The bites do not usually require medical treatment. Secondary bacterial infection of the skin may develop in areas that become irritated due to prolonged scratching. Topical antibiotic creams or ointments may relieve symptoms of a secondary infection. Antiseptic lotions may also be beneficial. If you've had an allergic reaction to the bedbug bites, your doctor may recommend oral antihistamine medications or corticosteroids.
Bedbugs are small oval-shaped non-flying insects that belong to the insect family Cimicidae, which includes three species that bite people. Adult bedbugs reach 5 mm-7 mm in length, while nymphs (juveniles) are as small as 1.5 mm. Bedbugs have flat bodies and may sometimes be mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Bedbugs feed by sucking blood from humans or animals. Cimex lectularius is the scientific name for bedbugs.
In comparison to other insect bites, bed bug bite marks are usually in groups of three or more when they appear on the skin. This is sometimes called the “breakfast, lunch and supper bites”. As you can see in the picture below, the bites are rather close to each other. Their bites often look like little red bumps, pimples or even blisters and welts. Some people can also mistake them for flea bites. If one of these insects bite you, you usually won’t even feel it as it uses a form of anesthetic which dulls the pain. Bed bugs also are known to leave bite marks in a straight line, also in close proximity to each other. A single bed bug can bite you a number of times during the night. However, if you have a bed bug infestation, there are usually a large number of these little pests and this can result in a multitude of bite marks. Please also remember that some people may not have a negative reaction to these bites. In fact, sometimes they are mistaken for spider bites, even by medical professionals so make sure you let your doctor know if you feel it could be a bite from bedbugs. Lastly, you will be happy to learn that bed bugs do not fly so you won’t be attacked from the air.
A definitive diagnosis of health effects due to bed bugs requires a search for and finding of the insect in the sleeping environment as symptoms are not sufficiently specific. Bed bugs classically form a line of bites colloquially referred to as "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" and rarely feed in the armpit or behind the knee which may help differentiate it from other biting insects. If the number in a house is large a pungent sweet odor may be described. There are specially trained dogs that can detect this smell.
Some people have no reaction whatsoever to bed bugs. In addition to not having much of an effect on the elderly, some are just not allergic. Since the irritation and welting appears as the result of an allergic reaction, it is possible to not even know that you were bitten at all. It is entirely possible for several people to live in the same house, and have one person not be affected.
Bed bugs often hide in seams, folds and crevices of mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. A thorough inspection requires dismantling the bed so that upper and lower seams and surfaces can be examined. Things to look for are the bugs themselves, shed skins of the nymphs (immature bed bugs), and the blackish fecal spots. The dark spots of dried bed bug excrement are often present along mattress seams or wherever the bugs have resided. Box springs afford many places for bed bugs to hide, especially along the upper seams and underneath, where the bottom edge of the box rests on the frame. If an underlying dust cover is present, it may have to be removed to gain access for inspection and possible treatment. Successful treatment of mattresses and box springs can be difficult, however, and infested ones may need to be discarded or encased in a protective cover.
Around the time I started getting bites, I noticed more and more neighbors throwing out mattresses, furniture… I got suspicious. We live in apartments. I react differently to different kinds of bites so I can always tell the difference between mosquitoes and ants and such. I didn’t know what those bites were until I caught one of the little hellions crawling across the sheets.
To prevent bringing bed bugs to one's own home, travelers are advised to take precautions after visiting an infested site: generally, these include checking shoes on leaving the site, changing clothes in a garage before returning to their home, and putting the used clothes in a clothes dryer outside the house. When visiting a new lodging, it is advised to check the bed before taking suitcases into the sleeping area and putting the suitcase on a raised stand to make bedbugs less able to crawl in. "An extreme measure would be putting the suitcase in the tub." Clothes should be hung up or left in the suitcase, and never left on the floor.  The founder of a company dedicated to bedbug extermination said that 5% of hotel rooms he books into were infested. He advised people never to sit down on public transport; check office chairs, plane seats and hotel mattresses, and monitor and vacuum home beds once a month.
Hey Randy! Based on your description of the situation, it does sound like bed bugs. Since you have had the similar experience for 5 years, I highly recommend getting someone to take a look at your bed for bed bugs. Something that you can try in the meantime is a close inspection of your linen. If you find any tiny blood marks on the sheets, that’s a tell tale sign of the presence of bed bugs. If you like you can send me a picture and I can take a closer look
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
When staying in a hotel, I check the bed before I bring the suitcase into the sleeping part of the room so that if I have to ask the manager for another room, then I haven't exposed my suitcase to the bugs. When settling in, I put my suitcase up on the suitcase stand or the desktop so that any bugs are less likely to crawl into it. An extreme measure would be putting the suitcase in the tub. If it's a porcelain tub, bed bugs would have a hard time crawling up it. It's also unlikely that they would randomly crawl up a tub, because it's not near the bed. But if I don't see bed bugs in the room when I inspect it, I just put my suitcase on the stand because I know the probability is really low that a bug is going to crawl up the stand and into my suitcase. I keep my clothes in the suitcase or hang them in the closet—I don't leave them on the floor because wandering bed bugs might crawl into them.
No money whatsoever to do anything about it. I’m out of work and can’t even pay my rent. If we mention the infestation to the landlord he’ll toss us out because he’s in the process of selling the building. I’m going to try and go to an urgent care place to see if I can at least get something to stop the itching. This is driving me crazy with all the itching.
I use witch hazel with aloe vera (from Thayers). Apply with Q-tip or cotton ball. WORKS VERY WELL for me, especially when applied soon after bite is detected. Found that if it stings a bit when applied, it is likely that bite was recent, and more likely to reduce the itch. If I apply soon after a bite, I feel a little sting from the astringent, and the itch if often eliminated (although not sure how large the bugs are that bit me).
Don't assume your bites are bedbugs. Bites can be hard to identify, even for doctors. Rule out mosquitoes, fleas, mites, and biting gnats by conducting a visual inspection. It's best to collect and identify bedbugs to confirm bites. Look for the bugs themselves or their bloodstains, especially along the seams of mattresses. Further, look for dark spots of insect waste where bedbugs might crawl into hiding places on furniture, walls, and floors.