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Insect Bites

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Insect Bites


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Help with Invisible Bugs

March 2012

I have been getting mysterious bug bites for weeks (mainly behind my knees, on my thighs, around my armpits, on my neck), seemingly when I sleep. I had the bedbug dog from ScentTek out (who is AWESOME). No bed bugs. I even went to the Nit Lady (who also is AWESOME). No lice. I am thinking it must be rat or bird mites (had a spell of bites months ago when I was pregnant, I am now breastfeeding). We used Rat Patrol Inc. to rat proof our house in the summer but have had a frustrating experience with them. Upon seeing new droppings in the downstairs storage area (just cleaned) recently, Garland questioned whether they were really new. Next day, one of the rat traps was turned over. He is slow to return our calls and has not been successful in getting the rats out of our house. Anyone have other recommendations for rat proofing and/or dealing with mites? Thoughts on Dan the Bug Man? Also, we could use recommendations for cleaning out our attic space (which likely has rat droppings too). Thanks so much! Bitten too many times


I can't help you with a good rat exterminator, but I did want to highly recommend Dan the Bug Man. I, too, suffered from bites for the entire two years I lived in a particular studio in San Francisco. I called Dan and explained the situation: no sign of bedbugs, but plenty of bites! He gave me some good free advice on the phone and his website is very good also. I ended up putting out some sticky tape underneath my bed to catch the bedbugs, but no bugs were ever caught. I continued to get bitten. The bites stopped when I moved out of the apartment and I kept my old bed. It could have been bird or rat mites, but I think it was fleas from my downstairs neighbor who secretly kept a very flea-bitten cat against the rules. Maybe it's fleas? no more bites - finally!
Get in touch with Alameda County Vector Control. Sergio Mendoza is one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable public sector workers I've ever met. He has extensive knowledge about problematic animals & insects in this area and how to deter them. He helped me get rid of 'invisible' mites, rats and raccoons. The phone number for Alameda Vector Control is: 510-567-6800/6824. Albany Resident

Mysterious bites on children

Jan 2011

HELP!! My kids have been suffering for about two months from mysterious bites -- started out on the waistband area and back, and up the legs starting at the ankles. Now they have moved to the kids' faces. They have looked very differently in different parts of the body (like big, red mosquito bites on the body and like tiny little pimples on the face).

Went to doctor and we were treated twice for scabies; washed EVERYTHING in the house, etc. Each time we treated the bites went away (once for three days, once for 10 days). Second time they came back we went to a dermatologist, who announced it could not be scabies because the bites were not on the usual places -- i.e. fingers, groin, hands -- and were not so itchy as to keep the kids awake at night. She thought it was bug bites (fleas, most likely). We see no evidence of bed bugs (and we look every day!) We have a cat and have some evidence of fleas on the cat, but have not seen many in the house. But most strangely, we went away for four days over Xmas and a number of new legions materialized while we were away. The bites have now migrated to the face and mostly away from the lower body. So before we call in either an exterminator or go back to the doctor (who was pretty unhelpful), can anyone help?! Grateful for any advice.


We had a very similar situation in our household -- mysterious ''bites'' initially cropped up on our daughter's face, and then we saw more on her legs as time progressed. They looked like insect bites, but didn't match the bed bug bite patterns.

Our pediatrician diagnosed her with folliculitis, and our course of action included the following:
- bleached our bathtub
- only bathed our daughter with Cetaphil
- washed her towels after each use to avoid spread of infection
- kept her skin well-hydrated (but not too much so that it couldn't breathe), as bacteria enter hair follicles through cracked skin

We saw signs of improvement within one week, and the ''bites'' disappeared after about three weeks. Sometimes they reappear, but we now know how to nip it in the bud before it gets any worse. been there


My son had this and it drove us crazy. After seeing the 3rd--or was it the 4th DR at Kaiser, he was diagnosed with folliculitis. We were given topical gel and I believe medication to take orally. Can't remember particularly. However, it DID work. Whew! What a relief.

We also thought it was fleas, bed bugs, allergic reaction to food, etc. Really madning (sp?).

Please ask your DR about folliculitis. You can also, of course, ''Google it''!

Good luck. Thank God It Wasn't Bugs


Bug Bite Problem

Oct 2009

For about six weeks, my daughter and I get bitten at night, in the torso area, and are extremely itchy. My husband, who sleeps in the same bed, has not been affected until last night, and my son, who sleeps in another room, is not affected.

So far, we have:

1) Seen a doctor who diagnosed scabies, gave us ''scabicide'' cream which we used twice and did not solve the problem.

2) Cleaned all the bedding in the house and removed the mattress--neither of which had evidence of bedbugs. Still getting bitten.

3) Had an exterminator from Orkin come out and tell me that he thinks it's bedbugs, but couldn't find any bugs. If we find a bug, they can treat our place for $900 and we have to basically move out for a few days... with all our personal belongings.

My question for you:

1) Have you dealt with this and what did you do?
2) Can you recommend a local exterminator with environmentally friendly practices to give us a second opinion?
3) Any thoughts on what else it could be?
Itchy Girls!


