A Complete Guide to Treat Bed Bug Bites: Identification, Pictures, Symptoms

Bed bug bites can be uncomfortable and painful to deal with, along with the constant stress of knowing that your house is infected with bed bugs. While you are taking measures to eliminate bed bug infestations, it is essential that you take appropriate measures to get rid of bed bug bites. This guide will help you to identify bed bug bites, recognize their symptoms and signs, and ways to treat bed bug bites.

Bed Bug Bites On The Skin

Bed bugs feed on blood as it is their main source of food. Therefore, a bed bug typically takes more than one bite on the skin to get their survival fuel. A bed bug inserts their mouthpart into your skin to find the right blood vessel, which means it takes more than one injection into your skin. Once it has found the right blood vessel, it begins its feast.

Woman Scratching the Back of Her Neck

Beg bugs are rather sensitive to any movements by their victims, which is why they prefer to feed when people are sleeping. If the sleeping victim moves, the bed bug will stop the feeding and then find another spot to feed on.

This means more insertions on your skin. However, the number of bite marks you see on your skin doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the number of times you were fed upon.

If you constantly scratch the bites or fail to keep them disinfected and clean, it can result in a secondary infection, which can further result in more bleeding and swelling. The elderly, children, and people with weak immune systems, especially the ones who are bedridden, are more prone to developing secondary infections as a result of these bites.

4 Steps to Identify the Bites

You must be wondering what bed bug bites look like. In many cases, bed bug bites can be mistaken for bites from other insects, which is why it is important to look for more signs to determine if you have bed bugs. Here are four ways to identify bed bug bites:

Step 1: Examine The Bites

Bed bug bites look like tiny red spots, which usually have a diameter of about 0.2 to 0.5 cm. They are raised and slightly discolored. The bites might also have wheals or hives in the surrounding skin, which might be more reddish than the spots. In severe cases, which are rare, there might also be blisters on your skin and around the bites.

Step 2: Check For Bites After Waking Up

Bed bugs typically bite when an individual is sleeping since they prefer their victims to not move while they are feeding. Therefore, it is best to check for bed bug bites after you wake up from sleep. The bites of bed bugs are usually swollen slightly and red, as well as irritating and itchy as compared to flea or mosquito bites.

Check for bites that appear in a series of zigzagged or straight lines. This happens because bed bugs inject the skin several times to find a blood vessel and also tend to feast multiple times. If new bites appear during the day then it might indicate that they are from some other insect.

Also note that bed bugs avoid the soles of your feet, which means if there are bite marks there then bed bugs might not be the culprit.

Step 3: Identify The Bite Location

It is important to keep a check on the place where you get bitten since it will show you where the infestation probably is. How to check for bed bugs? Look for signs of eggs, shed skin, or reddish-brown spots on the clothing, bed sheets, under your bed, or the nook and crannies of the furniture in the room.

Step 4: Lookout for Allergy Signs

You should also be on a lookout for signs of allergy. In case you are allergic to bed bugs, you will notice a rash or hives developing on the skin, which might be similar to fungal infection or eczema.

It is also best to look for bites that are bigger in size, are oozing liquid, are painful, or swollen. This is an indication that you might be allergic to bed bug bites.

It can take around two weeks to get a complete reaction from your body to bed bug bites. Make sure you consult your doctor in case of a severe or unusual reaction.

What Does a Bed Bug Bite Look Like?

You can work to identify the bite, too, which will take a trained eye and some experience. The bites can affect people differently, and if you’re a person that is allergic to these bites, they can be more pronounced.

The bites have a few characteristics that will help you distinguish them from other bites:

  • Dark red center with a red and swollen area
  • Blisters or hives near the bite
  • Bites in lines

Bed bug bites can occur on any part of the body, but they’re most common in exposed areas. The issue is that the bugs come out at night, so you’re sleeping when they decide it’s time to bite you.

And many people will wake up with bites that they only notice when they head into the shower.

Exposed skin is the prime target for bites, so if you sleep in your boxers and without a shirt, you’ll want to look for bites on your back and legs.

What you may not have known about bed bugs is that they have a thickness that is similar to the thickness of a credit card. A small thickness allows the bug to sneak between you and the bed – so they may not be crawling on your body at all.

It’s important to look for a cluster or bites in a line. Bed bugs will bite humans multiple times and often in a row as they move up the body.

Identifying Bed Bugs

One problem with bed bug bites is that many people don’t know if their bites came from an actual bed bug or another insect. 

The only way you can know – with certainty – which insect gave you the bite is to find it and identify it.

Young bed bugs (nymphs) are:

  • Whiteish-yellow or clear-colored
  • Less than 5mm in length
  • Invisible without a magnifying glass or microscope

You won’t be able to see young bed bugs with the naked eye, but if you have a magnifying glass, you should be able to spot them on your mattress. They’re usually easier to identify after they’ve eaten because blood fills their abdomen, giving it a reddish brown color.

