Skin itch may not be bugs

Q. I think I have bugs in my bedroom and in my clothing, what could they be? I have been itching constantly. I think there are little bugs in my house. I can’t find anything, can you help?

Michelle and Kathleen from Poland

A. Bugs in the home are a common occurrence, but the problem is not always a bug.

There are some real bugs that do cause problems in the home. We have identified bedbugs, bat bugs, fleas and more insects in our office this past year. There also are spiders and mites, lice and a few others. In most cases, we can find these insects and get a positive identification. But we cannot diagnose or identify a specific bite or rash.

Many times, though, homeowners notice the bites before they notice the insect. So a proper search for the insect and clues from the bites must be followed before drawing any conclusions. Try using a sticky trap, clear packaging tape or other method of catching tiny insects. Be aware that many times, all you will get is small pieces of skin, hair and dust. If you do think you have caught something, have someone properly identify the insect.

Sometimes, though, what you think is a bug is not a bug at all.

Many of us have encountered chiggers in the summer. If you have picked wild blackberries, you know what chiggers are. You feel the pain, but don’t see the bugs. We have also found that wool sweater in the closet, but never the insect that caused the hole. Thus, we can relate to folks who have the itch, but don’t know why.

The itch or supposed bite could be anything from a chemical reaction to an allergic reaction. It could be a bacterial infection or other medical condition.

Common household products could be causing the problem, including cosmetics, detergent, soaps, insulation or other items in your air ducts that can cause a person to feel like their skin is crawling if they get pushed through the air.

So, if you have find out the problem is not a bug, contact your personal care physician for help. Work to find the source by answering basic questions: Where does it happen in the home? Is there a specific time of day? Where are you seeing bites/marks first? Have you started using a new product? Have you cleaned the furnace ductwork? Have you tried anything to capture a possible insect?

Thinking logically and writing things down will go a long way in finding the mystery bug, or other condition causing the problem.

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Eric Barrett is OSU Ext. educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.

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