Rat Mites

Parent Q&A

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  • Possible mite bites - next steps?

    (6 replies)

    Hi there,

    Has anyone dealt with this problem recently? My 4 year old is getting eaten alive by some bug, and from the descriptions from past BPN posts I am thinking it is mites. We haven't seen rats but they could be here, but there are a ton of birds living around our home and it sounds like they could be the source too. I put in a request with the county to do an inspection, but I have two questions. 1) If it is birds, what can I possibly do? 2) Until the source is eradicated, is there anything I can do to prevent the biting of my little guy? He is being tortured by the itching and is keeping us all up all hours of the night! Luckily the baby has been spared, so far... 

    Have you taken your son to his pediatrician? The most common mite bites kids get is scabies, which I know sounds gross, but it's super common and easily treatable. That's where I would start. I *highly* doubt it's bird mites - bird mites are species-specific; while they might bite people to kind of "test" if they're a suitable host, they won't hang around long because they cannot survive on humans. The only conditions under which bird mites are likely to invade your home is if you had many birds nesting in your home (like in your attic), and they all left abruptly, and left behind hungry, desperate mites that could then enter your home readily. Birds in trees or shrubs surrounding your home won't transmit mites into your home - the mites want to stay where the birds are. Also, you should know that it is against the law to disturb nesting birds, so don't do that.

    Anyway, for sure bring your son to his pediatrician. If it's scabies, a prescription of permethrin will have him feeling better in no time flat, not to mention some anti-itch meds! And if it's something else (since other skin conditions can mimic bug bites), then that can be worked out too.

    I had this issue myself a few years ago and I suspected mites.  I tried so many things but what ultimately worked was cedarwood essential oil.  I put it in my body wash, my conditioner, my body lotion and sprayed it on carpets and sheets and washed bedding frequently and clothes.  It can have a drying effect on skin but ultimately worked and was all natural.  Good luck!  It does take awhile to get rid of mites so be diligent for a few weeks at least. 

    Have you considered bed bugs? Bed bugs come out at night and when they bite there are usually multiple bites and they would be close together. 

    My 13 year old was getting lots of bites (not sure from what) until I started giving him Vit B12 gummy supplements, and the bites totally stopped.  No one else in the family was getting bitten.

    Check with your child's doctor about which of these suggestions are appropriate.  I was positively tormented by what was probably rat mites for weeks and here's how I coped. I did have the health department and the pest company come out and try to identify them, and try to occlude the rats and trap them and empty the traps quickly, etc. but it was hard to tell if all that helped.

    In the meantime, the things I did that helped me avoid going completely crazy (thank goodness for my doctor recommending some of these):

    - Cut my fingernails very short so I wouldn't scratch the bites as much

    - Took a generic (for Claritin) antihistamine daily  - I could feel it wear off at the 24 hour mark, that's how night and day the anti-itching effect was

    - Used cortisone cream on the bites

    - Took baths in baking soda and warm (not hot) water

    - Applied baking soda paste like a poultice, held in place by a damp cloth

    - Washed my sheets, blankets, and mattress cover on hot almost daily

    - Wore long sleeve and long leg PJs and socks to bed. They could bite through the cloth but seemed deterred by it some.

    I hope it passes more quickly at your house! Oddly my kids weren't bitten at all, but they totally ate me alive.

    Here's some info from the county. https://www.contracostamosquito.com/mites.htm  Are you sure it's not bed bugs?  All it takes is one bed bug and you have millions.

  • Mysterious Bites on 2 Year Old

    (7 replies)

    My 2 year old started getting these red bites, 9 on one leg, 4 on the other, and 4 on one arm in a weeks time. We thought we noticed more on her legs after she woke up with more one day, from her crib. They look like flea or bedbug bites but no signs of bedbugs, I know you can see those with the naked eye. The dog hasn't been scratching, but she did recently start falling asleep on the dog's bed for a short nap. Mostly her upper body lays on the dog bed including her whole head which appears to be untouched, They are only on both legs & 1 arm at this point. We thought it was cute at first, even a picture, but could it be fleas causing these aweful looking bites even if the dog or cat are never scratching? And how serious could this be, since tomorrow is Sunday, doctors are closed so the ER would be my only choice until Monday. Basically, Can it wait utill Monday or not? Any help would be awesome! I don't know if I should buy a new mattress, get the dog to the vet or spray for spiders. PLEASE HELP!! THAT POOR THING

