Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Mysterious Bites at Night - After Moving Into New House

We have started a new "'Bugs Help Line" to answer specific questions from our visitors. For instructions on how to submit your own questions about home and garden pests click here.

The question below represents a number of similar questions we've gotten recently about "bites" that mysteriously appear in the morning. In this case, the bites started shortly after moving into a newly built home. 

Question: What's Causing the Itchy "Bites" - After Moving Into New House?

Dear 'Bugs,
"We recently built a new home from the ground up. The process took a little over a year but we finally moved in this past October (2009). Not long after we moved (maybe a month?) I started to experience mysterious bites mostly along my thigh area down my leg to my ankle or foot (see photo). These were happening at some point in the night and every night because I am certain they were not there the previous day.  We immediately thought bed bugs since our mattress was stored in a garage during the build, wrapped in fabric but not plastic. We instantly got rid of the mattress, thoroughly cleaned the entire bedroom and home, then continued to sleep on an air mattress in a room at the other end of the house until our brand new foam mattress arrived a week later. I do have to note however that maybe twice during that week we were on the air mattress, I did awake in the morning with one or two bites as opposed to the 8 to 10 I would receive before.
 

Since we had our new mattress (about 3 weeks or so now) I have had no problems whatsoever...until just last night. I awoke, only to notice  about 8 or 9 bites when I was in the bathroom and happened to feel the side of my leg. That is what is shown in the picture. The bites don't start to itch until they are scratched and then they seem to inflame slightly. Shortly after the itching stops and only starts again if it is irritated by more scratching or something rubbing on them. My husband has not had any bites whatsoever since this ordeal began, and my son who is 2 and sleeps in the room across the hall has had not one bite either. I seem to be the only one affected. We do have a small dog but she is treated regularly with a 3 in one flea medicine and is bathed.

As I said before, this is a brand new home. I would think we are rather clean people. I vacuum under beds, dust sills, steam clean, you name it, I do this regularly (approx twice weekly). We shower pretty much everyday, and have never experienced anything like this before.

I am at my wits end and would love if I could be helped or even pointed in the right direction. I have spent hours on the internet and just seem to get myself more anxious with the possibilities I read about. Mites? Bed bugs? Chiggers? parasites? AHH!!

Your time is greatly appreciated in this matter. I thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope I get to hear back.

Thank you and Kindest Regards,
Itchy and Irritated

PS. Right now the temp is cold and it has not been hot since before we moved in. We also live in a farm county on about 30 acres. (So we are not surrounded by buildings and whatnot) Lots of wildlife, etc. Just trying to give you all possible attributes. Thanks again."


Answer:

Fortunately there are only a small number of things that could cause these marks and if you carefully investigate each one you should be able to figure it out and take remedial steps to solve the problem.

Let's think about possible insects or mites. Only bed bugs, biting flies, fleas, body lice, or biting mites could be the culprit. There are no "mysterious parasites" despite all the Internet rumors and myths.

Body lice are pretty easy to eliminate from the list if you regularly wash your clothes. A low level bed bug or flea infestation is possible but usually there's other evidence such as the presence of the "bugs" themselves, plus fleas don't typically bite along the legs like you describe. Biting flies (mosquitoes, black flies, biting midges) usually occur outside. Biting midges and mosquitoes sometimes come indoors, however. Of the biting mites, chiggers occur outside in brushy areas and the bites are extremely irritating and itchy in most people, and don't usually show up at night. Bird mites are a possibility but they tend to be confined to one particular room (you mentioned that the bites showed up in different parts of the house).

Here are some links:

body lice
bed bugs
fleas
chiggers
bird mites

Of all these possibilities, I'd say that a low level bed bug or flea infestation is the most likely. However, it is also possible that these marks are not bites at all but rather some type of dermatitis caused by a chemical or allergen.

One of the key things in your description was that you moved into a new house shortly before this all started. New construction produces many chemical residues that people can react to such as glue, paint, insulation, and so forth. My initial guess is that you are in fact reacting to one of these chemical residues rather than some type of bug bite.

The only way to be completely sure is to investigate each of the possible insect or mite culprits but if you can't definitely find one of them I'd suspect there's some chemical in the house that you are reacting to.

Use this page for background information about all the possible "bugs" to start your investigation. You may also want to take a look at a book like "My House Is Killing Me!: The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma" by Jeffrey May (I have no connection to this book).

