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Bed Bug Bites

Bed Bug Bites – Guide to Symptoms and Treatment

Bed bug bites come from parasitic insects that prey on warm-blooded animals, including humans. Bed bugs get their name from the fact that they often congregate in and around beds. The bugs then feed on human skin while they sleep. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally hard to detect, given that they typically come out at night and that they hide in cracks and crevices. People usually do not notice they have bed bugs in their homes until they start showing symptoms and signs of bed bug bites.

How Bed Bug Bites Look

Bed bug bites look like small areas of flat or raised red marks in places on the body that may be exposed while sleeping in bed.

The bites often appear in a group of small raised bumps that may be red, itchy, inflamed or even blistered. They usually are in groups of two or three, but are more often in larger groups that appear on the skin in a vague or distinct pattern or in a zigzagged or straight line.

The size of each bite varies person to person and may appear larger or smaller, because the size is determined by the individual’s response to the bed bug’s saliva.

How to Identify Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites are most commonly identified by signs of bug feces, cast skin and spots of blood on the bedding along with inflamed itchy bites on the skin.

Each individual reacts differently to the bites, if someone is more sensitive to bed bug bites, the bites may be more noticeably inflamed.

The individual bed bug appears red with a center red dot and the person’s reaction may be very small and itchy or more reactive with severe itching, rash and even hives.

If you suspect bed bugs, inspect the conditions of the bedding, box spring and edges of the mattress. Look for flecks of blood, feces and cast skin, as this will help you to confirm that bed bugs are present.

Where do Bed Bugs Bite You?

Bed bugs bite you on areas that are exposed during sleep, such as the face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs and feet.

Bed Bug Bites on Feet

Bed bugs on the feet will be in a cluster or in a pattern. They may bother you while you sleep, or you may awaken to bumps in a small cluster on your foot or ankles.

Check your bed sheets for signs of bed beds that will appear as specks of blood or small flecks of feces.

Bed Bug Bites on Legs

Legs are common areas to experience bed bug bites. Conditions vary person to person, but the leg bites may appear red in color and have a red center.

One or two single bites may indicate a mosquito bite, while bed bug bites may appear in a circular cluster or in a line.

They may appear as a raised rash, but on close examination, you would see a design or a number of bumps that have created the rash.

Bed Bug Bites on Face

Facial bed bug bites will appearance differently on different people. The appearance of the bites and any prolonged health conditions will depend on the individual’s reaction to the bug’s saliva.

Facial bites can appear as a small patch of raised bumps or as larger bumps that are spaced separately but nearby one another.

A lone bump or two is usually caused by a pimple or a mosquito bite, because bed bugs bites are commonly in a cluster.

Scaring on the gentle facial skin can be caused by certain conditions. Seeing a dermatologist for care is recommended when the bites are persistent or appear inflamed or blistered.

Bed Bug Bites vs. Flea Bites

Bed bug bites are sometimes misidentified as flea bites. Bed bugs and fleas will bite both humans and pets, but bed bugs usually avoid biting pets because they prefer thin skin.

Bites from fleas can appear in numerous areas on the body, but are most commonly seen on the legs, feet and ankles. Bed bug bites are generally isolated to exposed areas on the body while flea bites can be experienced anywhere on the body. Flea bites are singular, tiny bites, but bed bugs commonly appear in clusters of three or more and are larger than flea bites.

Fleas remain on the animal or remain noticeably present in carpeting, clothing and furniture, while bed bugs are harder to find and retreat after biting. Fleas jump, but bed bugs cannot jump or hop. Fleas will bite all day long, while bed bugs will only bite in the night. The most common hours for bed bugs to bite are between 3:00 and 7:00am.

If you suspect bed bugs, search your bedding or the animal’s bedding for signs of blood, cast skin and feces.

What are the Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites?

Bed bug symptoms may be experienced for several days after being bitten and may include all, some or none of the following symptoms:

  •  Itching
  • Red bumps
  • Welts
  • Swelling
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Allergic reaction
  • Infection caused by scratching

Bed bug bites can cause a range of symptoms or no symptoms at all. Victims may notice small red marks to large red welts at the site of the bite.

A rash may also occur over a period of exposure because it appears that victims become more, rather than less, sensitive to bed bug bites over time.

People who have allergic reactions to bed bug bites may notice hives, severe itching and discomfort at the site of the bite and elsewhere on the body.

The bites may also become infected, becoming more noticeable as the infection worsens.

