does my home office have fleas?
July 7, 2021 11:33 AM   Subscribe

For like two weeks now, I've been really itchy while I'm sitting at my desk. I feel like there are things crawling over me, mostly on my legs but also sometimes around other parts of my body. I can't see anything, though, so sometimes I think I'm imagining things. I don't have any pets. I don't feel itchy in any other part of my house, and I usually don't feel itchy in my bed, which is on the other side of the room. Just at my desk. Is this fleas? If so, how do I get rid of them? If not, what else could it be?
posted by kevinbelt to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You say you don't see anything, do you mean bugs or bites? I had a dorm room with fleas once and the bites were very distinct.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:49 AM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

You don't have any pets, and haven't seen any fleas? It's probably not fleas, which are visible to the naked eye and tend to attract attention because of how they jump.

Could your chair/the way you sit be causing circulation issues? If I sit for a long time I sometimes feel a sort of crawling sensation in my lower extremities. For me it's like the beginning of what people call "pins and needles," but I've talked to other folks who experience something even more crawly.

Another possibility would be dust mites and/or an environmental allergy.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

If you had flea bites you would see them. They would itch wherever you were, too - I wish I could leave flea bites in the room where the fleas were!

Are you allergic to anything? Any triggers in your office?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is your desk by an open window? Mine is, and I get this in spring and fall.
posted by jgirl at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Put a white sheet under your feet. You'll see them if it's fleas.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:14 PM on July 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Me and some people in my family get itchy in that manner when anxious. Is anxiety better or worse than fleas?
posted by turkeybrain at 12:21 PM on July 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Not sure if you're seeing bumps or bites, but when I get hives (from seasonal allergies and occasionally from stress) they look & itch a lot like small mosquito bites and tend to cluster on my feet and hands. Antihistamines tend to help a lot.
posted by saramour at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oooh maybe it’s dust mites.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:29 PM on July 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Having lived through both fleas and hives I'd say it would be useful to determine whether you do have fleas, although it doesn't seem likely. You can create a temporary flea trap by putting a few drops of dish soap in a bowl of water, putting that bowl on the floor, and putting a desk lamp over the bowl to present a target. Fleas jump for the light, land in the water, and drown. It's satisfying, but it will only confirm the infestation and won't actually get rid of it. If you don't have fleas, make an appointment at a dermatologist, because (as I've recently learned) you can start having eczema late in life, and a dermatologist will be able to tell if it's that or something else.
posted by fedward at 12:31 PM on July 7, 2021

I'm a doctor

Is this fleas?

Flea saliva contains anti-coagulants that cause an allergic reaction at the site of the bite. This reaction manifests

a) in little red welts (swelling) you can see and feel


b) in "focal urticaria," or itchiness limited to an inch or so around the welt itself.

You don't have any welts from what I can gather. Your itchiness is diffuse rather than focal. You don't have pets

Fleas almost certainly aren't the problem

sometimes I think I'm imagining things

You're not. You're coming up with plausible explanations for physical sensations with no obvious physical cause.

Your physical sensations are real and something physical/biochemical/mechanical is affecting the nerves in the lower half of your body. Even if the cause were "all in your head," its effects are 100% somatic

what else could it be?

Dozens of things, far too many to list here

Googling "pruritic neuropathic conditions" will give you an idea of the possibilities
posted by BadgerDoctor at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2021 [16 favorites]

I found that some kind of nasties ended up moving into the bamboo mat I had under my desk to keep my feet warmer…I disposed of the mat and sprayed the concrete floor under it and that was the end of my infestation.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:41 PM on July 7, 2021

Did you happen to stop taking an allergy medicine? When i used to stop my Allegra after the spring allergies, I itched like mad for a couple of weeks before it went away.
posted by BlueBear at 12:51 PM on July 7, 2021

Is it possible you're getting warmer than usual and/or swelling in your legs while you're sitting there? I get a crawly, itchy sensation from those things. (also agree with others that this doesn't really sound like fleas to me)
posted by randomnity at 12:58 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

This definitely doesn't sound like fleas; you'd be seeing bites and/or actual bugs (fleas are quite visible to the naked eye; they look like little flat black seeds and they jump VERY quickly when disturbed). My first thoughts were:

(1) dust/dust mites (especially if your office room has wall-to-wall carpeting); you'd be more likely to feel the effects of these things in a chair vs. on a bed since you'd be disturbing the fibers more.

(2) a crappy or otherwise un-ergonomic chair/desk setup. If your chair is cutting off circulation or pressing on nerves in weird ways, this could definitely cause parasthesias like itching/tingling. If the sensations tend to go away or lessen when you shift position, I would be highly suspicious of this and look into swapping out your chair or otherwise improving your setup.
posted by aecorwin at 3:28 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oooh maybe it’s dust mites.

Dust mites are unlikely to be the main cause of what you're feeling, since your itchiness is happening only at your desk.

Dust mites can't bite you. You can't even physically feel or see dust mites; they're microscopic. The deal is that a lot of contact with them can trigger an allergic reaction -- sometimes hives, but more often it's a stuffy nose/sneezing/other sinus or asthma symptoms. Mites and their, uh, by-products are actually a major component of "dust."

Most importantly, you said that your bed is in the same room. It's not really possible to have dust mites near your desk and NOT in your bed. They live passively in textiles; they don't roam around. If you were experiencing a dust mite allergy, you would feeling it when you wake up in the morning.
posted by desuetude at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Dry skin? Moisturize all over. If it goes away it was dry skin.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:10 AM on July 8, 2021

I agree with the circulation and ergonomic related theories. I get incredibly itchy when my circulation is poor or even when I do certain exercises.
posted by phoenixy at 10:15 AM on July 8, 2021

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