What's eating me?
December 28, 2012 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Bugs are biting me in my home and I don't know what they are because I can't find them.

I've been getting a lot of bug bites lately, mostly at home, and especially in bed. Two to four nights a week I'll get several new bites in bed, almost always on the back, arms, ankles / upper feet. Occasionally I'll get a bite or two when I'm out of bed or out of the house, so I assume bugs are riding along in my clothes. About once a week, I'll have a severe reaction to the bites, causing large swellings that itch painfully for days. This only happens with bed bites, never with the others. The rest of the bites lead to small hard lumps that itch for a few hours but remain bumpy for a few days with very little itching.

I have a dog, and he has brought home fleas in the past, and he's not currently on any anti-flea treatment. But I haven't seen any fleas. Bedbugs seem like an obvious possibility, here in Major Northeastern City, but I haven't seen any of them either. In fact, I haven't seen any bugs of any kind (except for the occasional little spider in the window) for months. Oh yeah, and those creepy little house centipedes now and then. But I'm pretty sure I'd notice if those were crawling on me. It's not mosquito season, and mosquitoes are generally audible and don't bite under the bedclothes.

More than once a week I wake myself up in the middle of the night and inspect my sheets and various nooks and crannies of the bed with a flashlight. No bugs! I've checked in daylight too. No bugs. At least three times, soon after a bite, I've stripped myself naked in the bathtub and shaken out all my clothes, hoping to dislodge a bug into the tub. Nothing. I'm almost ready to put it down to delusional parasitosis, except the bumps are real.

My current top theory is fleas, because those guys are athletic and elusive, unlike bedbugs - but I really haven't seen any in a month or two of pretty intensive searching. What the heck is eating me?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're also getting bites outside your house? This may not be bug bites at all, but hives, caused by an allergic reaction. A doctor visit might solve this mystery for you.
posted by hyperbovine at 6:33 AM on December 28, 2012

Have you explored the underside of your box spring (if you have one)?
posted by lulu68 at 7:05 AM on December 28, 2012

I thought I had bed bugs but it wound up being guttate psoriasis.
posted by blue t-shirt at 7:10 AM on December 28, 2012

Do they look like bed bug bites (a few in a row or bunched together) ?
posted by beccaj at 7:11 AM on December 28, 2012

We had a similar issue- and it turned out to be bird-mites.

We had to toss the mattress, but the little s.o.b.s were otherwise super easy to get rid of.
posted by Blisterlips at 7:17 AM on December 28, 2012

I'm really sorry. I had bed bugs and reacted severely to the bites and it is a terrible thing to deal with.

Bed bugs themselves are really hard to find sometimes, but have you seen any little red smears on your sheets? Any little white eggs tucked away near seams? Have you completely flipped your mattress over to check the other side of it? Do you have a headboard that sits next to a wall?

When I had them, I was bitten from them hanging out in my clothes during the day, but the bite wasn't different. Have you considered that you might have bed bugs AND fleas? There's also the possibility of scabies - they'd actually be in your skin, so you wouldn't find them in your bed.

Nthing you should see a doctor. In the meantime, itch relief cream is an underrated product.
posted by girih knot at 7:17 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the hives possibility. I was sure I had bed bugs, but having itchy patches start midday was so weird that I checked the Internet. I was totally freaking out that I had a mutant bug tagging along in my clothes each day.

When I realized it was probably hives, I thought about what had changed just prior to them starting, and I realized I'd just started taking an acai berry supplement. I stopped taking it and the hives immediately stopped appearing, and the old ones stopped itching by the end of the day.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:27 AM on December 28, 2012

it sounds like fleas to me, those suckers are jerks! I would treat my dog and carpets, and vacuum like crazy to see if it helps.
posted by katypickle at 7:49 AM on December 28, 2012

I have tiny translucent baby spiders, almost impossible to see. The bites sound very similar. I got sticky traps, those and vacuuming frequently, and washing the sheets more often than normal have helped. They may be nesting- or whatever spiders do- in your closet.
posted by mareli at 8:23 AM on December 28, 2012

Biting midges (noseeums)? They are tiny and I still get a bit of a reaction to them, even though I'm entirely immune to mosquito bites now (except for those tiger-striped gits!).
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:58 AM on December 28, 2012

How to tell fleas from bedbugs, the short version:
1. Flea bites usually are single bites, not in any pattern, concentrated around feet and ankles.
2. Bed bug bites can be anywhere on the body, and often "line up" in a straight pattern of bites, AKA breakfast, lunch and dinner.
posted by seasparrow at 10:40 AM on December 28, 2012

nthing the advice to consider hives. I asked a question like this a few years ago, MeFites proposed hives, and that turned out to be the case. Take an allergy pill the next time you get a reaction and see if it helps.
posted by Beardman at 11:36 AM on December 28, 2012

I once thought I had fleas but it turned out to be a reaction I get generally in the fall when I may go to bed cold but overheat at night. Or something. Whatever it is, it isn't bugs. I get small hard very itchy bumps, starting usually at my ankles or behind my knees but they can show up anywhere, often in little clusters. They can be itchy for a while but the bumps always outlast the itch. They look like flea bites.
posted by sepviva at 6:48 PM on December 28, 2012

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