Oak mite invasion brings itchy bites to folks across the metro

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- “There's been tremendous uptick in oak mite bites this year.”

That's the opinion of Dr. Daniel Aires, the head of dermatology at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Have some itchy red bites?  It might be more than mosquitoes. You may be part of a trend you didn't ask for.

Chances are if you spend time outdoors, you may have noticed it. Doctors say there has been an increase in the number of oak mite bites this year.

They’re pesky bites that can cause an itch much worse than your normal mosquito bite. Some KU students learned about oak mites the hard way.

“Originally, we thought it was bed bugs and we asked around, and we noticed that everyone also was complaining of some sort of bites and I talked to my R.A. and she told us it was oak mites,” said Alejandra Juarez, who has recently been feeling the itchy bites.

Students in the Oliver residence hall at KU were alarmed when so many of them in the dorm ended up with the same signs of bites.

“I had some on my arm and my neck, but they have gone away,” Juarez said. “My roommate says she got three a couple days ago.”

Even people coming by to visit friends in the dorm this week got bitten by oak mites too.

“I've just been hanging out in her room, and I would just feel something itchy, and next thing you know, I have a big bite on my ankle,” said Angelo Sanchez. “It's real itchy. As soon as you itch it, it just won't stop itching. It's worse than a mosquito bite.”

Many of them had never heard of oak mites.

“I wasn't sure, I assumed they were bed bugs,” Juarez added.

Dr. Daniel Aires, the head of dermatology at the University of Kansas Hospital, said this season, in this area the mites are very common, and they've seen it this year more than ever before.

“Oak mites are insects that can live in trees, including oak trees, and their larvae will often drop during their development process, looking to land on a worm or a bee, or some other kind of insect host, to further their development. We are an accidental target. They really don't do well with humans. Despite that, they'll bite us, and when they bite us, it can cause very severe itching,” Dr. Aires explained.

Dr. Aires said they bite and then drop off. But they're microscopic, so you can't see them. And it could take a few hours to realize you've been bitten.

He said, fortunately, they don't infest your home.

"It's more like that when a bunch of students are getting oak mite bites that they were all spending some time outdoors on the quad, under trees, or within wind blowing distance of some trees,” Dr. Aires said.

Dr. Aires said to shower and wash your clothes after you've been outside, and wear long sleeves and long pants to prevent oak mites from getting in contact with your skin.

He said the bite itself isn't dangerous, but scratching can cause a risk of infection. He recommended a topical steroid or other anti-itch medication to help the itching.

When the weather gets colder, we can expect them to go away.