Bites, insects or something else ?

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Pest Control companies often receive calls about people who are being bitten. Sometimes the cause is clear, such as a flea, bedbug, Birdlice infestation, however other times the cause cannot be located, and this is where other causes need to be investigated.

The general expectation is that that once the premises have been pest controlled, that the person will no longer feel as though they are being bitten. However, this is not always the case because when the source of the bites is unknown the solution may only be resolved through a thorough investigation. . More often than not a person may even need to seek medical advice.

Most people react differently to bites, some have no reaction at all, while others may swell up, become itchy, the area bitten or around the bite may change colour, liquid may seep from the bite wound. As people have different reactions to bites it becomes challenging to identify the exact cause from the bite alone.

Possible reasons why you feel you itchy or have been bitten by an insect

  • Insects and other animals ( the seen and the unseen)
  • Physical irritants
  • Chemical allergens
  • Sympathetic reactions
  • Psychological reactions (disease related or drug induced)

Visible Insects and related animals

Living in Australia, especially during the summer months we know there are insects that leave obvious bites on exposed body parts. Even though the by the time you realise you have been bitten the pest has already left and moved onto its next victim. We can usually tell ourselves that we have been bitten or stung by an insect such as a mosquito, an ant, bee or wasp sting and a spider bite.

Invisible Insects and related animals

Sometimes we see smaller bites in localised areas on the body but are not sure where they came from. In this case we go through an elimination of possibilities.

Bedbugs

Bedbugs are known to bite just before dawn. If you suspect you have bedbugs you should check your bed sheets for small fresh blood spots or any dried blood. We recommend that you undergo a thorough inspection of the room to see if you can find any live bedbugs crawling on the mattress or carpets. You should check under the seams of the mattress, bed joints such as where the bed legs join the bed, around and behind the bed head, your curtains and the edges of the carpet.

Bedbug infestations require a very thorough preparation & treatment.

Caterpillar hairs

When a caterpillar moves they leave a trail of bristles which can sting if a person comes into contact with them. These stinging hairs are also used as a defence mechanism and can be found around their shelters. If you come across a trail of caterpillar hair you may feel a sharp sting.

Lice

Whether it is body, head or pubic lice, all forms of lice can all cause itchiness. Lice are a human parasite which is a medical problem not a pest control problem. It is best to seek medical advice and find a good chemical rinse to be used on the affected parts of the body.

It is also a good idea to treat the rest of the family to prevent reinfestations.

Book lice do not bite, but can cause a skin irritation. If you have an issue with book lice, it is best to control humidity, fan out the room affected. I have also read that talcum powder is a good way of controlling book lice. By putting talcum powder down over the area affected it absorbs moisture.

Midge (Sandflies)

Sandfly bites are painful and very itchy especially to those that have more severe reactions to their bites than others (like me) but the good news for us is that to date they have not proven to be a carrier of disease. YAY??

Mites

Bird mites become a problem when birds that have been nesting in your roof, they have laid there eggs, raised there young and the young have now flown the nest. The bird lice now find themselves in a position to find a food source and usually this means open season on humans soundly sleeping in their beds.  Once the bird lice realise they have no more food available they will crawl down the walls inside your house and make their way to your bed, sucking on your blood while you sleep, you have just become the new host for the Birdlice!  

Treatment is simply removing the nest, dusting the roof void and spraying the room to kill the mite and most importantly bird proofing the roof to prevent future infestations.

The female scabies mite

The scabies mite is attracted to warmth and smell of humans. The female tunnels its way into the skin creating small thread like tunnels which you can sometimes see. When this mite has made its way into the skin it lays eggs and leaves its faeces in the tunnels, charming I know!

The scabies mite causes itchy hives or raised bumps that last a few days, if you suspect you have scabies you should be treated by a doctor.

Dust mites

Dust mites cause an allergic reaction which has been linked to asthma and other breathing disorders but do not bite.  If you suspect that you or family member could be showing symptoms of an allergic reaction to dust mites organise your Dr to run an allergy blood test.

Thrips

A thrip is a tiny, slender garden insect that has fringed wings (like a curtain fringe). These insects surprisingly are attracted to white washing which is hung on the clothes line. Thrips tend to bite when the white washing is being removed from the clothes line, folded and packed away. Their bite can cause a skin irritation.

Physical irritants

If you have come across a physical irritant the reaction may not occur immediately, physical irritants are known to have a delayed reaction.

