I’ve Been Bitten — I Must Have Bed Bugs! Or Do I?

You have a sensation of something crawling across your skin.  You itch.  The area turns red.  There is a little swelling.  Still the itch persists.  Bed bugs are in the news.  You scratch again and think bed bugs. 

These symptoms could be the result of any number of causes, and a bed bug ‘bite’ is one possible cause.

From the insect world, the culprit could be mosquitoes, fleas, lice, ticks, mites and their larval stage – chiggers, as well as the larval stage of carpet beetles.  The latter, refers to a pseudo bite that mimics an insect bite.   David Cain postulates a build-up of static electricity may cause the larvae’s micro fine hairs to pierce the skin and develop a ‘bite mark’ that responds and looks similar to an insect bite.

Allergy testing in a medical labIn actuality, the irritation of a bed bug ‘bite’ is an allergic reaction, and there are any number of everyday items that may be the cause an allergic response ranging from food, such as strawberries, seafood, milk, peanuts and their extracts, etc.; cosmetics, creams, suntan lotions; detergents and cleaners, particularly phosphate and ammonia-based products; or medications. The list is seemingly endless.  Allergies may appear out of nowhere.  One day you have no reaction, the next day you do.  For example, when my wife has eggs for breakfast, she has no reaction – unless the meal is followed by an increased heart rate, like a leisurely stroll after a hearty Sunday brunch.  It is the combination of the allergen plus the added stressor of exercise that kicks in an allergic reaction – itchy, red welts.

There is another category of irritants that could be the cause for that itchiness – environmental factors such as printer inks, carbonless paper, fire retardant additives in fabric or wall paper, and there are paper dust and fabric fragments that are re-circulated by heating/cooling systems.  Static electricity may even play a role by moving the hair on your arms or your back and create the sensation of insects creeping over your skin.

So the next time you next get an itch, and while you are trying not to scratch (to avoid the possibility of a secondary infection), play detective.  Where have you been?  What were you exposed to?  What have you eaten?  Perhaps, the source of the irritation is not bed bugs.  If you remain unsure, consider installing passive bed bug monitors, like the BB Alert, or call in a bed bug dog, like Bed Bug Mutts, to inspect the site and give you peace of mind.