    I only have experience with bed bugs, not fleas, but I'll share what I know. While bed bugs are visible with the naked eye, they are very good at hiding, and they are nocturnal, so not having seen them definitely doesn't rule them out. As to where to look, they like living in walls and floorboards, and typically only move to the mattress when the infestation is so large as to force them to. You might look for small smudges of brown on your child's sheets, and also look at the pattern of the bites - bed bugs like to bite in lines. Bed bugs tend to only bite exposed skin, not under clothing, and they don't like crawling through hair or fur, so they tend to avoid dogs altogether. There are some traps you can put out to determine if you have bed bugs. The point isn't to catch all the bugs (because it won't), but to prove whether they are bedbugs: http://www.instructables.com/id/Easiest-Bed-Bug-Trap/

    I don't believe bed bugs carry disease like other bugs, but they are certainly awful. Some people are allergic and some aren't, by the way, so you and your husband may be getting bit as well but not showing signs. My husband and I moved into an apartment with bed bugs and I was covered in bites that blistered, though my husband showed nothing. 

    In the meantime, if it's looking like they are bedbugs, wash your daughter's bedding and pajamas, and, along with any stuffed animals or anything else that's been in her bed, dry on as high a heat as the fabric can withstand for at least 30 minutes. Bed bugs can't fly, only crawl, so move her bed away from the wall, make sure no bedding touches the floor, and get bed bug interceptors for the legs of the bed: https://www.amazon.com/ClimbUp%C2%AE-Interceptors-pack-passive-traps/dp/...

    In-store bed bug sprays do not work, unfortunately. We had to go through an 8 week treatment regime with a pest control company, but after that, no more bed bugs.

    Good luck.

    Ugh. I feel your pain. The same exact thing happened to ME (not my kid!) a couple of months ago. I too was convinced we got bedbugs (hubby does tons of travel for biz, so I figured it's a matter of time...). I even called our pest control company (termites and ants), and had them come and look with me, including tearing apart my bedroom, and they found nothing. I have 2 cats/2 dogs. No one was itching. but I kept waking up with bites on my arms, legs and torso. Little red itchy ones.  First of all - no need for the ER, this can wait for your pediatrician unless a fever develops suddenly. If it's fleas, they generally don't carry diseases (unlike ticks) that humans can catch.  So here was my plan of attack, which so far has worked:

    1. Change or introduce flea control products for your pets. Skip the natural ones, they don't work, sorry to say. Ask your vet what fleas in your area seem most susceptible to. Where I am, they said Bravecto, but I can't give that to any of my pets because most of them have stomach issues, allergies, etc., didn't want an oral med.  We were using Activyl, which was useless. So I went back to Frontline, and that seems to have helped a lot. It's just a couple of drops on their shoulder once a month.

    2. I washed ALL bedding, pet and human, scrubbed down my whole house. I use a homemade fabric freshener, so I bumped up the more flea-repellent ingredients. Here's my recipe:  fill a spray bottle 1/2 vodka 1/2 filtered water. Add 15 drops peppermint oil + 10 drops pennyroyal oil + 5 drops lavender + 5 drops cinnamon oil.  I sprayed down all mattresses and rugs after cleaning, also all upholstered furniture.

    3. Sounds crazy, but trust me, this next one helped too: I went to the pet store and bought a few old-school flea collars. I would never put these on my pets either, so I cut each one in half, and put each half somewhere fleas might like - under the mattress, under sofa cushions, under dog bed, etc.

    You're not losing your mind, I thought I was going nuts because you're right - bedbugs leave telltale signs or you can see them at night. Flea larvae you can't see, and they can jump, too!  A couple of months later, I'm getting ready to switch out my cut-up flea collars, and I'm diligent about flea control on the pets. And if anyone says "Oh I would never put those chemicals on my pets!' Say what I say  - "Really? Because I love my pets, but I love the humans in the house more, WE get priority for disease prevention."  GOOD LUCK!

    We had a suspected infestation of rat mites last year around this time. It might be worth it to check around your basement and attic, or set some traps. They often search out humans when their rat host has died, luckily they can't live without rats, so they go away when the rodents are eradicated. Also, interestingly they seem to like specific people (I was affected and my husband wasn't bitten at all). Just a thought!

