|bird/nest mite of hummingbirds|
Do you experience any of the following symptoms on a daily and/or regular basis?
- A crawling sensation sometimes accompanied by feeling "pin prick-like bites".
- Itchy skin, especially at night.
- Red skin lesions that resemble flea or mosquito bites, while not able to capture an actual bug.
- A fear that you and your home/office/car are infested with an unseen bug.
- You repeatedly wash bedding and treat your home with insecticide in an attempt to rid yourself of this invisible infestation.
What are so called "skin mites" and "collembola mites"?
The names skin mite and collembola mite are not scientific names for any real mite nor are they accepted common names for a real organism of any kind. They describe a set of symptoms (condition), not the name of an insect or mite.
What exactly do these terms mean? By using the word "mite" both terms are very misleading in that they incorrectly imply that the symptoms are caused by a living organism (a mite). There is no evidence that a living organism is involved, in fact the lack of a clearly identifiable organism is a hallmark of this condition. My concern is that people will try to eliminate the "mite infestation" with insecticides/miticides which needlessly exposes them to potential toxins and distracts them from searching for the real cause of their discomfort.
From a scientific standpoint the term "collembola mite" is particularly troublesome since collembola (springtails) are an entirely different type of arthropod, not related to mites at all (see Collembola/Springtails for a description). Collembola are harmless soil microarthropods that are abundant in rich, organic soils. Mites are a well-defined and very specific group of arthropods that are related to spiders and ticks, in fact ticks are a type of mite.
"Skin mite" is occasionally used as a common name for a group of mites that are actually parasitic on birds and rodents. Bird mites (see photo above), poultry mites, rodent mites and nest mites are the more widely accepted common names for these mites. These mites DO NOT infest homes and don't require treatment other than removal of the source nest (bird or rodent) and general cleaning (see Bird/Rodent/Nest Mite Biology and Control)
So what causes the symptoms described above?
Certain medical conditions mimic, and are easily mistaken for, bug bites. The skin lesions ("bites") can look similar and are often accompanied by itchiness and a crawling sensation. If you are predisposed by a fear of insects, you may misinterpret these symptoms as "bug bites".
Allergies are probably the most common cause. You can come into contact with allergens (the stuff your body reacts to) in a variety of ways. Airborne allergens like plant pollen and dust mite allergen are inhaled but you can also have direct contact with an allergen as occurs with certain poisonous plants (contact allergens). Food allergens are consumed along with the food we eat. Allergies can affect you in a variety of ways but skin lesions, hives and itchiness are frequent complaints.
Chemical/physical irritants include things as simple as a new brand of laundry detergent, new furniture or carpets, fiberglass insulation, cleaning solvents, and so forth. The list is long and can include products that you would never suspect. In one recent example an individual had lesions that resembled bug bites (and was convinced he was infested) but it turned out that he had started using a new solvent to clean his guns about the same time that the "bites" first appeared.
Reaction to drugs can include prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements, as well as illegal, recreational drugs.
Emotional stress is a potent trigger for all sorts of physical manifestations. For example, I remember as a graduate student that the skin on my hands would start to literally slough off before major exams and seminars because of my long-term anxiety and stress over these events.
Pre-existing illness, some of which are serious, can cause these reactions as well. Since the underlying illness may be serious in some cases, the sooner you get a proper diagnosis the better.
So, my hope is that rather than spending your money on insecticides or expensive application equipment like foggers, talk with a medical professional about your symptoms. Discuss the possibility of allergic reactions but also consider the other possibilities.