Could be rat mites. We had this problem for a couple of months this past summer, or I should say ''I'' because my husband was never bitten! I was in torment and went crazy trying to diagnose the source. Only once did I ever actually see a mite (grabbed scotch tape so I had a sample), but by that time we'd already figured it was rat mites, set traps, caught a couple rats, and eventually the mite bites were infrequent. I still have scars from the bites that I scratched during the night! I hope it's rat mites in your house, not bed bugs, and I hope you're all feeling better soon! itch free
My mother-in-law had scabies recently, and the itching persisted for a long, long time (over a month) after she used the cream her doctor had given her. She was miserable. Her doctor told her the irritation can persist for a long time, and on top of that, the brain gets into this ''loop'' of reacting to itching. So if I were in your shoes, my first step would be to check back in with your doctor and see if it might still be scabies. And your husband should get checked too, not only for his own health but so he doesn't give it back to you. Good luck!
You didn't exactly ask for this, but for what it is worth.... doctors have a lot of problems diagnosing skin issues. I have a friend who is a highly respected physician and she said it is not their prime training and that they really do not know. I've had my own share of these frustrations. If you want a diagnosis, consider going to a dermatologist with an active outbreak/visibility. This way, you might know what you are dealing with instead of trying everything and anything. My $.02
I have the same thing...it's been since summer. At first I thought it might be flea bites...our little terrior sleeps in teh bed sometimes...but the dogs DO NOT have a flea in sight! Then I thought spiders...they like to live in dark cozy places, like bed sheets. Occasionally I find small spiders in the bed. But my husband NEVER gets bit...So maybe it's something about my body chemistry that spiders or other bugs like. We have allergy covers on the mattress and pillows, so it's not mites and no bed bugs. My kids who sleep in other beds get nothing. Sorry I don't have a solution...I'm puzzled too, but at least you're not alone. itchy and ???
We are experiencing a similar problem, so I can relate to your misery! I previously had a bed bug experience when I was a student in NYC and when we started getting some unexplained bites this summer, I was ready for a melt down. I found this company based out of San Francisco called Pestec (www.pestec.com), they have an enviornmentally friendly approach using a K9 unit to inspect for bed bugs. They didn't find any evidence of bed bugs in our case (thank god!!), but suggested that it might be a mite problem (either bird or rat mites). The bites were such a low level, we never did get confirmation, but we did have some risk factors for bird mites (hedges where birds were nesting that we had let grow a little out of control and were touching the windows. Pestec mentioned sometimes the birds abandon the nest and the mites go in search of other hosts --we were sleeping just below the window.) The recommended cutting back the hedges and doing lots of washing, cleaning, etc.. Additionally, we have been keeping the window closed. I only get an occasional bit now, so it seems to be mostly gone. Still don't know what it is, but at least it seems to be going away.... Anon
I'm not sure if I understood your post properly--did you only apply the scabies medication TWO TIMES? Scabies are little bugs that get under your skin and breed (yeah, I've had it--very disgusting) and you have to keep up with the medication until they are all killed. If you don't kill them all, they'll just keep breeding.
Just a recent update to the previous (and linked) discussions on rat mites. Don't count them out! In January of this year I had mysterious bites but my husband did not. I felt like I was losing my mind, even my doctor couldn't identify them! Thank goodness for this list.

1) get some prescription strength corticosteroid cream (I tried lots of 'natural' itch-control; this was the ONLY thing that finally stopped the itching) 2) call your county's vector control (Alameda County is at http://www.acvcsd.org/) and they can help you identify the bites and source of them, for free.

BTW, in a relief to my sanity at least, about a month after I was getting bit, husband started getting them too. Once we got rid of the rats the mites left. Rat Mite Free


Rat mites wander through the house looking for something to eat and bite humans once their hosts have left or died. In our family of four, only I reacted to these bites, though evidently they probably were biting everyone. The bites were like large, very persistent, mosquito bites. Very itchy. I was quite surprised as in general I do not react much to bites. These mites can live perhaps 2 weeks to a month without rats, they cannot permanently live on people. If you poison rats and some die in the house, this often happens, so I learned that it is best to have a professional eliminate rats in the house. I never found a reasonable way to control the mites, we just eliminated all rats and all rat entry points and waited. Today, a year later, I am proud to say we are still mite free. This is a good info sheet, specific to our area: http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:3n6EIU88DYQJ:www.acvcsd.org/biting_mites.pdf+rat+mite+house&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AFQjCNGuAKfmOPYv4YMUOi_TglD84MpxwA. no more bug bites
I have had the exact same thing for the past two weeks. Just went to the dermatologist and she said it is eczema! Gave me a steroid cream and said to make sure to apply cetaphil cream after the shower and be diligent about moisturizer and drinking water. Hope this helps. so glad it isn't mites

Small red itchy bites that only I get

June 2007

I have numerous small red itchy little bites in varied areas. I don't know how I am getting them. Neither my husband or my kid get them. I've washed and washed my clothes , bedclothes and self. I've vacuumed the bed and mattress and under the bed. any clues or advice? Tired of getting bit


Hi there We had the same kind of issue a couple of years ago. After much internet searching and talking to a dermatologist - we narrowed it down to rat mites. (these mites also live on birds that may be nesting in or around your house). Unbeknownst to us we had a rat in our attic. The mites live on the rats. Solution? We called Rat Patrol. They trapped the rats and sealed any entrance around the house so they couldn't re- enter. Then we bombed the house (twice). Problem solved. This of course was time consuming and we ended up camping in our yard - literally. But it worked. Good Luck. Julie
Sounds like tropical rat mite bites. If you have roof rats in the neighborhood or in your home, occasionally a rat will die and the mites search for an alternate host. Tropical rat mites prefer pregnant or lactating women to men and children. The rat mites are smaller than a period at the end of a sentence. The good news is that the mites cannot survive on human hosts alone so the bites will continue for approx. 6-8 weeks. I recommend contacting Alameda County Vector Control - they will send an inspector out - no fees are involved - and they can help with confirmation and mitigation. Good luck! Been Bitten
Are the bites in specific locations like your wrists, in between your fingers, your waistline, and other places that are confined by bands of clothing? Do you have NO bites above the neck? Do they itch more right after you take a shower? If so, you've got scabies. A total drag to deal with, but common. Ask your doctor about it and get the yucky toxic treatment cream you need to get rid of it. (I'm not a doctor, but unfortunately, I have a lot of experience with scabies.) Scabie Baby
this happened to my daughter recently and I determined it was an allergic reaction to the sunscreen I was using on her anon