    Hi - I hate to say this sounds like it could be rat bite mites. You'll see some tales in the archives.  There have been a bunch of reports of problems in the past two months, according to the City of Berkeley Public Health guy Ernesto who came and inspected my place.  They itch like hell, and each bite takes over a week to go away.  I never could see the mites themselves to get them identified, but others with similar cases nearby at the same time did.  I had dozens and dozens of bites (they didn't bite my kids at all) and I only survived with antihistamine and hydrocortisone. I tried every folk remedy to get rid of them, but the official way is to get rid of the rats, and eventually my landlord did have work done to close up places they could get under the house.  After a few weeks of torture it went away, possibly just a natural life cycle of the mite.

    If you know someone in science or medicine who wants to make a real contribution to society, suggest they study and publish on these pests, because it seems there's precious little useful research on how to repel them, interrupt their lifecycle, etc.  It was one of the most frustrating and miserable experiences I've ever had.

    If there is anything under the crib, remove it and vacuum thoroughly.  Leave the space under the crib empty and make sure the room is fairly tidy, especially at floor level.  Give the room a good dusting before you vacuum.  Wash the sheets in hot water with some vinegar in it and put the bare mattress out to air in a sunny spot for several hours.  If you have a window in her room, check to see that it is functioning well -- tight seals when closed and intact screen for when open.  If you leave her window open sometimes, check to see what is outside near that window.  Clear away any vines, ivy, weeds, or other tangles and drain any standing water or muddy spots.  Hope that helps!

    Dust mites! Dust and vacuum the room, wash all bedding including pillows, blankets, and mattress covers.

    If there is no sign of bed bugs, this sounds like rat mites to me. My family also suffered from a similar problem several years ago, although only my husband and younger son got red, pimple-sized, itchy bites (perhaps they were allergic and other members of the family were not?) It is important to check your roof and basement for rats. Premier Pest Control was the company that finally took care of our problem after several tries with other small and large companies. They did not use any chemicals, only physical barriers to entrance. In the meantime, to minimize bites, wash bedding often in hot water, wipe around the bed and baseboard, have your daughter wear footed pajamas or tuck pajama bottoms into socks and if she has two-piece pajamas, tuck the shirt into the pants. We wore turtlenecks as well with a shirt over it and used herbal insect repellent on our wrists. My son's bites were so bad, the doctor gave us a prescription cream, which stopped the itching. The problem did go away, but it is very annoying while it lasts.

Parent Reviews

RE: Bed bugs (or related) ()

Have you considered rat mite bites? Years ago our then young kids had a bunch of bites we couldn't figure out. The pediatrician suspected rat mite bites, and sure enough we found a dead rat outside of their bedroom window. YUK! Rats are extremely pervasive in the area. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Mysterious itchy red bites

July 2008

Re: Are these spider bites on my toddler?
kind of disgusting but.....could it be an allergic reaction rat mite bites? at first i thought our kids had chicken pox, as we (parents) didn't have any marks. but after i took them to the dr, she said that because the kids' skin is thinner, it often shows up more on children. also, not everyone reacts to the bite. check around your home and attic for evidence of rats (esp. dead ones). we had to remove a beautiful vine but it solved the problem. problem solved

June 2007

Re: Small red itchy bites that only I get

Hi there We had the same kind of issue a couple of years ago. After much internet searching and talking to a dermatologist - we narrowed it down to rat mites. (these mites also live on birds that may be nesting in or around your house). Unbeknownst to us we had a rat in our attic. The mites live on the rats. Solution? We called Rat Patrol. They trapped the rats and sealed any entrance around the house so they couldn't re- enter. Then we bombed the house (twice). Problem solved. This of course was time consuming and we ended up camping in our yard - literally. But it worked. Good Luck. Julie

Sounds like tropical rat mite bites. If you have roof rats in the neighborhood or in your home, occasionally a rat will die and the mites search for an alternate host. Tropical rat mites prefer pregnant or lactating women to men and children. The rat mites are smaller than a period at the end of a sentence. The good news is that the mites cannot survive on human hosts alone so the bites will continue for approx. 6-8 weeks. I recommend contacting Alameda County Vector Control - they will send an inspector out - no fees are involved - and they can help with confirmation and mitigation. Good luck! Been Bitten

March 2007

Re: Itching, biting things crawling under my skin
Without knowing about Morgellons or all of your symptoms, I just wanted to be sure you are not being bitten by mites. We were invaded by rat mites a year ago. Often only one or some people in the family are effected. It definitely felt like things were crawling on us -- and they were, but the mites are practically too small to be seen by the human eye. This caused unbearable itching. You can research rat mites, or call the city of Berkeley for a pamphlet, to determine if your bites/itching follow the pattern for mite bites. Unfortunately many doctors don't know how to recognize this. Ultimately the problem was resolved by ridding our attic of rats. Good luck! anon

Please consider the possibility of RAT MITES.

