What is biting me?
May 14, 2014 10:09 PM   Subscribe

Freaking out that I might have bedbugs. (Gross) pictures inside.

Pictures here. (Obviously pictures of bug bites on woefully pale skin). Keeping this short, I flew from Boston to Vegas and drove to Utah last weekend, with no bug bites in sight. Stayed in Utah, near Zion, Friday and Saturday nights. Flew to Los Angeles Sunday afternoon where I've been since then. Noticed bites starting yesterday and today. My suspicious mind thinks that I might have picked them up in Utah (FYI, staying on a ranch near Zion, in close proximity to horses) and brought them back with me, or gotten bitten there.

They're mildly itchy but not distractingly so. I've checked my bed and luggage but haven't found anything telltale (smears of blood, droppings, exoskeletons, etc.) There are tiny flecks of what look like black dust on my bed but they're completely dry and roll off when you flick them.
posted by andrewesque to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Response by poster: Obviously, this isn't that much information to go on, so even if your advice is "just calm down" that would also be great.
posted by andrewesque at 10:10 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert on bedbug bites, but those look like mosquito or flea bites to me.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:18 PM on May 14, 2014

They look like flea bites to me, too, especially because they look pretty spread out--my understanding is that bedbug bites tend to cluster.
posted by MeghanC at 10:41 PM on May 14, 2014

Bed bugs are definitely clustered. Doubt those are bedbugs.
posted by gramcracker at 11:17 PM on May 14, 2014

Bedbug bites tend to appear in clusters, usually in an arc or circle pattern. I'm no expert, but those really don't look to me like bedbug bites.
posted by whoiam at 11:18 PM on May 14, 2014

A friend of mine encountered bedbugs at a place he stayed once (fortunately he didn't bring them back to his place) and the bites didn't look like that. As others have said, clusters of bites are the norm, usually threes that are euphemistically referred to as "breakfast, lunch and dinner" in an arc or line fairly close together.
posted by barc0001 at 11:27 PM on May 14, 2014

Uhm, the black dust-- if you collect some of it and get it wet, does it get kinda reddish brown? If so, it might be flea dirt. I don't think I've heard of that from humans but dogs get it when they have fleas.
posted by nat at 12:00 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bedbugs do tend to bite three bites in a line. But I wouldn't completely rule bedbugs out based on the information you've got.

I don't think there's a reason to think that a horse-filled place would be particularly likely have bedbugs.

You can get a bedbug monitor, it's basically a couple of glorified pieces of cardboard, bedbugs adore cardboard and you stick it near the head of your bed -- bedbugs love the head of the bed -- and then you just peek at it in the mornings, because if they're with you they'll find it and roost in it and poop on it and eventually the cardboard will have little black dots. Otherwise, get some calamine lotion and relax.
posted by sockanalia at 1:11 AM on May 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

My bout with bedbugs (thankfully gone now) they were definitely in close clusters. Mine also itched worse than anything else I've ever had, although I'm pretty sure that's more variable. Fleas are a possibility--you say you just recognized the bites, do you really think you might have gotten bitten while you were there? A whole host of biting insects like to hang out around livestock. I don't think the bites usually show up much after the fact, but if you might have just not noticed them previously it could be a lot of things. I'd just run them under hot water, put some hydrocortisone on them, and then see if any more show up before worrying too much.
posted by Sequence at 3:25 AM on May 15, 2014

Those look very much like flea bites to me, and I've never met a horse barn that didn't have a cat.
posted by gingerest at 4:20 AM on May 15, 2014

I think sockanalia is right - please don't rule out bedbugs based on bite pattern alone. I had bedbugs for months a couple of years ago, and my bites looked extremely similar to yours (though they itched like the dickens).

In your shoes I'd be on the lookout for telltale bedbug signs (which you seem to know well) for another week or so. In the meantime I'd treat the symptoms (anti-itch cream, etc.) for now and just keep a close eye on your environment. Good luck!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:04 AM on May 15, 2014

They could be chiggers, which live under your skin (gross, I know), but aren't a big deal. They live in the ground in many rural areas--I don't know about Utah, but they're all over the South. A couple of hot baths will usually kill chiggers, or they die on their own after a couple of weeks.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:52 AM on May 15, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. Complication in that I'm doing unavoidable travel this weekend (wedding) and then back to Boston, and I'm in the middle of finals so I don't have a lot of time unfortunately. What should be the best practice when I get back to Boston (bedbugs or not)? Put everything immediately in the laundry in the hot cycle without bringing it back to my room first?
posted by andrewesque at 10:18 AM on May 15, 2014

To make a point about chiggers, which are a type of mite (and which are the itchiest bites ever, I once had 200+ chigger bites, it was hell!!!!), they do not live under the skin at all-that's a myth that gets repeated a lot. Chigger larvae, which are barely visible with the human eye (i.e., you won't notice them on you) find a good spot to bite (ankles, waist being prime targets, because you pick them up walking through brush/grass and they get in at your socks or waist most of the time) and then make what's called a stylostome. The stylosome is a tube that is made by injecting an enzyme into your skin that lyses and dissolves cells, the larva then slurps that back up as a meal. The chigger then drops off you after it's full and never is under your skin. The leftover stylostome is what causes the intense itching, and by then the chigger is long gone (takes some time to develop the reaction). You can read more details about this on wikipedia or elsewhere online, but that's the basics for chiggers.

If you were walking through tall grass or brush, could be chiggers, but usually they aren't on your arms much (in my experience, although it's happened) and are really intensely itchy and can take months to heal if you screw with them (and also seem to be "re-activated" and reappear when you get other bug bites in the close-ish future (2-6 months down the road)). These have been the bane of my existence for some time, as my work has me in proximity to them frequently and I seem to be particularly susceptible.
posted by PinkPoodle at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2014

Andrew, when I come home from traveling, I don't even bring anything into the house with me. Suitcases and everything that were in a hotel room go immediately to my backyard where I bag them up, tie the bags and put them in the heat of the sun if possible. I then enter through the garage, strip naked, enter the laundry room and throw everything I was wearing into the laundry. After that, straight to the shower. Later (and "later" for me could mean two hours or two days), when I'm ready to, I deal with the remainder of my luggage in the bags. Usually, I'll wash and dry all of the laundry first, shoes next, and anything that can't be washed, I hit with the heat of a blow dryer.

Eventually, I'll invest in a couple of these heated containers; they seem to be worth the expense.

The Bedbug Registry is very useful for checking out hotels and such before you rent a room. There's also a great list of resources, advice, and travel tips on that site. Good luck!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:53 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

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