Toledo Talk


About four weeks ago, I went to a lake in Michigan to go swimming. I've been going to this lake every summer for the last 15 years. I was shocked to see how much the seaweed had taken over the lake and decided to remove a little. I put it on shore to dry overnight and later used it as fertilizer in a nearby garden. I don't think I was in the lake more than 45 minutes. The next day, I had over 100 insect bites - big red welts - all over. It reminded me of chigger bites, but much larger. The itching was continuous torture. Over the counter cortisone cream was a joke. Nothing seemed to work. The next day I went to the emergency room and got a steroid shot and steroid cream. The shot didn't work. The steriod cream worked for about a few hours, enough to take the edge off. Anyway, it took three weeks for this malady to end. Oddly, I still have the red marks. They will probably take a while to disappear. The doctor only diagnosed the bites as "contact dermatitis," or inflammation caused by contact with a foreign substance, which could be anything. I've since been to the same lake twice and swam in the same area with no problems. I wonder if I disburbed something in the seaweed. Anyone have any similar experiences this summer?

created by renegade on Sep 01, 2010 at 12:09:14 am     Health     Comments: 16

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not this summer, but i was attacked my chiggers while in the florida keys a few years ago and it was hands down the worst bug experience of my life. i still have some scars.

posted by upso on Sep 01, 2010 at 12:18:08 am     #  

From what i was always told was chiggers come from plants and grasses, not water. And for a cure I think it was fingernail polish. Sealing off the bite will suffocate them and they die. Never actually experienced them myself, and hope never to, thats just what my father told me about them when he got them.

posted by Linecrosser on Sep 01, 2010 at 12:32:15 am     #  

" was hands down the worst bug experience of my life..."

Upso, sounds like you had it pretty bad, too. I probably will have some scars, too.

"chiggers come from plants and grasses, not water"

Linecrosser, I couldn't figure out how I got bitten, since they are not in the water, as you note. But then I realized that some of the seaweed was floating on top of the water, where the chiggers could have been. Or perhaps they moved onto the dried seaweed on the dock overnight before I used it as fertilizer. In any event, I think the seaweed I yanked out of the water got some revenge. Won't be doing that ever again.

posted by renegade on Sep 01, 2010 at 01:25:39 am     #  

I was bit at night, and didn't realize until I was at the airport headed home. I still recall heading up an escalator thinking to myself "why the hell are my legs on fire?!" and that was the beginning of one of the worst itchy weeks of my life.

posted by upso on Sep 01, 2010 at 01:44:04 am     #  

My daughter was just at Silver Lake near Lake Michigan and came home with these itchy bites. She said it was horrible. I only wish I had known the nail polish remedy could have helped stop the itching.

Hope you feel better Renegade.

posted by ToledoLatina on Sep 01, 2010 at 02:02:39 am     #  

Sure they're not bed bug bites?

posted by SensorG on Sep 01, 2010 at 07:54:09 am     #  

I got them up at Lake Huron a couple weeks ago. It was strange, out of 6 of us, 2 were attacked and everyone else barely got bit. It was horrendous and I looked ridiculous. I was completely covered in them. What was worse is as they finally cleared up, I got the worst case of hives all over my arms and legs - same areas the bites had been. The hives then lasted two weeks.

posted by reneekk on Sep 01, 2010 at 08:13:30 am     #  

Over 100 bites sounds like a swarm of something. You don't feel the effects - itchiness - of chigger bites until about 24 hours after the actual bites. I usually get about a dozen of them around my ankles and feet when I'm in the garden. Sometimes Aveeno anti-itch oatmeal is soothing.

posted by bikerdude on Sep 01, 2010 at 08:50:02 am     #  

The nail polish thing is an old wives tale, and is not a true cure for chigger bites. They also do not burrow into your skin. It is simply the leftover saliva they inject you with to drink your fluids (lovely I know)that causes the crazy iching and discomfort. I got several chigger bites this summer and got a wholesale lot of information about them. They are tiny spiders that latch onto you and bite you to get at your fluids. They are easily removed by simply brushing the skin, but the remnants of their bites are brutal.

posted by ShonuffisDead on Sep 01, 2010 at 01:37:06 pm     #  

Sounds like maybe swimmer's itch?
It's gross, but its a parasite from duck poo in the water. Google is your friend!

posted by taxiang on Sep 01, 2010 at 07:44:38 pm     #  

Sure they're not bed bug bites?

That thought briefly crossed my mind, SensorG, but the bites are definitely related to that area of the lake, the seaweed, and dock.

The nail polish thing is an old wives tale, and is not a true cure for chigger bites. They also do not burrow into your skin. It is simply the leftover saliva they inject you with to drink your fluids

That's what the doctor told me, ShonuffisDead, though the pharmacist recommended nail polish to "to remove the chigger." I do know people, though, who swear they feel better after applying nail polish.

Taxiang, thanks for the link! That is very interesting! There is a group of ducks that use a nearby stationary raft in the lake on ocassion. The ducks also use the dock that I was putting the seaweed on top of, which I had to sweep later due to the duck droppings.

posted by renegade on Sep 01, 2010 at 07:55:03 pm     #  

Nail polish is so much of a toxic chem dump, that no wonder any biological invasive is rendered null by it.

ps. recommendations for great mani-pedi's welcome!

posted by toledolen_ on Sep 01, 2010 at 10:38:14 pm     #  

It was probably blue-green algae and when it "blooms" it can cause reactions in some people.

What types of health problems can people and pets experience from exposure to high numbers of Blue-Green Algae and HABs?

Skin contact: Contact with the skin may cause rashes, hives, or skin blisters (especially on the lips and under swimsuits).
Breathing of water droplets: Breathing aerosolizing (suspended water droplets-mist) from the lake water-related recreational activities and/or lawn irrigation can cause runny eyes and noses, a sore throat, asthma-like symptoms, or allergic reactions.
Swallowing water: Swallowing HAB-contaminated water can cause:
Acute (immediate), severe diarrhea and vomiting
Liver toxicity (abnormal liver function, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting)
Kidney toxicity
Neurotoxicity (weakness, salivation, tingly fingers, numbness, dizziness, difficulties breathing, death)

posted by psyche777 on Sep 02, 2010 at 01:00:41 am     #  

sounds like chiggers. I haven't heard of anyone with blue-green algae reactions.

posted by upso on Sep 02, 2010 at 02:25:49 am     #  

My theory is blue-green bed chiggers. They are a hybrid species that stems from cross-breeding of chiggers and bed bugs. When they eat the blue-green algae, they become blue-green bed chiggers. When they bite you to get your fluids, they leave behind blue-green algae juice and HABs, which cause a severe reaction.

The best cure for blue-green bed chiggers is to paint their nails. All they really want is to look fabulous. ;-)

posted by MoreThanRhetoric on Sep 02, 2010 at 07:54:36 am     #  


I'm assuming that nail polish provides some relief for the same reason that a super-hot-hot-hot-scalding-hot shower also provides itch relief for poison ivy, mosquito bites, etc. -- it temporarily stuns or numbs the nerve endings in the skin so you merely don't feel it anymore.

posted by jmleong on Sep 02, 2010 at 02:20:10 pm     #