benadryl is optimal, but it will make you sleepy during the day. My doc has me taking Allegra (the regular, not the AllegraD, and you just get it over the counter) daily right now and it seems to work pretty well. If the antihistamine works and the itching doesn't come back, just chalk it up to an unspecified allergic reaction.

It could also just be an insect bite. Mosquitoes tend to go for ankles and feet, as do ants. Have you brought anything new into your office that might have had an ant on it? Does it look like a small, red bump surrounded by a larger flat red area? Could be an ant. Mosquito bites have a flatter, larger, light colored center surrounded by the same flat red area.

Fleas could have come into the home on your trousers from visiting someone else's home, off of their pets. Vacuuming and then getting rid of the vacuum bag is a good move if you think you have fleas. Their bites are similar to ant bites.

If you rule out insects, take an antihistamine, and the itchy feet come back again, then I would consider going to a doctor to rule out the other, more serious stuff in this thread.
posted by misha at 11:31 AM on September 19, 2012

Oh, and cortisone cream is no good for mosquito or ant bites.

For those, just use two parts baking soda to one part water. It makes up a paste, put it on the bites and the itch will go away. Easy peasy, and everyone has baking soda around the house.

Hot water over the feet sounds really dangerous! That's just a bad idea and I wouldn't recommend it for anything, but it would be especially bad for hives, as heat tends to make them come out even worse.

Oatmeal baths or Aveeno's oatmeal anti-itch cream, if you don't want to take antihistamines for some reason, are a good choice for hives. Oatmeal also works for chicken pox and shingles (which is a godsend, because Shingles are the worst!).
posted by misha at 11:41 AM on September 19, 2012

Scabies cause extreme itching. Like you want to cut your feet off itching. Especially if you've never had them before. There is not always a clear bite mark for these.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 11:45 AM on September 19, 2012

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