Ted Snyder, BCE
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If you can’t get a sample of a biting pest, what can you do?

You’ve tried everything. Specimens of the pest that they submitted ended up being pieces of skin, lint, and debris. Inspecting the property revealed nothing. Glue boards you put out only captured dust, and maybe an occasional invader or two.

This is the hardest moment. Do you treat? No. Not an option – we covered this in an earlier post.

You can try to explain to them about other situations that can lead to symptoms that resemble bites. Various skin conditions, infections, allergic reactions to soaps and lotions – all of these can lead to things that resemble bites. Skin allergies can lead to the sensation that things are crawling on you. I’m too familiar with this last one. My allergies manifest in this way if I skip my allergy meds. In these cases, I often recommend the person goes to see a physician or a dermatologist. (Often they already have – so I encourage them to get a second opinion.)

Using a university extension publication can back up what you are suggesting. When people come to me with mysterious bites, I often recommend that they read the University of Kentucky’s Invisible Itches publication.

In my experience, however, if someone is convinced that they are being bit, none of this may work. Not that say that you shouldn’t suggest other causes for the “bites” – it’s only ethical for you to do so. Rather, be prepared for the person to disagree.

If it progresses to this point, I’ve found a saying that helps. I tell them that what I can do is identify pests and treat for them. I would be happy to treat, but first I need a pest. And I don’t have one.

This works because you are telling them that you want to help, as opposed to saying not, and you are giving them clear conditions required for you to help.

Since I’ve started saying this, I’ve found that clients with mysterious bites have been more satisfied with my diagnoses, and when I suggest that they see a medical professional about the bites, they are more accepting. I’ve made it clear that I don’t identify bites, and I’ve been clear with what they need to get me to treat.

Give this a try. Be firm, yet nice. I expect that you should get good results with it, just like I have.

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