What bugs are bugging us?
October 6, 2013 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday my partner and I drained and moved a 275 gallon water cistern that has been sitting stagnant, probably for several months. Shortly afterward she started getting itchy, raised red spots that look like some sort of insect bite. What may be causing this? What is the best strategy for eradicating it?

A few more details:
- I have had no problems, but we already know that she's hypersensitive to insect bites.
- The bites show up quickly - on getting out of bed this morning her legs were clear, but within an hour they were covered in bites.
- They go away quickly as well - bites from last night had cleared up by morning.
- They mostly show up in places where skin is contacting clothing (armpits, collar, top of socks).
- We showered last night and washed all the clothes we had been wearing. The bites have returned regardless.
- We assume the biters are small, since bites have shown up in the lines between ribbed knitting on leg warmers.
- Anti-inflammatory topical cream helps reduce itching and marks.
- We're located in the Pacific NW, if that makes a difference.

What may be causing this and how do we get rid of it? (Also, is it something that often lives in water cisterns?)
posted by sibilatorix to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you sure these are bites, and not contact dermatitis, hives, an allergic reaction, or heat rash?

Stagnant water is a tremendous breeding ground for mosquitoes.
posted by aspen1984 at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2013

Response by poster: Well, I tried to cover as many things as possible, but aspen reminds me of a few others:
- Not heat rash, given the temperatures around these parts. It's quite cool out.
- Neither of us had more than brief contact with the water in the tank, and any contact with the tank itself was limited to hands, arms, and clothing as we carried it. Her hands and arms don't have the kind of rash we find when looking up contact dermatitis or hives - mostly they don't have any marks at all.
- The marks often show up where skin creases (wrists, inside of elbows, back of knees).
- There were definitely mosquitoes breeding in the tank, but these don't behave like any mosquito bites we've encountered before.
- I can't think of any other allergens we could have encountered recently - no new soaps, detergents, clothes, etc.
posted by sibilatorix at 10:43 AM on October 6, 2013

Best answer: My first thought is chigger bites, because they like folds in the skin and places where clothing is restricted. They're nothing to worry about.
posted by sbutler at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2013

Best answer: They mostly show up in places where skin is contacting clothing (armpits, collar, top of socks).

This sounds an awful lot like chiggers. Was the cistern in an area with longish grass? If so, they'll itch for a while but aren't otherwise dangerous.
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2013

If new bites are still showing up, it could be scabies, which are kinda like chiggers except they move around after they bite. Chiggers only bite once and die. There's an ointment you can buy at the dripugstore for scabies. You cover your entire body and that gets rid of them.
posted by raisingsand at 2:28 PM on October 6, 2013

Ants are attracted to water, so it may be a type of ant that is either biting you or irritating the skin.
posted by Jewel98 at 7:44 PM on October 6, 2013

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