Invisible Biting Mites and Black Mold
What Invisible Things Are Biting Me?
Do you feel small mosquito-bite-like welts and crawling, pinprick sensations? It’s black mould spores. It absolutely is.
I didn’t believe it at first, then I read an article in which the author described finding toxic mould in her humidifier, and I thought, "But I don’t have a humidifier, or even air conditioning! My house seems dry as a bone." But as the various remedies and daily bleachings/launderings had no effect, I thought it might be worthwhile having a hunt. And lo, on the bottom of the fridge (which has a dodgy door that doesn’t always shut properly) was a layer of black/dark green mould.
My symptoms started in April (we’re in France so that’s the start of the warmer weather): tiny, pinprick sensations felt in different areas around the house. In our bed and on sofas, there was dust that felt like itching powder. I also felt these unnerving crawling sensations on my bum whenever I sat on the sofa or on chairs, and on my back in bed at night.
What really flummoxed me was how quickly I would feel crawling when I sat on a chair. How could anything get through my clothing to be right up against my skin so fast? I can’t imagine a worm/nematode moving so swiftly, or even a springtail (don’t they move by jumping?). It had to be a dust mite, or perhaps a spore (but, eww, can spores crawl with intent?! Yikes.). Whatever it was definitely wanted to be anywhere on my body it was moist and warm!
Mysterious Biting, Crawling, Flying, Itchy Sensations
At first, the crawling and bites were the worst part, but in late September, after I had blitzed the house in a bleach-cleaning frenzy (it was also around the time the weather got cooler and drier), I felt invisible, midge-like things flying at my face at night. It was difficult to sleep. My young kids would wake up, unsettled by the itching, and I’d lie awake for the rest of the night, my mind reeling and roiling, feeling like I was under attack by thousands of minuscule dust-like insects, some flying, some crawling.
My car became infested, and also my chair at work. At the height of the affliction, I would feel crawling sensations in my trousers and on my face and hair, and I also felt things flying into my eyes.
There was definitely something physical there. I remember the occasional colleague swatting at their face when they came to talk to me, or suddenly blinking something out of their eye. But whatever it was, it was not visible. I did notice the odd tiny hair or particle of dust floating off me with more propulsion than you’d expect from a bit of hair or dust. It was usually in the corner of my vision, and would sort of ping off lazily and float away.
Mystery Solved: We Found Mold
Anyway, long story short: After almost seven months, we located the mould, cleaned it off with vinegar, and that night, for the first time in ages, my family and I all slept through until morning. Not a whimper from the dogs, who usually yelped and barked between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. when the spores and fungus-eating mites were most active.
The next day in the kitchen, I felt some stirrings in my freshly cleaned trousers as I sat on a wooden chair, but it was hugely subdued compared with what I’d felt before. It struck me that naturally, there would still be mold spores around the house and undoubtedly it would take time before my family’s bodies could detoxify enough to stop attracting the bugs (if there even were bugs).
I was the member of the family being most attacked. So, for about a fortnight leading up to the mould revelation, I had put myself on a strict anti-candida diet, cutting out carbs and sugar. I felt and looked so much better. Now, my symptoms are occasional and faint. For the past two nights my bed has been an oasis of tranquil inactivity. Now it's focused in one of my children's bedrooms and also that of my partner. I'm hoping it's down to straggler spores, but I'm ready to tear up the floorboards to look for more mould, if the symptoms continue.
Frequently Asked Questions
What invisible thing is biting me?
It's mould, I swear it is. You can't see it, but I bet if you keep looking, you'll find it hiding somewhere. It hides behind walls, under cabinets and refrigerators, and under carpet. Don't forget to check the attic and basement.
Does mold bite people?
No, mold doesn't have teeth, but it can feel just like biting.
What exactly is causing this skin-crawling sensation?
You could be allergic or extremely sensitive to certain types of mold.
Getting Rid of Mold in My Home
- Note: Be careful not to disturb the mold itself until the specialists arrive. Also, try to avoid fluctuations in temperature or humidity in the affected area. The last thing you want is more spores being released into your home.
- For cleaning other areas, I used natural detergent from the organic shop on the floors. The bottle I bought had clove, eucalyptus, and pine essential oils in. It smelled so much better than horrible bleach. It was almost a pleasure to mop!
- I wrapped the mattresses in plastic sheeting and taped them up. I also put the pillows in plastic bags, taping them shut. Luckily we have removable covers on the sofa, so I bagged up the cushions and put the covers back over them.
- I regularly rubbed down surfaces with a bleachy damp cloth (especially windowsills, aiming at snaffling a few springtails).
- I went a bit mad on laundry, and this was definitely overkill, but I put worn clothing into two binbags to be washed—one dark (to soak in ammonia first) and one light (to soak in bleach). The pre-soaks had good results on my crawly trousers, but it never lasted, as they’d become re-exposed from car/office/wherever within a day. I found a large plastic bucket really helped here to create an ordered system in the bath/washroom and free up the bath.