Bad bed bug infestations may also cause psychological issues as the bites and sensation of bed bugs becomes unbearable.

It may also become difficult to sleep. Elimination of the bed bug infestations will alleviate psychological symptoms and eventually rid the victim of bite symptoms.

Symptoms or signs of being bitten may not appear at all or may be delayed for several days.The bite marks that are created by bed bugs are unique.

Multiple bed bug bites may appear in a tight, straight line, a zigzagged formation or in a pattern. A patterned cluster of bites develops when multiple bed bugs congregate in an exposed area to feed.

How Do Bed Bug Bites Feel?

Bed bugs feel like several bumps in an exposed area on the body. The bumps may be very small initially and may trigger a slight burning sensation that evolves into a rash of red bumps or papules.

The bites and rash usually itch. Avoid scratching the rash and care for it properly. Extreme reactions may include dramatic swelling and blistering inflammation.

Scratching can create irritation and infection, if infection is suspected contact a doctor immediately.

Why Bed Bug Bites Itch

Anti-coagulant is injected into the skin with bug saliva at the time of the bite. Different people react differently the saliva and to the analgesic, and it causes a response in the individual being bitten.

Itching is the common response to larva bites. An allergic response to the anti-coagulant and saliva may change the appearance of the bites, and they could appear larger or as one complete inflamed lump rather than as a cluster of bites.

Larva – baby bed bugs – bite nearly every day while they are growing, but adult bed bugs do not require frequent feeding.

Adult bugs inject analgesic into the bite along with saliva which acts as a numbing agent. Adult bug bites do not itch.

What are the Side Effects of Bed Bug Bites?

Bed bug bites can cause side effects. Stress created by decreased sleep is one of the first side effects, especially for small children and females who have gentle, thin skin that bed bugs prefer.

One of the most unpleasant side effects is an allergic reaction to the bed bug’s saliva. An allergy may create severe itching, a rash, pain and irritation.

Side effects of bed bugs may include dizziness, fever and fatigue. Infection should be avoided by limiting scratching and by properly caring for the bites.

Even when a person is not allergic to the saliva a bed bug bite can creative unpleasant side effects and lasting, permanent marks on the skin

Rash from Bed Bug Bites

The rash caused by multiple bed bugs can be painful and distracting, but is not a disease and the bites alone do not pose a serious health concern.

Avoid scratching the rash, because excess scratching may lead to infection or scarring. A serious allergic response to the bed bugs should receive immediate care.

An anaphylactic reaction is serious and can create an itchy rash that covers the body. These symptoms require immediate medical care.

  • Rash covering large areas of the body
  • Sharp stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Painful skin – not pertaining to the bite itself
  • Swelling of tongue or face
  • Increasing body temperature
  • Nauseous or extremely light headed

Scars from Bed Bug Bites

Scars from single bed bug bites are not a common side effect, but scars may be caused by an extreme rash. Scratching the bites should be avoided, because excess scratching could break the skin and lead to scars.

Infection could create scars and the area should be properly cared for to avoid infection. Treatments for scars are available, but prevention is the best strategy.

Blisters from Bed Bug Bites

Blisters are not a common response to bed bugs, but blistering may occur in response to an allergic reaction to bed bug saliva.

See a doctor immediately for treatment when you see blisters or suspect that you are having an allergic response to bed bug bites.

Blister may also occur from other insects (see blister beetle treament)

Hives from Bed Bug Bites

Hives may be a side effect of bed bugs for individuals with multiple bug bites in a given area, and hives may be a reactive response for individuals who are sensitive to bed bug saliva.

Allergic reactions to saliva may create hives that cover the body, and immediate medical care should be sought.

Infection from Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs do not carry or transfer diseases, but infection can be created in an open wound. Scratching the bite can create an open wound that must be kept clean.

Infection can cause serious health complications, such as suppuration. Individuals who are bedridden with a weakened immune system or another health conditions may obtain a secondary infection.

If you experience a fever, swelling, blisters, a red line on the skin that appears to streak from the bite, pus or drainage oozing from the bite, or other similar responses, contact a doctor immediately.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Bites

A special medication for treating bed bug bites is not available, but treatments are available that can alleviate the itching and pain caused by the bites.

Prevention is important. Call an exterminator, have your home treated, and follow all of the exterminator’s suggestions to get rid of these resilient bugs and to prevent them from returning.

Bed bugs can hide under peeling wallpaper, carpeting seams, in the box spring or in cracks in the headboard.

A professional is needed, because there is not a simple solution. First, put a stop to bed bugs in your home and then get rid of the bed bug bites with the following suggested treatments.

How to Treat Bed Bug Bites

Treatment of bed bug bites involves treatment of the symptoms and treatment of the infestation. If the bed bugs were encountered away from home, place all clothing that was in that home in a dryer on high heat for a full cycle before bringing them home. Place belongings that cannot go in the dryer in the hot sun for a few hours, if possible. If not, clean and inspect them before bringing them home. If the bites occur at home, call an exterminator for pest control.

The rash or red bedbug bites commonly disappear without treatment within one to two weeks. The symptoms can be diminished and the recovery can be sped up by using:

  • A topical cream containing hydrocortisone
  •  Oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine
  • Seasonal allergy medication will treat a minor allergic response

There is a risk of skin infection created by scratching the bedbug bites. Prescription creams that include steroids may be prescribed by your doctor, along with an antibiotic.

Bed bug bites can be debilitating in a psychological sense. It is important to spot them and treat the symptoms and infestation as soon as possible. This is also a public health issue. If an infestation goes untreated, the bed bugs that are causing the bites can spread to other buildlings. Some areas are so infested with bed bugs as to be nearly epidemic. College dorms, apartment buildings and cheap motels are the most susceptible. To learn more about the spread of bed bugs and bed bug bites, watch this video.

Treatment for Bed Bug Bites Home Remedies

Home remedies and treatments may include:

  • Catnip oil is an insect repellant that can be applied to your skin to prevent and treat bug bites
  • Aloe Vera has 34 amino acids that are healthy for the skin and prevent the spread of infections and disease
  • Calendula is a herb that can be applied to the bites to provide cooling and soothing comfort
  • Cinnamon oil may naturally repel the bed bugs and provide antibacterial benefits that fight infection and disease
  • Cucumbers can be applied to inflammation for soothing comfort
  • Ice can prevent swelling and stop inflammation.

Cream for Bed Bug Bites Scar

Treating bed bug scars begins first with prevention of infection and other complications of diseases.

Scars from bed bugs are usually limited, but a serious allergic response can create scaring. Scar treatments are available such as:

  • Initial treatment should include washing the area with soapy, cool water
  • Mederma over the counter cream can be used
  • Silicone scar treatment sheets are sold at the pharmacy that help to fade the appearance of scars
  • Rubbing the area daily with lotion in a circular motion will help the skin to heal without forming an excess of built up skin that creates scaring
  • Scar prevention is always the best plan of action. Avoid the temptation to scratch the bite
  • Ninor scars may disappear naturally with the use of moisturizer
  • See a dermatologist to prevent scarring and to treat major scarring.

Antihistamine for Bed Bug Bites

Allergic reactions and more serious bug bites can be treated with oral antihistamine every four to six hours. See a doctor for additional recommendations.

How to Stop Bed Bug Bites from Itching

  • Apply ice to the area
  • Use over the counter anti-itch creams
  • Stop scratching the bites
  • Prescription oral anti-itching medication

How Long Bed Bug Bites Last?

Bed bug bites typically last one to two weeks is left untreated in individuals with healthy immune systems.

Individuals with a compromised immune system or who are fighting a pre-existing condition or disease should avoid complications by seeking medical care.

Treated bites may heal quicker and treating the bite is recommended for the prevention of further complications, infection or disease.

Open wounds can be created when the bites are rubbed or scratched excessively. Blood will indicate that the bite is an open wound and treatment of the area is needed to help the bite heal.

Bed Bug Bites — Why are They So Common?

At one time, bed bug infestations were under control due to the use of DDT. Because some pesticides are now known to harm humans, they are no longer used to fight pests in developed countries.

There is also the fact that bed bugs are particularly resilient and are becoming immune to human methods of fighting them.

Foreign travel also contributes to the prevalence of bed bug bites. Travelers go to countries where bed bugs are common and then return with the critters in their clothes and luggage. Apartment and condominium living also contributes to the problem.

If one residence in a building becomes infested, they are all at risk. Every person who lives there is then capable of transporting bed bugs to other residences outside of the building and thus the cycle continues.

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites

Bug bite prevention begins with having the home professionally treated when bed bugs are suspected. Traces of blood on the bed sheets, along with several clustered bites should prompt an immediate call to an exterminator.

Bed bugs do not carry or spread diseases, but there is a risk of allergy and even infection. Prevention is important.


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