I hope this is useful, good luck.

6 comments:

Amanda VDM said...

So, I have been experiencing the exact same things! I don't get the bites anywhere other than on my lower body, and my husband has not a single bite! I have two daughters who both sleep in separate rooms from us and from each other...one has bites on the upper part of her body, the other has no bites.
We just bought a brand new mattress, my bedding gets washed regularly...I'm at such a loss, and the bites are so itchy!!! I don't know what to do!

Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D. said...

Amanda,

Have you looked over the information on the links above? If so, and you still have questions, contact me at livingwithbugs@gmail.com and we can discuss it. These "bites" usually turn out to be related to allergies or environmental toxins rather than "bugs". Sometimes emotional stress and/or drug side effects can cause skin eruptions/itchy lesions as well. Be thinking about these as possibilities.

Jack DeAngelis

MsMedia said...

Im having the same problems. Just moved into a new apartment. Ive tried washing the sheets but am still getting bitten. These are definitely bites and not allergic reactions. I get new ones each night from ankles to hip bones. My boyfriend however, gets none. I was reading something about rat mites... but I can't find out more. They prefer lactating or pregnant women, maybe just women in general from the sounds of it. If they are somehow here, perhaps brought in from storage, how do I get rid of them? There's no rats here. No spiders (pest control) and no fleas. Any thoughts?

jen said...

This is exactly my situation as well. We just moved into a new house 2 weeks ago and I am also getting bites along my legs and my husband is not getting any. A few friends and family have been in but none have reported any bites. The family before us was getting a divorce and cleared out a couple months before we moved in. They broom swept, but did not do a stellar job of cleaning the house. We did notice some black bits in closets and on floors (especially in the basement) that my friend informed me was mice droppings. We cleaned and bought traps but have not seen any evidence of any living creatures. I've scoured our bed at night and check my clothing often. There was an old carpet that is still currently in the house that is going to be replaced this week and I've vacuumed it several times and can't wait to get it out. Any thoughts to what is happening? I worry about these "mice droppings". there was quite a bit of them in the basement and I'm absolutely grossed out by this all!

Joy Hryniewicz said...

this is crazy because I have the same exact issue. My husband and two young boys and I just moved into an old house and I've been waking every morning with new small bites mostly around my lower abdomen, hips calves and sometimes under arms which makes me think it's happening when I'm sleeping (because I sleep with my arms over my head). One of my sons has a couple of the same looking bites on his hips but my other son and husband haven't had any. At first I thought maybe mosquitos but I don't see or hear any plus we live in southern california where there aren't many anyway. I haven't seen fleas so I'm thinking maybe spiders?? or beg bugs. Ugh! I hope it's not bed bugs. Is it?

Alexa Cavaiani said...

same with me.. i moved into these new apartments, and hey were built in the 70s but the whole apartmrnt was redone...new paint, new carpet, new laminet, new apliances. well a month into living here i woke up one mornimg with 5 biyes between my calves and they were not small they were the size of a dime, and i jad been scratchin them in my sleep, every night after hat i recieved more, the back of my legs, my butt, my arms, ankles, knees. and its gross already kbowing something is eating me. but after a day of having a fresh bite it would swell up a little bit bigger than a quarter and then he top or middle of the bite would would start to fester, and i put peroxide on them, itch creme, they would become so big and disgusting looking i had to put bandaids over them on my arms. soi got tired of this after a month of washing our cloths, wadhing the sheets, washing evertthing. we looked for the signs of bed bugs, and fleas since we have cats but they are indoor cats, no spider, no beatles, nothing...no bugs,no webs...but still more and more bites, so we decided to bug bomb, every room, both bedrooms, and our living room and afterwards we cleaned and washed everyhing again, and for a week no bites, but last week it sarted up again. and i feellike this is gettig out of control the bite on my leg is a red patch of skin and in the middle i jave a bump that looks like a big mole, not a normal bump like a hill, and actual big mole just sticking up in the middle and if i scratch it begins to fester its the most digustin thing iv ever seen and its on my body...some1 please help me..im considerig going to the store and bying boxes of bug bombs for different bugs...the funny thing is my boyfriend who sleep right next to me, and even holds and spoons me at night has not even been touched, nothing!!!!