Bed bug bites do not typically require treatment. It is best to clean the bite site(s) with soap and water and avoid scratching so as to prevent secondary infection. Progressive swelling, warmth, tenderness and sometimes (albeit rarely) fever may be signs of secondary infection, which should be managed with antibiotics as appropriate. Much more common are complaints of itching. For how to treat bed bug bites that cause severe itching, topical steroid creams or oral antihistamines may offer relief from itching and thus decrease the risk of infecting the bite site.
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As bed bugs grow they molt, shedding their skin five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is needed between each successive molt. Adult females also must feed in order to lay eggs. Under favorable conditions (70-80°F), the bugs can mature fully in as little as a month, producing multiple generations per year. Cooler temperatures or limited access to blood prolong the development time.
Checking beds for bed bugs was a common practice long ago, especially while traveling. Travelers today should consider doing the same, preferably before unpacking. This would entail examining the bed sheets and seams of the mattress and perhaps box spring for signs of bed bugs, especially along the head (pillow end) of the bed. Experts also remove and check behind headboards since this is a frequent hiding place for bed bugs in hotels. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves.
Bed bug bites can look a lot like other insect bites. Some clues that can suggest the presence of bed bugs include finding red, itchy bites upon awakening - especially if the bites line up in a row on the skin. Bed bugs typically bite at night on exposed areas of skin, so the bites are most commonly found on the face, neck, hands and arms. Although some people develop a bite reaction immediately, others may take two to three days before a reaction becomes noticeable, and not all people have obvious bed bug bite symptoms. A bed bug bite can appear as a tiny puncture wound without a surrounding reaction, and can easily be missed. In fact, 30 percent of individuals living in bed bug-infested dwellings report a lack of bites or skin reactions. This appears to be more common amongst the elderly. On the other hand, other people have exuberant reactions, with large, red, raised and itchy welts. This is especially true if one becomes sensitized to bed bug bites, so that with repeated bites there is an increased risk of an exaggerated reaction to bed bug bites.
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Bed bug bites occur most frequently while you’re asleep. As bed bugs bite they inject their victims with an anesthetic (as well as an anticoagulant), numbing the area and making it very rare for someone to wake up when bitten. Bites normally take a day or two to appear, although depending on your individual reaction they may be more visible sooner.
Symptoms may not appear until some days after the bites have occurred. Reactions often become more brisk after multiple bites due to possible sensitization to the salivary proteins of the bed bug. The skin reaction usually occurs in the area of the bite which is most commonly the arms, shoulders and legs as they are more frequently exposed at night. Numerous bites may lead to an erythematous rash or urticaria.
Very helpful article, plus everyone’s comments. I wish you all the best of luck with bedbug problems. We went to a cabin near Yosemite before Christmas and I saw bugs on the bed. Luckily we didn’t sleep there and left right away. However I’m afraid some came home with us. About 3 weeks after our trip, I got a rash on my neck, but it’s not very itchy. Haven’t seen any bugs at home, but am worried. Will try the tips in the article–any suggestions how to heat a bedroom to 120 degrees?
Is there anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, that I can use when I go to bed at night that will revoke these little critters. Does anyone know of any strong smelling cream or spray I can use on myself so that when I lie down they will not come near me. I don’t really wanna keep complaining to the staff since I just been here two days but I’m so COVERED by these bed bug bites and constantly itching that I cry.
Hello there Trish from Reno we found bed bugs oh my gosh, I am am the only one who has been getting bit last yr on my feet this yr on my hands. My husband saturated our mattress with rubbing alcohol baseboards and I am washing everything tomorrow should we spray our entire you’re house too even our cloth furniture? What else should we do. Thanks you for this site. Sleepless in Reno…
A variety of low-odor sprays, dusts, and aerosol insecticides help with bed bug control. People must apply these pesticides to all areas where the bugs are observed as well as hiding places or spaces where they may crawl. The pest control company can help you determine if an infested mattress can be disinfected or must be discarded. Since beds cannot readily be treated with insecticides, it's often necessary to discard infested mattresses and beds.
According to textile experts (Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, Laurel, MD), most garments designated as ‘dry-clean only’ (e.g., cotton, wool, silk, linen, rayon, nylon) will not be harmed provided they are dry before being placed in a clothes dryer at a moderate temperature setting. Dry cleaning procedures also kill bed bugs, but there is a risk of infesting the establishment when buggy items are tagged and sorted.
But the bites will look different from person to person, and some people won’t develop any reaction whatsoever. “The same bedbug could bite two different people and one could have no reaction at all and the other can have an extreme reaction with a swollen arm or itchy rash,” says Eric Braun, a board-certified entomologist and business manager for the national pest control company Rentokil Steritech, who is based in Redding, Pennsylvania. Some people end up developing a rash that looks like eczema. (5)