Itching, biting things crawling under my skin

March 2007

About a year ago, I began to experience itching, biting and things crawling around under my skin. During that brutal heatwave last year, I couldn't sleep for an entire week. I began to do some research and found a number of people suffering from this. It eventually subsided somewhat, but not completely. It's back again as the waether heats up, but now it's clear to me that my son has it as well. My wife thinks I am delusional and we are worlds apart in our ability to communicate about it. Has anyone else here experienced these symptoms and if so, how has it impacted your family and have you been able to find any help? Many thanks. Les


I had something similar--soooo frustrating! I could feel the painful bites at nite, and they would itch like crazy, but no welts and I never saw the actual bugs. My sweetie never felt a thing. So you are not crazy! In my case, it turned out to be mites that were the result of mold in and on the walls of our house. Wiping the mold down with bleach helped, but the true solution would be to abate and eradicate the mold at the source. The landlord wasn't willing to do this, so we moved. The itching was making me THAT nuts. Good luck with yours; consider mites, also consider fleas and contact dermatitis (did you change laundry or bath soap recently?). I found useful info on mites via google. Good luck to you! no longer a moldy oldie
Without knowing about Morgellons or all of your symptoms, I just wanted to be sure you are not being bitten by mites. We were invaded by rat mites a year ago. Often only one or some people in the family are effected. It definitely felt like things were crawling on us -- and they were, but the mites are practically too small to be seen by the human eye. This caused unbearable itching. You can research rat mites, or call the city of Berkeley for a pamphlet, to determine if your bites/itching follow the pattern for mite bites. Unfortunately many doctors don't know how to recognize this. Ultimately the problem was resolved by ridding our attic of rats. Good luck! anon
Get thee to a dermatologist. That sounds like scabies. Why are you waiting to ''communicate'' with your wife when you clearly have a medical issue?
Somebody wrote about this last year. I have also had this excrutiatingly annoying problem from time to time. It is not in your head. Some people call it Restless Leg Syndrome and now there are some heavily marketed drugs for it. You could talk to your doctor. But one responder last year fixed it for me--they said they discovered it only happened when they were dehydrated. Since you said it happened during the heat wave last year, maybe that's your problem, too. I have become really aware of how much water I drink, and never drink something that's not water without drinking a glass of water first. I found this problem has gone away if I'm careful to drink water good luck with your problem
Please consider the possibility of RAT MITES.

They are essentially invisible, more active at night and in warm weather, and because not everyone is allergic to their bite, it's possible for only one of a couple to be aware of a problem. (The mites will infiltrate from whereever the rats are breeding, for instance, in an attic or basement.)

I suffered with similar symptoms for three years before I figured out what was going on. Got rid of the rats and the itching subsided almost immediately. (You might try sleeping elsewhere for a weekend as a ''test''.)

BTW, I recommend going for rat *traps* before resorting to poisons. If the rats die in the walls you're in for MONTHS of a stench that's almost unbearable, not to mention swarms of Really Big FLIES! Good luck!

PS On Rat Mites:

The mites can live for up to six weeks feeding off a secondary host (humans!), but can breed only on rats, so after six weeks you'll be home free. You can accelerate this process by bagging up, in plastic, clothing and excess bedding, etc., but this isn't strictly necessary as they will succumb nonetheless.


I came across an interesting article about this when I was doing research about insect orders for a project at work. There was a study a couple years ago that suggests that it may not be mites or lice but rather a tiny hexapod called a springtail (Collembola), that is not known to be a parasite on people.

"Most of the study participants had been diagnosed with delusory parasitosis, a presumed psychiatric condition among people who believe they are infested with an insect or parasite.

But the new findings bolster the contention of many patients that they "actually have something crawling on or under their skin and are not delusional," said the journal article."

See http://www.bodylice.com/news/2004/pr071204.htm for the full article and links to the paper.

Worth a try!


Our family is being eaten alive!

Feb 2005

Our family is being eaten alive by what we think are spiders. We all have numerous swollen itchy bites. We have seen many spider webs and several tiny light tan spiders. We don't think this is the result of a flea infestation as we have no pets. We have not seen nor heard any other bugs. We do not want to spray as I am pregnant and we have a toddler. Any advise? Thanks, Kelly


We had the same thing--my daughter and husband have hundreds of tiny, very itchy bites. I consulted the archives, and it was, as many other people have had, rat mites (we had just discovered rats in our basement a few days earlier.) I think the rain is driving them in. We'd never had an issue before and have lived in this house for 10 years. Check your attic and basement carefully. anon
Hi- It is still probably flea larvae from rats. They are around, even if you don't think they are, so you don't need to have pets to get 'em. Happened to my friend

Bug Bites on Mom Only

May 2004

I have been reading the archives searching for answers to a perplexing problem. I am being bitten while I sleep by what I think are mosquitos. For the first time in my life, some of bites swell up into red welts while others look just like average mosquito bites. My husband, who sleeps right next to me, has not been bitten at all. Neither has my toddler. I usually find one mosquito in our room but haven't seen then anywhere else in our house.

