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Help with strange bite marks


I am asking for your help. I need to find an expert in insect bites and animal bites to help solve a mystery bite my daughter received.

Here’s what happened: On Tuesday afternoon at about 3:30 p.m., Pumpkin was playing with her sand-and-water table outside under the supervision of her grandmother. Then, my mother went into the house to get Pumpkin’s sippy cup, leaving her outside alone. To get the cup, she had to walk through our kitchen, past the dining room and into the living room, all together about 40 feet from the backyard. My mom is 75 and doesn’t move like a teenager, and she had to scan the living room before she spied the sippy. Even so, she estimates she was inside for about a minute. I would probably put that closer to two or three minutes because time is so subjective when you are busy.

She went back outside and didn’t notice anything wrong. Pumpkin was still standing in the same spot by the sand table. Shortly after, Pumpkin started to get bored and hurl sand, so it was time to go inside. That’s when my mother noticed she was bleeding on her neck. I was inside the house working in my home office that afternoon and came running when my mother called.

I examined Pumpkin’s neck and saw what looked like a puncture bite, but there was a lot of blood, not just coming from the wound but also pooling under the skin. I washed it off and kept dabbing it and getting more blood. Then, we noticed a puddle of blood in her ear. I wiped that away and spotted a smaller puncture wound in the ear that was bleeding copiously. A whole wet paper towel that I used to dab the wound was soon dotted with a dozen quarter-size blossoms of red.

The whole while, Pumpkin seemed OK. She didn’t seem to be in pain. The punctures didn’t swell. In fact, they didn’t seem like bug bites at all, which usually get a raised bump and become itchy.

It was odd. Since there was that period when Pumpkin was unattended, I called my doctor’s office and talked to the nurse. She said to wash up the wounds and apply pressure and ice, but didn’t seem too worried. I did that (or tried to, Pumpkin wasn’t keen on the ice), but after considering the odd nature of the wounds, I followed up with a call to the doctor’s service. When the doctor returned my call, she was quickly dismissive, suggesting that the bites were from gnats. She said gnats are active this time of year and like to bite kids on the neck and hairline.

That sounded right, but later that night when I went online to read about gnat bites, all the health articles talked about swelling and itching. There was no mention of bleeding. In fact, when I typed “bleeding bite” into Google, the only returns I got referred to animal bites. All the insect bite pages talked about swelling, itching and allergic reactions. Reflecting on my own decades of insect bites, I couldn’t remember a single instance when I bled from a bite.

Now I got really worried, thinking about whether it could have been an animal. I couldn’t imagine a large animal like a squirrel or a cat attacking and going unnoticed in that short span of time. That left the worst possibility: A bat. I’ll never forget the death of a 13-year-old Greenwich, Conn., girl of rabies that happened when I was working at The Advocate and Greenwich Time in the late 1990s. She didn’t even know she had been bitten by a bat, but later the family remembered one had been in the house.

So, on Wednesday, my husband took off work and took my daughter to the pediatrician’s office to talk this over. The doctor did not believe a bat could have bitten my daughter. She said that it was probably a bug. She seemed to think the bleeding may have come from scratching. The only problem with that logical idea is that the bites don’t itch. There has been zero scratching.

Today I called the Westchester County Department of Health and talked to a nurse. She said the county does not administer the rabies vaccine unless an animal has been visually spotted. However, she found the bleeding odd and said that I was free to get the vaccine ordered by my doctor.

I am in a tough spot here now. Logically, it seems unlikely that in a 3-minute span of time a rabid bat swooped down and landed on my daughter, disappearing before my mom could see it.

I wish I could just be content with dismissing this possibility, but here are my problems:

– The marks do not itch, as is typical with bug bites. They did not swell or look inflamed.
– Nowhere in all my Googling have I found a single reference to a bleeding insect bite. Everything talks about itching and allergies.
– The mental picture I have is of a bat landing on my daughter and using a claw to hang on, hence causing the mark inside the ear. The scenario fits the wounds, even if it seems unlikely.
– If I do nothing and this turns out to be a 1 in a million freak occurrence, Pumpkin dies. That’s it. There is no cure once symptoms start.

I would feel better if I could talk to someone who is an expert in rabies, insect bites and bats. I would love to have someone say to me, “Oh yes, this kind of bug always causes copious bleeding and these kinds of marks.”

I wish I could file this away in a drawer and forget it, but the drawer keeps popping open. It’s a mystery. We do not know what happened to Pumpkin in those couple of minutes. She was alone in what is essentially a wooded environment. My patio literally abuts a stand of woods. I joke that it’s like living in a state park. (This is not a good thing, by the way.) If the bites were swollen and itchy, I would not be writing this because that fits my experience of bug bites. I just don’t know what to make of the odd mark on her neck, which is kind of oblong because of the blood that collected under the skin. Then there is the prick mark inside her ear that looks nothing like the mark on the neck. How could an insect make two such different wounds? I keep thinking of the bat with its claw in one spot and its teeth in another…

Maybe I’m nuts. I hope I am. But maybe I should be worried. I need to talk to an expert. I am hoping readers of this blog can help me find one. I know I’ll be on the phone tomorrow trying to find one, too.

Thank you.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2007 at 11:59 pm by Julie Moran Alterio. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Health & safety, Parenting




About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE