There is hardly anything more idyllic than taking a summer stroll through a local park or botanical garden and strolling under the lush trees as the leaves begin to fall, indicating the approaching autumn. However, residents of any area of the United States return home from those summer walks with more than just a slight mist of sweat – they also return covered in bites and blisters. Read on to find out what is causing this sudden problem and what you can do to protect yourself.
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In the greater Washington, DC area, there has been a sudden increase in people reporting painful bites and blisters for no apparent cause.
While The Washingtonian reports that many of those affected compare their bites to those of the bed bug, experts say they could actually be the work of a microscopic pest.
“We don’t have a definitive diagnosis at this point, but from what we can see, the smart money could be pouring into something called pyemotes, a type of oak leaf itch mite.” Kurt Larrick, associate director of the Arlington County Department of Human Services, told the Washington Post.
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Although the mites appeared to have come out of nowhere, experts say there is a good reason they are now announcing their presence.
“They ate the cicada eggs in the trees. When they are out of the trees, they try to feed on anything warm, including you.” Ron Ochoa, a USDA research entomologist and mite curator, told ABCs 7News.
Unfortunately, the mites’ small size – about a quarter the size of the head of a pin, according to Ochoa – makes it easy for them to travel short stretches in the wind and they are almost impossible to spot until they bit you.
While trying to avoid an invisible pest may seem like a pointless exercise, there are a few ways you can reduce your risk of exposure.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) states that you keep your windows closed during the busy August through October season; Wash your hands; Wash your clothes daily after entering the house, especially if you have come into contact with plants; and not sitting under or near oak trees can help reduce the risk of bites. Fortunately, the DPH says that the mites cannot live in houses because there is no food source for them there.
Shutterstock / Dudarev Michail
The highest concentration of so-called “mite showers” occurs between August and October, so the problem is likely to resolve within a few months.
As soon as most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, the mites will at least no longer fall from above. Until then, Ochoa recommends, “Number one, use repellants when you go outside, and number two, don’t scratch unless your hands and nails are clean.”
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