As the archives suggested, I have checked my bed - it's not bed bugs. No one else is being bitten so it doesn't sound like rat mites or scabbies. I have called Mosquite Abatement. I'm taking B Vitamins and eating nutritional yeast. I have a fan pointed at our bed. Yet, I have a new bites every few days. We rent so I can't make any serious changes to the house like installing screens or putting in a ceiling fan.

Why is it that I am the only one in the house the mosquitos want? Could this have anything to do with my nursing or a hormonal imbalance? Could I have developed an allergy to mosquito bites? What can I do to ensure I am not devoured while I sleep? Does mosquito netting really keep them out (my husband and I each get out of bed at least once during the night). Are there traps I can set in my bedroom? And why is it only our bedroom that has the issue when there are no screens on any of our windows (most are the crank style that can't have screens). This is starting to affect my sleep as I wake up, imagining I am being bitten and then can't fall back to sleep. Any advice you have would be most appreciated. Tired of the late night snack


I can't tell for sure, but it may very well be mite bites. My younger son and I are getting lots of welts, while my wife and older son aren't, but we are all getting bitten- apparently the two of us are having an allergic reaction the others aren't (this is typical of mite bites). It's very hard to eliminate mite bites if you don't keep all rodents and birds out of your dwelling, because the mites travel amazing distances. If roof rats or birds are nesting, say in the attic, they will travel to your bed and bite you. Your landlord would have to do the abatement (sealing up entryways).

It could be hard to verify the vector, if you can't find any (we discovered some mites swarming in the bathroom where they can be seen easily, but I have never seen any in the bed, where I KNOW I am being bitten). Skeeters will bite you where you are exposed when sleeping (head and arms), while mites will bite you where you are covered- that's one tipoff. If you never hear mosquitoes buzzing, I would guess mites. Good luck!


I am also the only one in my family who gets bit! And yes, it is possible to develop an allergy to mosquitoes. I am definitely allergic (mosquito bites on me are large red, itchy welts that last for over two weeks and drive me crazy!). Here's what I've done that helps. First, sleep under the covers up to your chin, wear long sleeved pajamas, and put a pillow over your head. That way only the bottom part of your face is available.

Second, if I hear a mosquito buzzing in our room at night, we turn on the lights, and my husband and I stay up looking for it until we kill it. It's annoying, but eventually the mosquito will alight on one of those white walls and you can get it. Oh yes... we only open windows with screens during the day and at night we close all our windows and our bedroom door. And when we're saying goodbye to guests, we don't let them open the door and stand talking. We talk with the door shut, open it quickly, and see them out.

And, we have some of that stuff you put in standing water to kill mosquito larvae, and we use it around the yard. I'm also allergic to chemicals and poisons, so I don't want to spray. And my husband is allergic to citronella, so we can't use that either!

Best of luck. I rarely get a mosquito bite these days. --allergic to mosquitos


I don't know if this is relevant for you, but I thought I was the only one in my family being bitten by fleas. I got medicine for the kitties, and I kept getting bites! Eventually we realized that they were hives, not bug bites -- an allergic reaction, probably from taking Aleve, but we're not sure. I'm still taking Aleve because it's the only thing that lasts 12 hours, and I need it to stop the flu-like side effects of another medication. So I've had hives for about 2 months, but since I'm also taking Allegra (an antihistamine), they don't really itch.

Anyway, you might want to see a doctor and make sure they're really bug bites, and maybe get a prescription for an antihistamine. Allegra is the only one that didn't make me sleepy, but apparently you can take the others at night, and they're not so bad then. Good luck! Hannah


I could have written your post, and as I write this, I have 6- 8 ''bites'' on me--arms, legs, torso, neck. As you describe them, some are like welts. They itch a lot. Our family has had these bites many times in the past, and we still do not have a definitive diagnosis of them. My 2 kids have had bouts with them in the past, but this time, my daughter has 2, which are in the process of going away, and my son and husband have none. We have used scabies treatments from the pediatrician, which clear up the problem, only to have it come back, we have our cats treated for fleas, and we have NO mosquitoes around at night. We do, however, have roof rat problems, which we are working to eradicate, and so that might be the continuing source of these pesky bites. I wish I had the answer, as I too am totally fed up with the itching. I think it is possible for any of these conditions (scabies, mites) to be present, however, even if some of the family members don't have the bites, based on my (extensive) reading of articles on the internet. Some people simply are not as allergic to the bites as others. Another bitten mom
Check out the Rat (or bird) mite possibility again. I was bitten by rat mites for months with very similar symptoms to yours. My husband (with no bites at all) insisted that it could not be mites. When we heard rats in our attic we got the house sealed up, the rats disappeared, the bites intensified for a little over a month (this is as long as they can live without rats around to host them) and then went away. I was surprised when they came back this year, but then we found out the rats had found a way back in again. We sealed up the house again and... 40 days later, no bites. I did find a couple of mites on my body over the course of these many many months, but really--it is hard when there is no evidence of anything to believe it really is what you suspect! We found out subsequent to the first infestation that the reason my husband was not getting bites was that only some people are allergic to the bites, and this is why they swell up. I would call Rat Patrol immediately: they are the only exterminators I know of who really deal with this problem... or have your landlord call if you are renting. Good Luck! (formally) Bitten in Berkeley
It sounds like you have mosquitos. They bite you in the bedroom because that is where you are when they are active, and because you are an easy target when you are asleep. The most important part is to drain all standing water outside, so the larvae have no place to live. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7451.html sal
hi bitten- Most likely you are being bitten by flea mites from rats or mice who live in your home. If you have furry pets, they can carry them and they are no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence and, hence, very hard to find. They can also come into house from crawl space, attic space and through heating vents. Not all persond react to the bite, so that is why it seems only you are getting bitten. If you have pets, deflea them. If the source is inside your house you will have to go thru further methods to de-rat/de- mouse in order to cure the problem. This is actually very common and almost certainly not from mosquitos. You can check the ''dark'' areas of your home for ''grease'' marks fom the fur of the rats on rafters and at duct openings...look for dark smudges where the rats would have to sqeeze thru, under or over things....if you have them...you have rats. Also check for droppings. Roof rats are very common in this area, even in ''nice'' areas. A vet can identify the mite for you if you can happen to catch one...nearly impossible. good luck Been there
I sympathize with your bug bite problem! The same thing happened to me late last summer. I thought they were flee bites (we have cats) or mosquitoes yet my husband didn't get bitten once. My new hypothesis is they came from a lurking spider. Since that time, I've gotten a few flee or mosquito bites & they never puff up like those red welts. Also, the problem just went away after a few weeks. My advice: change the sheets every few days (sounds excessive but made me feel better) to see if that improves the situation. Also, in case the bites are from mosquitoes, you might look into an expandable screen. They usually can fit into any window & can be purchased pretty cheaply at the hardware store. good luck!
If there is a mosquito anywhere in town, any time of year, it will find me and leave me with a big nasty stingy itchy welt unless I sleep with insect repellent on (non- chemical but smelly). Or it used to. After reading about it on this list I take 100 mg of Vit B1 daily- much more than is found in any B Vit mix- and it has apparently made a very big difference in how attractive I am to mosquitos. When I ran out for a few weeks, the horror of the whiny nights returned. It's unlikely that this change indicates a hormonal imbalance, just a change in your sensitivity to the bites (which is a type of allergic reaction) and/or a change in the way you smell on the mosquito level. Cecelia

