What the Heck Bit Me In Bed?

Fate has decreed you need to play a game, and it’s not really a fun one. The game is called Mystery Bite. It’s the game where you have to ask “What the heck bit me when I was sleeping?”

You get to guess and sometimes only have circumstantial evidence to go by. You didn’t catch the critter in the act, after all.

Whatever it is, it would be helpful to know. It could help you decide whether it’s an emergency or not. You’re curious. It’s good to know who your enemies are.

It’s a bug of some sort. If it was your sweetie or another human, you’d know. Right? That wouldn’t be much of a mystery. Human bites are much bigger than insect bites. They also have teeth marks. You’ve surely seen those in the side of an apple.

Not a human bite? Check. Let’s move on to some other potential culprits.

If it was your pet dog or cat, you’d know that too, right? They’d be bigger. The bite you’re wondering about is red, rashlike, or, perhaps, raised. That’s the usual mystery bite.

The question is puzzling when you’ve got some red mark on your arms, legs, or torso.

It’s alarming when you’ve got a lot of red marks all over arms, legs, and torso.

Add in irritating when those red marks itch and when they keep you from sleeping.

Put embarrassing into the mix when they’re on your face.

Why what bit you matters

If you know what bit you, you can prevent yourself or your loved one from getting bit again. You can more effectively do something about the problem. Everything has its own solution.

Are you sure it was a something?

Is it acne? Is it an ingrown hair? A skin infection?

When you haven’t seen hundreds of bites in training, in journals, and in-person in your area, it can be hard to decide what it is that caused your bite. You’re best served by getting a doctor or other practitioner to take a look at it. Nevertheless, there are a few steps you can take to help them out.

Deducing what it might be

Take a look around your bedroom and home. Have you or the people you live with seen certain kinds of insects around? If so, what might be a suspect? Say, you live in the tropics in a place with a lot of standing water and you see mosquitos around frequently. Could that be a mosquito bite?

Look closely. Are there trails of ants, for example?

Certain insects are more common in some areas than others.

One thing that can be complicating is that a bite can look somewhat different on one person than another. This can be because of allergies to the bite, skin color, insect type, level of envenomation, and other factors.

Some people secrete a certain hormone or substance that makes them especially delectable to certain insects. For example, you can take two people who are near each other on a mosquito-filled night. One will end the night with dozens of bites. The other will have only a few.

Mosquitos and other insects can increase in population rapidly, seemingly overnight. Conditions can favor their breeding.

Compared to the way some other bites look, mosquito bites have a reddened, diffuse appearance. They grow more diffuse as one scratches them.

Bedbugs are always a concern. They can appear as a rough line of hard, reddened bumps on the skin.

Bedbug bites can appear roughly as a line of hard, red bumps.

Fleas can bite people in bed. Sometimes they get into bed from pets or livestock. They can look like other bites.

When it comes to identifying what bit you or your family member, your best bet is to find the culprit. One bite can look like another. These are flea bites.

Lyme disease is a worry when you’re talking about tick bites. The ticks carry bacteria that can cause the infection. It’s often misdiagnosed. The famous sign is a bullseye-shaped rash, but that rash doesn’t always show up. The other symptoms are general and non-specific like fever, joint pain, night sweats, and light sensitivity.

This is the typical bullseye rash associated with Lyme disease. This kind of rash doesn’t always appear.

If you do find a certain insect, there’s no need to put it in a jar and to take it to the emergency department. Take a good, clear picture with your smartphone or another camera to show them.

Some areas have scorpions and spiders, too. Their bites can look like the others. Try to find the culprit.

The good news is most bites aren’t a medical emergency. Eliminate the source of the bite. That means get rid of whatever their food source might be or their home.

Concerning the skin, the area should be washed, and a cold compress applied.

A cold compress can be simply a washcloth soaked in cold water. You can apply hydrocortisone cream (either 0.5 or 1 percent) to reduce the itching. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make a paste with baking soda or apply Calamine lotion.

Finally, a multipurpose antihistamine like Benadryl can be helpful. It’s more than a sleep aid.

The body can usually handle the bite. What you’re trying to prevent with these ministrations are complications from itching.

If the effects seem to be more serious, shortness of breath, swelling around the airways, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, feeling faint, or there’s a feeling that something “just isn’t right,” go to the emergency department.

When you’re trying to figure out what the heck just bit you or your loved one, it can be highly location-specific. Many things bite in the world, and sometimes they’re found in one place and not another.

Further reading:

Insect bites can be a disadvantage of sleeping on the floor.

Mystery insects can hide in sofa beds.