Weird bugbites at night. What next?
October 22, 2014 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Brushed off weird bugbites once over the summer, just woke up with them again, worried about bedbugs and trying to figure out what to do about it, if anything.

Back in late July/early August I noticed what looked like bug bites on my leg that started itching on my way to work and got worse over the course of the morning.

These were three bites that popped up on my left knee and front of my ankle. They started as red welts a little smaller than a dime, but within a day or two a little bump raised up in the middle, and they itched like crazy for days even with topical benadryl. (They don't look like hives I've had before, and I know you can't jump straight to bedbugs from what look like bug bites, but FWIW.)

Nothing happened after that, and after checking for a week or two I couldn't see anything in my bedding or on/around/under my mattress that looked hinky, so I chalked it up to some weird bug bite I'd gotten hanging out in a park the night before, and kind of forgot about it.

Fast forward to this week, I started itching on the way to work, and by mid-morning noticed six more of the same kind of bites, on my left shin and the back of my calf. Same deal, raised red welts that itch like crazy.

My paranoid side is worried about bedbugs, but I neither want to be an alarmist nor in total denial. Also, I'm in an apartment building and wouldn't want anything to affect my neighbors (or get out of control in my own apartment.) Still no actual sign of bugs of any kind. I'm slathering on the Benadryl and I'm going to try the double-sided tape on the bed legs tonight, but it was months between anything happening last time, so who knows what that will turn up.

So, in the meantime:
1. Do I tell my apartment management? (This seems weird at this point but I want to be a good neighbor and such?)
2. Will they expect me to have seen a doctor (or done anything else) first?
3. Am I way off base here? Could I just have one little bedbug that hitched a ride from somewhere and only gets hungry every couple of months, or some other type of bug altogether?
4. Either way, what do I do for now?

Thanks much in advance.
posted by jameaterblues to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there any chance they could be chigger bites (i.e., have you been hanging around in unkempt natural surroundings)?
posted by Schielisque at 6:10 PM on October 22, 2014

I would wait until you have more sure signs of bedbugs. Right now it really could be anything. Allergic reaction to your detergent, totally unrelated rash, some other type of bug bite (fleas, mites)...

It does seem odd that there was a several-month gap between bites, but I wouldn't read too much into it. Bedbug reactions can be weird. But I also wouldn't assume that you have bedbugs based on skin reactions alone. That way lies madness.

Definitely look for bedbugs though. Tear apart your bed and look in all of the seams and nooks and crannies of your bedframe, boxspring and mattress. The other thing I'd do is get some light colored sheets and sleep on those for a while. If you have bedbugs, you'll see dark spots showing up there (fecal spots, google for super disgusting pictures).

If you see any signs of bedbugs other than the bites (spots, cast skins, eggs), then it's definitely time to call in a professional, or maybe a dog. They'll be able to do a better search than you will.

Best of luck, hope it's nothing!
posted by geegollygosh at 6:25 PM on October 22, 2014

I would like to ease your stress a little.

I have had similar scares (once turned out to be the mites that were living on the rats that were living in my walls) and I'm sure now that I don't and haven't had bedbugs. But THAT ITCH. It can even make it difficult to think straight. I'm sorry you're feeling the itch.

I also discovered recently that my reaction to flea bites is different than it used to be: itchier, redder, longer-lasting. I hadn't ever considered that as a possibility. So, these unusual bites could be a change in your reaction, rather than a bug you haven't encountered before.

There are a bunch of reasons why your story sounds very much not bedbugs; I live with a man I call the Bedbug King, and employ knowledge from throughout his kingdom. geegollygosh gives good advice for looking, but even though the itch messes with my mind, I would hold off on bedbug action until I found a bedbug (can be sent to entomology schools or a good exterminator to identify) or clear evidence of them.

I bought a blow dryer and use it to heat my bites until they stop itching for a while. It's amazing. If you still need relief, search around for heat/bug bite/hairdryer/etc and see if the method would work for you. The heat is the only thing that helps sometimes. I have had a little bit of luck with fexofenadine HCl pills.

Take care.
posted by strivesc at 7:02 PM on October 22, 2014

FWIW, I have good luck with Zyrtec to reduce itching and swelling from nasty bug bites. If they're really nasty, I've gotten prescription steroids that were awesome, see a doc.

I'd gather more evidence of bedbugs before you tell the management.
posted by momus_window at 7:06 PM on October 22, 2014

Any possibility of fleas? The clustering, the fact the bites are on your lower legs, the way they go from little to itchy and huge reminds me very much of my (few) experiences with cat fleas.
posted by gingerest at 7:31 PM on October 22, 2014

Can you post a picture of the bites?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:49 PM on October 22, 2014

Don't wait. Tell your landlord that you suspect something, and have them do an inspection or do a precautionary treatment. Even if you don't have bedbugs, you can have them spray and you can purchase a mattress cover. It's doubtful that a doctor can diagnose bedbug bites, as they look like any kind of bug bite.

I'd also wash any bedding, pajamas and pants in hot water and hot dryer.
posted by hooray at 8:58 PM on October 22, 2014

Bird Mites Bird mites might be a possibility. If you have birds nesting near your dwelling, they nest during the early summer and late summer. The mites leave small doubled test bites for a time after the birds leave the nest. There are some images of the bites on the site. They are tiny, and they can't live on human blood. So you just have to wipe them off and spray for them (I use Trader Joe's Citrus Vodka) for a while before they die out. I get them in a couple of cycles during nesting season, which I consider a privilege since it means I have more hummingbirds hovering around my house.
posted by effluvia at 9:13 PM on October 22, 2014

Could be anything. You don't have to jump straight to bedbug. Swelling like that, on me, could also mean spider or mosquito.
posted by salvia at 9:34 PM on October 22, 2014

Do you have pets? If there are fleas in your house you can get bitten (they won't live on ya, but they love to bite).
posted by radioamy at 7:28 AM on October 23, 2014

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