Bites on baby's arms & legs

March 2004

My 4.5 month old baby had what I thought were Hives for a few weeks mostly on his legs, arms and a few on his chest. The pediatrician thought the ''rash'' was from a virus originally. They appear as roundish red welts with a yellow/pale raised bump in the middle that fade to a red dot. Not sure if they are itchy for him or not as he seems fairly happy otherwise. We finally went to a dermatologist to have him examined. She said that it looked more like insect bites - ie fleas or mites (possibly from birds in the eaves since we don't have pets). We had borrowed an infant car seat from a pet owner and wondered if this is how he might have got fleas. We are washing all clothes and bedding & carseat and vacuuming today as a first precaution. We all sleep together and neither my husband nor I have had any bites. Has anyone had similar bites on their babies? Any advice on what they are and how to rid ourselves of these beasties without using anything toxic? Concerned Mom


Our 3 year old daughter first developed a rash that sounds very much like what you described when she was about 14 months old, and we thought it was hives too, but after subsequent bouts of the same thing, which the rest of the family eventually developed, our pediatrician finally diagnosed it as scabies. The scabies ARE mites but not the kind that come from any other animal, and our daughter did not scratch hers much the first time around; I later learned that this was because her immune system was not fully developed at that point. Scabies are a real drag, for sure, because everyone in the family, in fact, all close contacts, get it. You have to use a prescription cream and do a big wash/cleanup. You didn't mention if your daughter has a nanny or sitter or preschool. It's worth checking out; there are outbreaks of this stuff in the Bay Area, much to my surprise. Good luck. anon
My son (and I ) had similar bites to what you describe last year and, thanks to postings on the Berkeley Parents Network, suspected it might be rat mites. My husband was dubious, because he never had any bites at all, but since then we've learned that the bite you see is actually an allergic reaction to the rat mite bite. If you're not allergic, you don't get the itchy bite mark, which explains why some people in a household may get the bites and some may not. We had someone out to look and, sure enough, we had roof rats in our attic and crawl-space. We tried many ways of dealing with this but finally went with Rat Patrol (reccomended by our pediatrician!). They charge a fixed fee, which seems high, but we had already spent much more than this without solving the problem. They seal up your house so rats cannot get in, and guarantee their work for 2 years. No more rats, and soon, no bites! hurrah! good luck figuring out what's going on with your baby! No Longer Itchy in Berkeley

Mysterious bites

July 2003

My 8 month old baby and I both have had mysterious bites on our bodies for several months--mine are about the size of mosquito bites, and his, more like flea bites. Some days there are more, some less, but every day anywhere from 2 to 5 or 6 more appear (including on areas covered by clothes and/or pajamas). We don't think we have fleas (the dog and cats have been on Advantage for several months, I've never seen a flea in the house, and the flea traps have turned up nothing). There are no blood marks on the sheets like with bedbugs. My husband has no bites at all (!) and the dog has hives (of course, this may be unrelated). A couple of months ago there were some postings along similar lines and someone suggested scabies. Both my son's pediatrician and my family said it isn't scabies (not enough bites, none on my hands etc.). So my question is: for those people that posted earlier --did you ever find out what was causing your bites? Does anyone have any other ideas for what might be causing this? Itching to Know


In response to the mysterious bites person--I had that problem about the same time of the earlier post in this newsletter, though it wasn't I that posted. Both kids and I were getting covered with small, flea-like very itchy bites that showed up in the morning and after naps, in places covered by PJs (groin, armpit, tummy, etc.). I bathed them every night before bed, but it didn't help. We had no mosquitos in the house, and the size and number of the bites (e.g., several in a row) wasn't like what I see from mosquitos. I took kids to doctor--she said they had no lice, no scabies, no bedbugs... she basically said she had no idea what was biting us. Our house and beds are clean, and I checked under the beds and on the mattresses for signs of fleas or bedbugs and found nada. Interestingly, my husband (who sleeps with me) got no bites at all, so it seemed likely the problem was not anything inside.

