Many of us went to doctors (both internal medicine specialists and dermatologists) with our bed bug bites and were misdiagnosed. Some people are wrongly told they have scabies and treated for it (as I was, without the doctor having done a simple scraping to diagnose a scabies infestation.) People are sometimes even told they have delusional parasitosis. Parakeets has long recommended seeing a doctor who was educated overseas, since they can often spot bed bug bites. But my dermatologist was from the Middle East, and couldn’t.
But it’s important to note that our bites don’t all look the same. You won’t believe how many people (doctors, PCOs, even friends who had read the articles and seen the TV news segments) saw my bites and said, “those aren’t bed bug bites,” because they did not look like this or this. Mine mostly looked like these bites on Caryn’s leg (only the ones on her leg), but some were like mosquito bites of various sizes.
Thankfully, WebMD’s site on bed bugs quotes Harvard Entomologist Michael Pollack sets the record straight:
Forget everything you’ve heard about being able to tell the biter was a bed bug by looking at a bite. “I feed all kinds of bloodsuckers on my body, and in the vast majority of cases you can’t look at a mark and tell what made it,” says Pollack. “I recently gave a talk to physicians and quizzed them on pictures of bites, and their batting average was zero. The bites resemble those of other blood-feeding insects, such as mosquitoes, fleas, biting gnats, or mites.”
I’m envisioning a website full of comparisons between bed bug bites on various entomologists, who have to feed their bed bug colonies. (If you’ve watched enough news segments, you’ve seen several of them doing so.)
And yay, Pollack spoke to doctors about how to recognize the bites. Perhaps its better going to a doc now than it was last year. I am sure there’s more to be done, but everything helps. What also helps, in a small way, is when we go back and tell the doctors who insisted that those were not bed bug bites that, yeah, they were.
This snippet describes a conference presentation on bed bug bites. It is unclear whether this has already taken place, but I share it because the need for doctors to be more aware of how bed bug bites appear on patients is something many of us are concerned about.
“Resurgence of Bedbug Bites Misdiagnosed as Allergic Skin Rashes in Inner-City Population.” (Abstract #P199: Nov. 11-12, Noon – 1:00 p.m.) – Sreenivasrao Amara, M.D., et al, Brooklyn, N.Y. – There is an increase in reports of bites from bedbugs (Cimex lectularius), a nocturnal bloodsucking parasite, in the U.S. and worldwide. Investigators report six patients with multiple, cutaneous manifestations misdiagnosed as allergic reactions that were proven bedbug bites. They recommend health care professionals be alert to screen for bedbug bites in any patient with a new refractory rash.
I’m a bit perplexed, since I understood that bed bug bites were an allergic reaction to bed bugs. In any case, it’s good word is getting around that people may present with bed bug bites, and those may look different depending on the person (and even different on the same person from bite to bite).