Fibres from Synthetics and plants

Synthetic and plant fibres are mostly felt when they have penetrated the pores of the skin which open via a heat such as in a hot shower. 

Synthetic fibres can found in upholstered goods as well as fibreglass insulation. 

Plant fibers can be traced to either paper, dust, grass seeds and the fibre that is used at the bottom of hanging pots. These sources that we come across in our daily lives can cause skin irritations which a person mistakenly believes is a bite.

Heat rash

I am sure we all have experienced or know someone that has experienced a heat rash, we do of course live in Australia. For those who are not aware a heat rash appears as a red or pink rash, usually small dots in a specific area and are noticeable on the body in areas that are covered by clothing.

Heat rashes tend to occur more often during season changes. As we live in a land of unpredictable weather it can be difficult to know if the nights are going to be hot of cold we tend to leave our warm blankets or doonas on even during warm nights.

By covering ourselves up with excessive clothing and blankets the body undertakes the natural process of sweating usually under our arms, the groin area, the back of knees and the neck. The sweat glands can become blocked, swell, a rash breaks out which can leave a person in discomfort and itching. 

Static electricity

I am sure we all have had an experience with static electricity, remember the days of rubbing your feet on the carpet and then running up to touch someone and then getting the sensation of a pin prick, well this is static electricity!

Some people feel however also get a skin irritation by particles that jump up from fibres in carpets, papers or even fibreglass, for these people the skin irritations feel and may even look similar to an insect bite.

The use of an anti static spray or moisturiser will provide temporary relief

Chemical allergens

Chemicals taken orally such as medications, food products such as dairy, egg whites, wheat, peanuts or even by coming into contact with items such as washing detergents, perfumes, plant resins and dust can cause allergies which may interpreted as insect bites.

Any skin reaction, such as hives or itchiness should be medically treated, the source identified and avoided to prevent future reactions.

Medical conditions

There are many medical conditions that can lead a person to believe they are being bitten by an insect. Human parasite infestations such as ringworm, hookworm, pinworm and even athlete’s foot may cause itching and rashes similar to those from bug bites. 

Certain prescription and recreational drugs may also cause symptoms consistent with the feeling that bugs crawling, biting and burrowing into the skin, like morphine!

Sympathetic reaction

A sympathetic reaction results when someone scratches or mention they feel itchy in front of other people, the listeners then begin to scratch or feel itchy themselves.

There is an entertaining test that can be done to prove this theory…

Why not try it out….

All you need to do is mention a head lice infestation at your school or talk about being bitten or scratch in front of other people and may notice that others start to itch!

You may even be feeling something biting you now or an itchiness that wont go away just by just reading this article!!!

I know I am…

I had to mention head lice *scratches head

Delusional Parasitosis (DP)

Is a serious medical condition where the patient believes their body is infested by parasites.  The sensations in the skin are very real to the sufferer and because they feel that something is crawling under their skin suffers tend to constantly scratch at their skin often until red raw rashes appear, infections occur easily as the sufferer will often apply anything to their skin in order to try and provide some relief.

There are 3 types of DP which are classed by cause

Primary psychotic Delusional Parasitosis (DP)

Psychological disturbance

Secondary functional DP

Psychiatric conditions such as paranoia, Schizophrenia, anxiety disorders or depression.

Secondary organic DP

Physical illnesses such as drug abuse, vitamin B12 deficiency, cancer, hypothyroidism, cerebrovascular disease, tuberculosis, neurologic disorders or diabetes.

If the cause of the bites of itchiness is not from an insect or related animal, any pest control treatment undertaken will not solve the problem.

When, Where, What?

When calling up a pest control company in regards to bites you will be asked some if not all of the questions below.

  • When did you get the bites?
  • Where have you been bitten?
  • Where were you when you were bitten?
  • What were you doing when you were bitten?
  • How long have you noticed the bites or itchiness?
  • Have you seen any insects?
  • Is anyone else being bitten?

Symptoms and suffering are real but are often caused by something other than biting pests.  Irritation sites could become infected and compound the problem.  If a likely cause cannot be found you should seek medical advice. Blood Tests, skin tests, swaps and biopsies can be done to rule out other possibilities.

Sufferers of skin irritations whether it is from a pest or another cause are often so desperate for relief they demand treatment. Many times this only gains a short-term relief and some tend to demand re-treatment again and again. 

The problem with this is that by re treating when the cause is not pest related you are exposing more chemicals into your environment. 

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