After some web reading, I started wondering if maybe we had chiggers in our garden, where the kids play. I don't even know if chiggers live in this area, but the description of their bites (in terms of where they bite, and that the bites often show up after sleep) seemed like what we were getting. So I stopped letting the kids go outside, and the problem went away. They are back to playing outside now and we're not having any problems, so I don't know if it was coincidence, or if the chiggers (or whatever) moved on to another part of their life cycle, or what. I wish I knew for sure what it was so I would know what to do next year. No longer itchy


Don't assume you don't have bedbugs because there are no blood spots or a swarm of them under your bed. We had a horrible time with them in New Mexico, and never saw either of these indications, just a bedbug now and then. They can be quite tiny to start out with, then get bigger through their bite/grow/shed growth cycle. My daughter and I got bit every night, and either my husband didn't get bitten at all or had no redness and ithchiness to indicate the bites. Thorough cleaning and the landlord's exterminator did the trick. (Pest control is your landlord's responsibility if you're renting, btw.) We also used Avon's Skin So Soft to repel them and it seemed to help, but that might have just been psychological relief. Rachel
About a year ago, after getting a new dog, I got what I believe were flea bites. For awhile, I was getting one almost every day. I think they were flea bites because we had just gotten a dog, the bites were mostly on my ankles, and the bites were red and raised and itched for many days at a time (unlike mosquito bites). On the other hand, I never saw a flea on my dog or any evidence of her having fleas. At my vet's suggestion, I put my dog on Program, which is a flea hormone. It makes the fleas sterile, so they can't reproduce in the house or car. After about four weeks of her being on Program, the bites stopped, and I haven't gotten any bites since, and it's been a year, and we are well into the flea season. So... you may not be getting flea bites, but you may want to try Program. You have to give it to your dog once a month. anonymous
I had a mysterious rash that looked liked bites that sounded like yours a couple of months ago. It lasted for about 4 weeks and then disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived (I did take some Benadryl). Since I've had allergic skin reactions/non- specific dermatitis from time to time and a couple of skin viruses (I had VERY sensitive skin) I really didn't think much of it. My husband and kids never had any bites and I never saw any critters in our bedding/under the mattress. And, since it went away after a few weeks by itself, it wasn't scabies. So, my conclusion is that there is some type of skin virus that is making the rounds - affecting folks with sensitive skin or immune systems (ie. prone to allergies). anon
We think our mysterious bites were from animal mites coming from rats or birds in the basement or attic. Rat traps in the basement, in addition to rigorous washing of clothes, bedding, rugs and dog, seem to have done the trick. You can get more info on animal mites from the Alameda Co. vector control folks, and I guess pest control companies will come out and take more elaborate measures which we felt we didn't need. We've been bite-free for about 1-1/2 yrs. now. Janet
We recovered from a smiliar problem this spring. My baby and I were getting bites, and my husband never got any. After fruitless research, house poinsonings (we even suspected rat mites), and a couple of doctor visits where we were not diagnosed, I finally went to a dermatologist who took a skin sample, looked under the microscope, and saw bug parts. He then was able to positively diagnose scabies. It's important to find a doctor who will actually look for the scabies mites, as they are hard to find, and virtually impossible to diagnose without looking unless you have a very severe case. After two skin treatments of the entire family (even my husband, he could have been a carrier without symptoms), and very thorough house and laundry cleaning (boil your bed clothes! -or at least turn your hot water heater up to the high position for the duraction of scabies treatment), we have been completely bite free and bug free for many months. It has been a great relief. Scabies can be mild, not show common symptoms, and difficult to diagnose. In fact, I have leanred from my research that only severe scabies shows up on the hands. I hope you find relief soon, bites are no fun at all! Good luck! Anon
My son (now 10 mos.) and I had the same thing about a month ago (and my husband didn't!). After much online research, we decided it was bird mites. Our pediatrician recommended giving the baby vitamin B1--it makes you taste/smell bad to most bugs. We both started taking it and neither of us has had a bite since! I bought vit.B capsules and sprinkle about 1/4 of one capsule into my son's food once a day, and I take a whole capsule once a day. We also found and destroyed a bluejay nest right under the baby's window. We've also been to the East Coast since then, and I didn't get any mosquito bites, and I'm usually covered by them. Try vitamin B, even if you don't figure out what the bites are from. Debbie
we had a problem with bites that fit your description ... and just as you descibre, some family members were afflicted much more than others (for example I got a lot more than my wife, even though we shared a bed, etc). the pediatrian thought they were ''sand fleas,'' picked up from local playgrounds (we have no pets ourselves). we called in an outfit called Fleabusters, and they diagnosed the problem as mites -- probably from either rats or birds in the roof, etc. they dusted everything with what they swore was a completely non-toxic (to humans) powder; if I understood right, it was basically a form of salt that dried the little pests out. it seemed to take care of it -- although we've had to go two or three rounds over the last few years, no one is getting bit anymore.

