What’s Biting Me

By Stuart Mitchell, DO, PhD, MPH, CMI, BCE

Images credit to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Have you ever had a customer or client tell you about, or show you bites they have received and asked, “What’s biting me?” Most pest management professionals have had this experience, especially if you consider this question pursuant to the current bedbug pandemic.

In this edition of Medical Q & A Brief, I address questions regarding “What’s biting me?”

Q: What do bedbug bites look like?

A: Bedbug bites (cimicosis) are pruritic (itchy), small macular spots, prominent wheals, or bullae formations (red bites) on the skin surface. In most cases, bites are on the arms or shoulders. Bedbug bites are not an immediate health hazard, but it is possible that secondary infection from scratching may result. If there are localized allergic skin reactions, creams with corticosteroids and/or oral antihistamines can be an over the counter treatment. If needed, be sure to see a doctor, and, of course, eliminate the bedbugs by using a pest management professional.

Bedbug bites

Bedbug bites with secondary infection

Q: What do flea bites look like?

A: In some cases, individuals have immune systems that are quite sensitive to flea bites and this can result in Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). Similar to bedbug bites, scratching flea bites can cause a wound or secondary infection. The best solution is to eliminate fleas on pets and the environment in partnership with veterinary and pest management professionals. Keep pets out of
beds and be certain to vacuum specifically where pets rest and sleep.

Flea bites

Cat Flea

Q: What do tick bites look like?

A: As a questing tick latches onto skin, it will generally travel to the warm, moist axillary areas (armpits and the groin). The tick can then take a blood feeding and pass on any disease pathogens it may vector (for example Lyme disease). A bite from a tick can trigger chronic or acute allergic reactions. If a tick is confirmed, it is important to remove it properly. As a preventative to tick bites, keep arms, legs, and head covered when outdoors. Use a repellant labeled for ticks containing DEET. Inspect for ticks especially after spending time in grassy or wooded areas.

Lyme disease rash