They are essentially invisible, more active at night and in warm weather, and because not everyone is allergic to their bite, it's possible for only one of a couple to be aware of a problem. (The mites will infiltrate from whereever the rats are breeding, for instance, in an attic or basement.)

I suffered with similar symptoms for three years before I figured out what was going on. Got rid of the rats and the itching subsided almost immediately. (You might try sleeping elsewhere for a weekend as a ''test''.)

BTW, I recommend going for rat *traps* before resorting to poisons. If the rats die in the walls you're in for MONTHS of a stench that's almost unbearable, not to mention swarms of Really Big FLIES! Good luck!

Feb 2005

Re: Our family is being eaten alive!
We had the same thing--my daughter and husband have hundreds of tiny, very itchy bites. I consulted the archives, and it was, as many other people have had, rat mites (we had just discovered rats in our basement a few days earlier.) I think the rain is driving them in. We'd never had an issue before and have lived in this house for 10 years. Check your attic and basement carefully. anon

May 2004

Re: Bug Bites on Mom Only
I can't tell for sure, but it may very well be mite bites. My younger son and I are getting lots of welts, while my wife and older son aren't, but we are all getting bitten- apparently the two of us are having an allergic reaction the others aren't (this is typical of mite bites). It's very hard to eliminate mite bites if you don't keep all rodents and birds out of your dwelling, because the mites travel amazing distances. If roof rats or birds are nesting, say in the attic, they will travel to your bed and bite you. Your landlord would have to do the abatement (sealing up entryways).

It could be hard to verify the vector, if you can't find any (we discovered some mites swarming in the bathroom where they can be seen easily, but I have never seen any in the bed, where I KNOW I am being bitten). Skeeters will bite you where you are exposed when sleeping (head and arms), while mites will bite you where you are covered- that's one tipoff. If you never hear mosquitoes buzzing, I would guess mites. Good luck!

Check out the Rat (or bird) mite possibility again. I was bitten by rat mites for months with very similar symptoms to yours. My husband (with no bites at all) insisted that it could not be mites. When we heard rats in our attic we got the house sealed up, the rats disappeared, the bites intensified for a little over a month (this is as long as they can live without rats around to host them) and then went away. I was surprised when they came back this year, but then we found out the rats had found a way back in again. We sealed up the house again and... 40 days later, no bites. I did find a couple of mites on my body over the course of these many many months, but really--it is hard when there is no evidence of anything to believe it really is what you suspect! We found out subsequent to the first infestation that the reason my husband was not getting bites was that only some people are allergic to the bites, and this is why they swell up. I would call Rat Patrol immediately: they are the only exterminators I know of who really deal with this problem... or have your landlord call if you are renting. Good Luck! (formally) Bitten in Berkeley

Mites Bites -- Yikes

August 2005

like much of the Oak/Berk area we have recurring problems w/ roof rats, and so recurring problems w/ mites, which are biting the smallest of us like crazy. aside from dealing w/ the larger problem (the rats -- and believe me, we're trying), any suggestions about eliminating the mites themselves? when we first had the problem, a few years ago, we thought it was fleas and had Fleabusters come out. they told us it was not fleas, but that their treatment might work anyway, and it did for some time. but Fleabusters changed hands, and the current folks seem not to have a clue about any of this .... the itchy and scratchy show

My friend in Berkeley got very ill last year. She went to several doctors before they determined her mysterious illness was brought on by reaction to her rat mite bites. While taking strong medications to cure her illness, she invoked the landlord to clean out the rats (who lived in the ivy behind the building).

Many exterminators later, they found that the rats had also entered the basement storage area and entered her upholstered peices where they urinated and defecated; and where they ate through her valuable painting, chewed electric cords off lamps, and destroyed her stored books.

They then found evidence the rats had been in her upholstered pieces in her house, inside the couch cushions. This meant the mites were all over her house and she lost everything--all her bedding, beds, sofas, chairs, etc. The pieces were full of excrement and could not be cleaned (none of this was visible to the eye). The mites live on the rats, so you cannot get rid of the mites until the rats are gone.

It got so everytime she entered her own house she would have an immediate allergic reaction, swelling and itching, and then the physical illness. She had to move, she lost most of the contents of the house, and spent a year recovering from the illness. She is now working with the insurance company to settle this.

She was not able to find any pest control who could really get rid of the rats as they are so prevalent in the sewers in Berkeley, and many live in Ivy. anon