Toddler getting bitten at night

May 2003

Help! I have several very itchy insect bites all over my body and have noticed that a few more bites appear every few days. I just assumed it was a mosquito that bit me, but am now very concerned because I noticed today that my toddler also has similar insect bites on his stomach, legs and the back of his neck. The poor thing was so miserable, he was scratching furiously at his neck. I am very concerned but do not know where to start to identify what insects might be biting us. I am also confused by how these critters could have bitten my son's stomach and legs since he wears 2 sets of footed pajamas to bed and the bites were located near his belly button. He is always clothed during the day and does not wear shorts so I am baffled as to how and when he was bitten. Could they be bites from bed bugs, fleas or spiders? We do not have any animals and since we have hardwood floors, most of our house is rug/carpet free so it does not seem likely that we have a flea problem. However, we have suspected that we have rats in our attic and we've heard that they have fleas, and I am wondering if they could be the culprits. Does anyone have any experience with this? How does one go about identifying where the bites are coming from? Thanks in advance. Anonymous


Sounds like it could be scabies, which you can get from sharing clothes, sharing a bed, close physical contact, etc. It almost always itches worse at night. It's treatable with a cream that you can get by prescription only, plus you have to wash all your clothes and bedding at the same time. See your healthcare provider to have it looked at. A healthcare provider
Little tiny bumps that itch like crazy? Sounds like flea bites. Ask pediatrician/doctor to identify type of bite. Get rid of ''suspected'' rat problem right away, wash all clothes, spray for fleas inside and outside. (Precor by Zodiac available at pet stores and works well. Probably pretty toxic, but we are talking RATS here and your precious CHILDREN SWAPPING BLOOD VIA FLEAS.) Anon
Since I, too, experienced a recent bout with mysterious insect bites, I am going to guess that you and your son are suffering from the same affliction that I was diagnosed with last week SCABIES Call your doctor IMMEDIATELY to schedule an appointment so that you and your son (and anyone else in your household) can get the prescription treatment right away! My itching is finally subsiding, but I was miserable for nearly a week!! (by the way, aloe vera gel worked much better to soothe the itch from the bites than the prescription cortisone ointment the Dr. prescribed.) -- no longer unbearably itchy
Interesting -- I and my seven year old daughter had exactly the same problem a few weeks ago. We went to the doctor in case it was scabies (following the advice of helpful posts to this newsletter -- another poster thought it might be bed bugs but we searched and searched and couldn't find any evidence). He thought that was unlikely and also ruled out fleas and lice on my daughter. I have done some research on the web and one possibility I read about is bird and rodent mites, which are very hard to spot, and are sometimes associated with rodent infestations. But we don't have any rodents in our attic as far as we can tell. Our problem hasn't gone away altogether but it seems to have eased off a bit recently. I have been wondering if it mightn't be outdoor insects, and if we are not feeling the bites until night-time. Sometimes the problem seems worse after we've been out playing in the grass or in the woods. Itchy in Oakland
We had a similar problem about 1-1/2 years ago, and we think it was animal mites from rats in our basement or attic. You can talk to Alameda Co. Vector Control (567-6800) for more info. We did lots of wash and/or put stuff in the dryer for 10 minutes (items that couldn't go in the washer/dryer were bagged up for 2 weeks), washed all the rugs, and put rat traps out. That seems to have solved the problem. Janet
I had similar bug bites once when I was in college -- red and rough and itchy on my abdomen. The doctor said that they were mites = bed bugs. He gave me some sort of cream and I had to wash everything I owned in hot water and I put a plastic cover over the mattress. It worked. Good luck. Maria
This sounds like it may be scabies. I was having the same symptoms (multiplying insects bites around my waist and in my legs, very itchy), and my doctor diagnosed it right away. Luckily, it is highly treatable and you get relief immediately after applying a prescription cream. You will also have to wash sheets and towels, or anything in direct contact with skin. anon
If you are getting incessant itchy bites and you have no pets, and you suspect having rats... they are probably roof rat mite bites. They find another vector when the rats leave. They will die on humans within 40 days b/c they need the rat to reproduce. Your taxes pay for the local vector control to come out for free and give advice on how to get rid of your rats. Usually traps work best. I had Art Slater of Richmond set traps and remove 9 rats from underneath our house. We also had our electric outlets all dusted w/ diatomaceous earth since this is how the animal mites (can be from birds, too) travel from room to room. This natural exoskeletal, glass like substance cut them up upon contact. It's important not to stir it up. We had the worst room dusted around the edges. I stopped getting bites the same night! Even having had over 100 bites, I usually knew if a few fresh ones came b/c they itched like crazy and not even hydrocortizone helped... these were different from flea bites. In the meanwhile, you'll have to wash all linens and clothing or bag them up for 40 days so the mites die off. Good luck! Susan
There was a similar post several weeks ago, and I will just reiterate what I said the last time we had exactly the same symtoms last year when we lived in Oakland (fortunately before our baby came along) and finally caught a strange-looking bug on the wall in the bedroom. We took it to the doctor who (eventually) identified it as a bedbug! We then went home, lifted up the mattress, and saw them between the mattress and boxspring (they had multiplied in just a couple of weeks, since the last time we had flipped the mattress). Then we did the obvious things vacuumed and sprayed the bed and bedroom, covered the mattress and boxspring in plastic, and kept rechecking often for the next couple of months. I never would have thought of bedbugs in this day and age, but that's what it was. So good luck. Anon
Any of the insects you mentioned could be the source. I would not rule out scabies as a possibility, particularly if the itching is worse at night, and where clothing fits closely to the body (waist, groin, collar, etc.). If it is diagnosed as scabies by a medical evaluation (I would recommend a dermatologist to diagnose this with skin scrapings, if it seems like a possibility--scrapings may be done in the MD's office during the visit), the treatment is fairly easy and effective. Again, if it is treated as scabies, the itching may take several weeks to resolve, even though the parasites are gone. Here are two sources that might help, if it is scabies http//www.dhs.cahwnet.gov/ps/dcdc/disb/pdf/Scabies%20Guide.pdf and http//www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/scabies/default.htm Good luck! Amy

Itchy bumps on 7-year-old (insect bites?)