- I also closed the bedroom doors at night because the cats would come and sleep on our beds and I could literally feel the mites/spores hopping off them and on to me.
- I stayed away from the sofas as much as possible, also kept iPad/iPhone/laptop activity to a minimum, especially in bed, as this seemed to stimulate the flying things.
In the bath:
- Apple cider vinegar (one cup).
- Baking soda is also good.
- MSM powder.
- Clove essential oil.
To clean the house:
- White vinegar, bleach (but not at the same time or in the same spot, since these two ingredients are toxic when mixed), and clove oil.
- Again, be careful not to disturb the mold itself until the specialists arrive.
Does Mold Enter Your Body?
When this all happened, I was desperate for answers and turned to the internet, where I found some unsubstantiated anecdotes about people's bodies being contaminated by mold. I now believe that the mould infection was purely external (i.e., in the house/walls) and not in our bodies. Since I got the body invasion idea from a bunch of terrifying online chatrooms, so these treatments might not be necessary.
- Teaspoon of colloidal silver three times a day
- Teaspoon of turmeric powder each night (moving on to a mixture of turmeric, cinnamon, and clove) swilled about in some water and knocked back with great stoicism
- Fermented cabbage juice: half a glass twice a day
- No alcohol (well, I couldn’t quite manage that of course, and paid for it the following two days with a spike in symptoms)
- I also took a multivitamin tablet every night, along with a B vitamin complex tablet and capsule of powdered apple cider vinegar (knocking back a mouthful of the liquid would probably be more powerful though
- I drank herbal teas. Pau D’arco and a floral blend that promised to treat candida
- I ate well: fish, green veg, plenty of water
- I took a daily "spore-be-gone" capsule (ordered from Amazon) with lunch each day
On my skin, I used:
- Organic coconut oil
- Garnier 7-day body moisturiser with L-Bifidus (curiously, the same thing that fights candida in your gut)
- Clove essential oil: a drop or two added to moisturiser before bed kept the biting/crawling at bay amazingly well
After we persuaded the landlord to remove the mould from the walls, things cleared up. There was heaps of the horrible stuff apparently (though hidden beneath layers of paint and wallpaper) and it was a big cleanse-and-replaster job. Two months later and the crawly, nippy sensations were gone, as was the feeling that tiny invisible bugs were landing on you at night.
We lived another year in that house, all the while jumping at every mosquito bite or tiniest itch, ever expecting it all to return, but it never did. We now live in another house, and though I sometimes feel itches from my mattress, sofa and carpet, it's nothing like the plague of invisible insects we experienced before.
We still talk about it and wonder what on earth it all was, and how we managed to survive it. I know you're probably, like me, reading all the horror stories online about morgellons and weird bacterial infections, but I now believe it really was all external and simply related to a bad case of mould. It got into our clothes and sheets and upholstery, but I don't think it affected us internally. (I wrote in my original, uncorrected post that 'it gets into your blood'—I wish I could erase that hysterical assumption, as it'll only cause further alarm to the poor people suffering the same thing.) As soon as the mould was gone, our symptoms cleared up.
I think we carry a sensitivity to it (apparently it's normal to be 'sensitised' by exposure to certain types of mould, and I do believe the type of mould we dicovered—chaetomium—is particularly insidious/virulent, which is why I now itch at first contact with dust mites in carpets and fabrics.
A word on the dust mites: I have a theory that they were instrumental in spreading the mould around our house and into mattresses, sofa cushions, etc. According to yet more stuff I read on the web, dust mites adore mould and their population size rockets when they find a source of it to eat. They don't digest it though, so it sort of circulates through their bodies and back into and around the house, delightfully. I think that's why we still feel the odd tickle in bed. That or it's all the diatomaceous earth I rubbed into the mattress!
Another thought I had: around the same time as the symptoms started, we came into contact with a nest of processionary caterpillars, those furry little beasts who live in a candy-floss-like nest at the top of pine trees (we live in France). They came down the tree in April and after my daughter and I came into contact with them in the garden, we both came out in spots for a week or so. The little caterpillar hairs got into our laundry and continued itching and bothering us for a month. I don't know if it's related, but worth mentioning.
Anyway, that’s where I am so far. I think I’ve cracked the case, although there was a slow and bumpy road to total recovery.
Have hope, all ye in peril on this sea of madness. Be strong, be kind to yourselves, try to get out of the house and distract yourselves with the good things in life. But, most importantly, find that mould!
Even some doctors are unaware of how mold can affect skin, but awareness is growing.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences includes skin rashes on their list of the health effects associated with mold exposure.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health's Immune Response Among Patients Exposed to Molds was a study in which 53% of the patients reported skin reactions to mold.
In Mold Exposure And Rashes- Angioedema, Luke Curtis, MD MS CIH asserts that "A number of studies and case reports have linked indoor exposure to molds and or water damage to significantly greater risk of skin rashes and angioedema. Both molds and bacteria produce a large number of toxins that can cause toxic or allergic skin reactions."
Lastly, see A Study of Clinical Sensitivity to Air-Borne Molds by Edna S. Pennington, MD for more research.