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Are You Really Being Bitten?

By Chris Williams on November 7, 2013.

Itchy skin but no bugs

Not everything that feels like a bug bite is a bug bite. Sometimes you feel like you’re being bitten, yet a pest control company cannot find live insects or mites that bite. There are only two possibilities:

  1. The biting pests are present and more investigative work has to be done to find them.
  2. Something else is causing you to feel like you are being bitten.

This is not an uncommon situation. Nine out of ten times, the “bites” turn out to be something else, usually a combination of environmental conditions and physical factors that cause skin irritation that mimics bug bites perfectly… often complete with bumps and swellings.

Actual biting pests are never invisible—they can be found—although sometimes they can be small and difficult to see. The commonest small pests that may bite people indoors are fleas, mosquitoes, bird and rodent mites, human itch mites (scabies), thrips, bed bugs, and lice (head lice, body lice, or crab lice). People sometimes think they are being bitten by invisible “paper mites” (especially in offices) or “cable mites.” There are no such pests.

If you and your pest control technician have tried to find the pests doing the biting with no success, most likely you are being bitten somewhere else or your symptoms are not from insect or mite bites.

Other Possible Causes of “Bites” in Your Home or Office

  • You’re being bitten somewhere else. The bites of certain pests may not be noticed until hours or even days after they occur. You may be being bitten by chiggers or mosquitoes outdoors, perhaps on the weekend, and not noticing the bites until sometime later.
  • You have a medical or skin condition. Certain skin disorders or medical conditions can cause rashes, itching or pricks that feel just like insect or mite bites. Allergies can result in dermatitis and hives. Use of some medications or drug abuse can cause skin sensations that mimic insect bites. Your physician or a dermatologist should be consulted.
  • The “bites” are caused by indoor conditions. Mysterious bites from invisible bugs are not uncommon complaints in rooms with lots of paper, electrical equipment, fibers, and static. Dry indoor air and static electricity can cause particles of carpet fibers, paper splinters, or fiberglass to “jump” onto arms and legs causing “pin pricks” that feel like bug bites and can even leave bumps or rash. Similar problems occur in new buildings when irritating chemicals are released into the air from insulation, carpets, and construction materials. An industrial hygienist can identify indoor environmental conditions that might cause “bites” and skin irritation.
  • Delusions of parasitosis. Delusory parasitosis is a recognized psychological condition that occurs when people develop an unshakeable (but untrue) belief that they are being bitten or their body is being infested by insects, mites, or other pests. In this case, a psychiatrist is the best source for help.

It’s important to understand that a pest control technician cannot treat your home or office for pests unless he or she can find evidence of pests. Most companies will work closely with you to find any pests, and keep in mind that pest control technicians are very good at what they do. If biting pests are present, a trained technician should be able to find them. As part of an inspection, a technician can place sticky traps to capture and identify any biting pests. If pests cannot be found and you are still experiencing “bites,” consider some of the other possibilities above.

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