What's crawling up my leg?
April 14, 2016 7:42 AM   Subscribe

During warm weather, when I'm wearing shorts inside, I get the constant sensation that there are very small insects flying into my legs. I rarely am able to see anything concrete. I don't do drugs. I do have hairy legs. I do also have indoor/outdoor cats and they show signs of having flees occasionally, but I thought flees only jump up onto things. What else might it be?
posted by Jon44 to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by fairmettle at 7:47 AM on April 14, 2016

If you're sure that there are no insects, and you're hairy, you may not be aware of the fact that your leghairs have little muscles which control their movement -- it's how they stand on end when scared or cold -- but they move for unconscious reasons and you might be detecting the tiny movements of your own hairs. Also if you wear pants, the hairs might get pushed around by the fabric, and their 'springiness' allows them to snap back into place when they get a little 'room' to move, giving the sensation of something crawling on you.

Also, no-see-ums and fleas come along with bites and itchy spots; if you just sense things walking on you, but there's nothing there, it's probably just oversensitivity to your hairs moving for whatever reason.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:51 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have sometimes hairy and sometimes shaved legs. I only get this sensation when my legs are hairy. The nerves attached to our hairs are pretty sensitive, and I believe this is just the feeling of the air moving the hairs around.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:03 AM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]

nting the air moving the hair theory. I am basically part sasquatch and I constantly get the shivery sensation that a bug landed on me or something, but it's just a tiny tiny breeze moving one of my million leg hairs.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:18 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Fleas can and will bite humans and can hang out in furniture and carpets until they spot a good target, but it doesn't sound like you're getting bitten. You'd notice -- they're certainly visible, and would leave small welts. (Also, if your cats sometimes get fleas, please see a vet about getting them some kind of anti-flea medication. It's not all that expensive for how long it protects them, and it's worth it for keeping your cats happy, comfortable, and protected from the diseases fleas can spread.)

It's probably just that with shorts you can feel the breezes on your legs. If it's too bothersome or you feel itchy, put some lotion on (dry skin exacerbates these sensations), trim or shave your leg hair, or wear pants.
posted by asperity at 8:20 AM on April 14, 2016

I experience this same thing. It's simply my very long leg hairs affecting each other with even the slightest draft.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:27 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I get this sensation with bare legs, shaved or unshaved. I think it's just nerve endings not used to the stimulation. It happens a lot more with one leg than the other, and usually only in one area, which adds evidence towards my theory--some goofy nerves in one place makes more sense than invisible bugs only climbing on that one part of my leg.
posted by purple_bird at 8:43 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing hair, air, and nerves. Although during a typical DC summer in the yard I always look anyway, because good lord there are lots of little critters that crawl up/fly into/fall onto me.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I get this it's an early sign that my magnesium deficiency is kicking back in. It's not hair because my legs are shaved and it goes away when I take the supplements. YMMV with this one.
posted by shelleycat at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried moisturizing? I get more scratchy/itchy when my leg skin is a little too dry (summers around here are pretty low humidity).
posted by porpoise at 10:19 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sensation is called formication. It can accompany some medical issues (peripheral neuropathy, paralysis, or drug reactions ). It bothers me less when I wear compression stockings, fwiw.
posted by Jesse the K at 10:51 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

From my experience growing up with indoor pets in the southern US before the advent of the wonder drug that is the monthly flea treatment, I can say this much... You'd know if it was fleas because I've never seen any flea infestation stay contained on a pet and not, even if slowly (like over the course of a few weeks at most), morph into a full on "Damn, we definitely have fleas in the house"-type situation.

So, unless your cats are new, or new to the outdoors, or you're in a new setting, or just had a ton of carpet put over your hardwood floors or something, I find it hard to believe that you've just got a 'few' fleas and aren't noticing something more definite.

My legs are hairy too. I fought fleas growing up and it sucked and was embarrassing. I am super alert about monitoring my abode for fleas that may attempt to tag along on our two pups and set up shop indoors. Perhaps as a symptom of all those things, I get those little leg hair feels while in shorts too. The paranoia kicks in, I freeze and sneak a peek (fleas aren't always super fast, you can see them and watch them do their thing if you don't spook them) and it's always fine.

Consider treating your cats if you do notice a problem. The fleas will bite the cats and die and the cats will, unless you're just unlucky, act as a stealthy flea killing sleeper cell in your home until they're all, even the ones that aren't on the cat anymore, dead from cat blood poisoning.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I don't understand this part of your question at all really:

but I thought flees only jump up onto things

I mean, your legs are things... so.... Uh. What?

And also wanted to add, you'd have flea bites as further evidence of it being fleas.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:02 AM on April 14, 2016

You may be allergic to something outside(pollen,dust,grass,etc). If it was bugs you'd either see them, or see their bites or even develop a rash.

Hairy legs + sensitive skin is also a recipe for itching, no matter what. Are you moisturising often? In hot weather hair follicles can get really irritated. Keeping the skin more supple could help a lot.
posted by InkDrinker at 11:18 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have to check my shorts hems carefully for stray threads, as I have a very jumpy BUG ON ME AAAAAH reflex. Trimming those helps, as does at least a knock-down trim with an electric razor on my legs.

I've certainly been in situations where there were fleas, and yes they will jump on your legs, but wearing a pair of white socks for a couple of hours will pretty definitively tell you if there are fleas jumping on you.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:55 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone else who says it's probably just your own hairs waving around, or random drifting cat hairs landing on one of your hairs. Maybe try shaving or clipping your leg hairs, and seeing if the sensation persists?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:45 PM on April 14, 2016

« Older Can an "alpha" be happy with a "beta"?   |   What is 'bloatware', why should I care, and how do... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.