Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unknown bug bites and dry skin

Reports of "mysterious bug bites" increase in winter

Every winter the number of people contacting us about mysterious bug bites increases. The typical question is something like "I feel something biting me but I can't see anything", or even "I've got bites all over my ______ but I can't catch whatever it is". While there is a small number of insects and mites that actually do bite people most of these reports have a much simpler explanation.

There are many causes for mysterious or unknown bug bites. Some are caused by real insects or mites (see the Causes of Mysterious Bug Bites article below for a list of possible culprits), but others are caused by non-arthropod agents such as allergy, drugs or even environmental chemicals.

Something as simple as winter-dry skin can even be mistaken for "bug bites". Everyone has probably felt the itchy, "crawly" feeling of dry skin and wondered, at least for a moment, if some bug (probably a spider!) was getting ready to bite. For some people these feelings become overwhelming and they come to believe they are actually infested.

When confronted with a question about an unseen bug biting my first reaction is usually to suggest they consult with a dermatologist to rule out allergy and chemical sensitivity. Dermatologists are pretty good at telling the difference between these skin aliments and true bug bites.

Take a look at the article cited above for a list of the insects and mites that do bite people but also consider that what you are experiencing is actually a case of mistaken identity. In my 20+ years of taking questions about mysterious bug bites they almost always turn out to be caused by something other than an insect or mite.


iareduck said...

I want to like the part about the dermatologist. I once had a skin rash and he walked in looked at it for three seconds and was like, this is what it is and this is how you treat it after years of people not being sure what it was.

tehmasp said...

This helped. Thanks.