April 2003

In the last few weeks both my 7 year old and I have started to be bothered by itchy bumps which seem to be insect bites. Hers are mostly clustered around the tops of her thighs, some on her back and legs and tummy. I have them on my inside elbow, around my breasts, on my legs. Not parts of the body that are exposed to outside insects, e.g. mosquitoes. My husband doesn't have a problem. I thought they might be flea bites but I haven't seen any evidence of fleas or any other kinds of insects (not that I know what to look for) and we don't have any pets, so I don't know where they could be living. We haven't had any animals visiting our house either. Could fleas be living on us without us knowing? Could it be another kind of pest that lives in our beds? We keep washing all our bedclothes but it doesn't seem to make any difference. Itchy in Oakland


Do the bumps itch worse at night? The distribution of the rash you describe could be scabies (sounds gross but pretty easy to get rid of). Scabies almost always itches more at night. Have a medical provider take a look. a medical provider
I hate to say it, but you may have bed bugs. In our previous apartment, my partner and I started noticing rash-like, itchy, raised bumps, especially on the stomach and back. We had never seen any bugs in the room, until one day we say one little bug on the wall. We caught it and took it in to the doctor, who was convinced that the bumps were not bug bites. He had it analyzed and it turned out to be bed bugs. Then we lifted up the mattress, and there were hundreds--it was unthinkably disgusting. Check between the mattress and the box spring and in the cracks of fabric in the matress. They look like small black spots, and they leave black dots of feces behind. If it is them, the only effective option we found (after much effort to avoid it) was using a chemical spray. We also vacuumed them up over and over again, washed all the bedding in hot water over and over, and sealed the mattress in a plastic cover. Hopefully, your problem is something other than the bed bugs, but it is definitely worth checking. There is a lot of information about bed bugs on the web, and UC Berkeley's Tang Center also has a useful handout. Good luck! Finally bed bug free
I recommend seeing a doctor as soon as possible to rule out scabies...that's what it sounds like to me, and you would need medication to get rid of them (as well as washing all your clothes and bedclothes). And if it is scabies, remember that you have to do the entire treatment over again in two weeks, and then again two weeks after that. Good luck! Former scabies host

Keeping child from scratching bites

March 2003

I'm at my wits' end trying to keep my 3-yr-old from scratching his flea bites. A visiting elderly relative apparently brought fleas with her when she stayed with us at Thanksgiving. The fleas are now gone (thanks to chemicals we'd prefer not to have had to use), but the seven bites our son got in November are still with him three months later. We can't get him to stop scratching. We've seen his doctor a couple of times, tried various creams and lotions (calamine, caladryl, benadryl briefly, antibiotic creams with anti-itch medications), an oatmeal bath, and even oral benadryl. We've used several kinds of band-aids, all of which he eventually developed a reaction to, with such severe redness that we were scared to continue. The Band-aid brand ''liquid bandage'' didn't work, either. At various times the bites have been nearly gone, but all it takes is one period of scratching to bring them back. One nurse half- jokingly suggested putting mittens on his hands, but trust me, it's not feasible with this child! I'm concerned that these are going to leave permanent scars. I hope someone can help! Kathy


I can sympathize. My son had a bite on his scalp that he scratched and scratched. He was about 8 years old. Every time it healed, he'd scratch off the scab and irritate it again. It would get very red and even infected. This went on for months, and it was hard to tell how it was doing because it was under his hair. We went to the doctor a couple of times about it, but really the problem was that he wouldn't leave it alone. We had a routine of putting neosporin on it every morning and every night, and it finally did heal. One thing you could try is giving him an ice cube to rub on the bites when they itch. That will temporarily relieve the itching and give him something to do besides scratch. Ginger

Nighttime bug bites

Oct. 2001

I am being eaten alive at night by creatures I can't see. They're not fleas as I've had plenty of experience with those. I don't think they're bed bugs because research on the web indicates that they're about l/4-l/3"long which is definitely big enough to be seen. I truly am not seeing what is biting me even though I sometimes can feel them crawling. This has been going on for about two months now. My son and husband are not bothered. I have been thoroughly cleaning all the bedding and surrounding area and that seems to help for about 3 days. Does anyone know what this might be and what to do about it. Anonymous


I thought I had flea or spider bites last year (over 100 bites!) Found out they were mites from rats that left the basement of the house and chose lucky me as the temporary host! I've received wonderful guidance from the Biointregal Resource Center in Berkeley who knew what was most likely feasting on me and then they referred me to a wonderful pest control person, head of U.C. Berkeley Pest control. The BIRC provides guidance for the least toxic way to control pests, such as spiders or mites for that matter. I remember one of the issues I read from BIRC (you get a newletter about controlling a particular common pest every 2 months if you're a member - totally worth it by the way!) discussed spider control. They could send you any issue you ask for. I really liked the one on ants and the control of rose pests in the garden. For spiders, one of the suggestions was keeping the house really clean... b/c they feed on other insects and perhaps small critters we could barely see in the collecting dust. Pests often will choose one person over another... the research shows that pregnant cats and lactating cats for example are preferable hosts for fleas (I believe it was), than other cats. I was lactating during the feed last year! BIRC could be reached at 524-2567. Also, simultaneously, a doctor at CCHMC in Martinez where my husband works also solved the mystery of the bites at the same time when I brought in a pregnant mite with the egg sack attached (thus large enought for me to see it!) I didn't have alcohol so Chardonnay worked fine in a baby food jar. Animal mites are much larger than dust mites and so one could see it very well under a 10X -30x microscope. This doctor is also an entomologist so is perfect at solving these types of problems. Contact me if you wish to consult this doctor. Susan
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