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Nearly Invisible Biting Mites Invade Midwest:
Here's What You Need to Know and Do

Bed bugs and mosquitoes move over; there's a new menace that's causing Chicago-area residents to itch all over, and they didn't even see it coming.

prevent mite bites

If you live in the Northern part of Illinois, health officials are recommending wearing long sleeves outdoors, and showering and washing your clothing after coming outside, to prevent getting bitten by the mysterious mite.

The oak leaf gall mite, an invisible invasive mite that probably came over from Europe, is being blamed for an outbreak of mysterious, itchy rashes in northern Illinois. Though it has yet to be confirmed -- the gall mite is so small that it can catch a ride on the back of a flying insect or just be blown around in the wind -- investigators say the rash has all the characteristic signs.

The Oak Leaf Gall Mite Has Struck Before

First, mysterious insect bites appeared in northern Kansas in 1994. Then, a decade later in 2004, an outbreak of rashes showed up seemingly out of nowhere in eastern Kansas and Nebraska. The oak leaf gall mite was the likely culprit in all the cases, and reports of similar outbreaks have occurred in Missouri, Oklahoma, central Texas and western Kentucky, as well.

Though they typically feed on larvae in oak trees, the mite will bite humans it falls upon if food is scarce. The mites' saliva contains a neurotoxin that can kill small insects and caterpillars, and in humans produces extreme itching and a red, splotchy rash anywhere from 10 to 16 hours after being bitten. The bites themselves are painless, and you won't even know you were bitten.

The rash, which can last for days, is most likely to show up on your neck, arms, back and any other exposed skin areas.

The Mites are More Annoying Than They are Dangerous

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Hundreds of cases of strange rashes have been reported in the Chicago-area since August 1, 2007. Health officials do have a word of good news for those affected (or worried about it): the mites are more of a nuisance than a health threat.

Although getting bitten by the mites is very irritating, it is not dangerous to your health. Those who have been bitten, though, should not scratch the bites, as it could cause an infection, health officials say. Simply treating the rash with an anti-itch cream, such as Quret Drawing Salve, should help to provide relief.

As it stands, little is known about the oak leaf gall mite, its eating habits or why outbreaks seem to appear -- and disappear -- out of nowhere. Researchers also don't know whether they're spreading, and attempts to catch the invisible creatures using sticky traps have been, so far, unsuccessful.

For now, if you live in an affected area, or just want to be extra-cautious, you can protect yourself by wearing long sleeves when you're outside, and showering and washing your clothing when you come in.

summer pest control

Enjoy the late days of summer with your family without insect pests by misting the area with Flea 'n Tick B Gone before you go outside.

Another excellent option is Flea 'n Tick B Gone, an all-natural, completely non-toxic insect repellant. Flea 'n Tick B Gone is an enzyme-based formula made naturally from plant resources, so it's entirely free of pesticides. Best of all, if you lightly mist your backyard, it will keep the area free of fleas, ticks, ants, spiders, flies, bees and more for at least three hours!

So feel free to enjoy the rest of your late summer days and nights in the great outdoors, just throw on a light long-sleeved shirt or spray the area with Flea 'n Tick B Gone -- especially if you're near a wooded area.

Experts agree that this irritating mite is probably making its first appearance in the Chicago area, but they're fairly certain it won't be its last.

Recommended Reading

The Potential Dangers of Fecal and Other Contamination From Pets in Your Home

Bugs that Bite: Interesting Facts & Necessary Precautions on the Insects That Crave You

Sources August 15, 2007

ABC News August 16, 2007

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