Adult bed bugs are easier to spot and can be seen with the naked eye. Their characteristics include:

  • Oval-shaped body
  • Reddish-brown to light-brown in color, depending on when it was last fed
  • Fairly flat body unless inflated from a recent feeding
  • The size of an apple seed (5-7 mm in length)
  • Three segments with unusable wings, short yellow hairs and an antenna with four parts
  • Musty scent released by glands in the underbelly

Inspect your mattress and areas near the bed to look for any signs of bed bugs. Be diligent and thorough in your search. If you’re getting bit while you’re sleeping, you’re sure to find these bugs somewhere on your mattress. But they can also hide in mattress frames, box springs, headboards and footboards. 

It’s important to be able to identify bed bugs to make sure that these are the insects that actually caused your bites. 

If you were only bit once or twice and only in a few isolated incidents, it’s probably not bed bugs.

Bed Bug Bites Symptoms

How to find bed bugs bites? By looking for signs and symptoms on your skin. Bed bugs penetrate through the skin to get to your blood vessel in order to feed on your blood. The bites are not painful initially and may go unnoticeable for hours and even days in many cases. Bed bugs happily bite any part of your body that is exposed. Usually, the most bites appear on:

  • Legs
  • Arms
  • Shoulders
  • Hands
  • Face
  • Neck

In majority of the cases, the bite itself is not felt. Even clear symptoms don’t develop that can tell it is a bed bug bite.

Bedbug bites

Common Symptoms

In some cases, the symptoms start appearing just after you have been bitten, but they might not be noticeable till a few days, or even weeks, later. Typically, these symptoms disappear within two weeks without much irritation or pain.

However, the bed bug bites can cause certain discomfort like inflammation and itchiness. Some common symptoms and signs of bed bug bites include:

  • Signs of clear or white skin that is shed by nymphs when they start maturing
  • Reddish-brown or red dried stains on clothes or bed sheets because of bed bug droppings
  • Tiny blood spots from the bites that can stained on bed sheets or clothing
  • Flat or raised patches on skin that might be inflamed or papular eruptions
  • Tiny red bumps surrounded by hives or blisters
  • Tiny red welts or bumps in a line or zigzag pattern
  • Red bump which is itchy and has a dark center, surrounded by lighter swollen area
  • Raised bump which itches and has a clear center
  • Painful burning sensation

The bite might also be influenced by the unique characteristics of the bug or the individual being bitten.

Rare Symptoms

Although, rare symptoms are not very common, individuals might experience a severe reaction from the bite. Some rare symptoms include:

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Swollen tongue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Blisters
  • Breathing problems

It is important that you immediately get medical attention in case of these symptoms.

Other Symptoms

If your house has bed bugs infestations then, you might experience other health complications like:

  • Increased vulnerability of skin infection.
  • Sleep deprivation since the thought of bed bugs feasting on you can be rather stressful and result in restless sleep.
  • Reduced wellbeing from constant lack of sleep and stress about the bed bug infestation. It can result in reduced immune function, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

It is essential that you take immediate measures to eliminate the bed bug infestation.

Identifying Bed Bug Bites On Pets

Bed bugs bites are not just uncomfortable for humans but also for animals too. Bites on cats and dogs look the same as they do on humans. However, they can easily be mistaken for a flea or mosquito bite. Bed bugs don’t stay on pets and prefer to return to their hiding place once they are done feeding on the pet.

You might not find a bed bug on your pet, so it is best to look for other signs to determine if the bite is from a bed bug. Look for cast skins, feces, or eggs on the fur of your pet. If your pet is irritated or uncomfortable at night, that can also be an indication of a bed bug.

It is best to clean the bedding of your pet and regularly groom then to spot the bed bug bites.

How To Treat Bed Bug Bites: Step by Step Guide

There are many ways to control and prevent bed bugs but what do you do when you have bug bites? This guide will help you in treating bed bug bites.

Step 1: Washing with Water and Soap

Start by thoroughly washing the affected area with water and a mild soap. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Begin by wetting your hands and then applying the soap.
  • Rub the soap between your hands to create a soapy thick lather.
  • Once you have enough lather, massage it over the affected area.
  • Repeat the process till all affected areas are covered.
  • Don’t rinse but instead leave on the soap and let it dry.

This will help you in experiencing instant relief from discomfort and itching. It is best to regularly do this at least thrice a day as it will reduce the itchiness, reduce the chances of infections, and keep the area clean to enhance the healing process.

Washing Hands with Water

Step 2: Using Home Remedies

Next, you should try various home remedies to treat bed bugs bites and associated symptoms. Following are some home remedies that will help in reducing the itching, swelling and inflammation:

  • Mix together water and baking soda to form a paste. Make sure you keep ending smaller amount of water in the powder while continuously stirring to avoid formation of clumps. Once you have a thick paste, apply it on the bed bug bites. Let it sit for an hour or so and then wash it using warm water.
  • Soak a cotton ball in witch hazel or lemon juice – these are natural astringents. Dab this soaked cotton on the bed bugs bites to dry them out and reduce the itching.
  • Use aloe plant gel on the bed bug bites. Make sure you only use the gel which is 100% pure to avoid any further skin problems. Aloe gel boosts anti-fungal and antibiotic properties that help in preventing secondary infections.

There are various other home remedies that you can try but make sure you are not sensitive or allergic to the ingredients you are using.

Step 3: Using Medications

Aside from using home remedies, it is essential to also use medications to speed up the healing process. There are various creams and ointments available to treat bed bug bites. Look for creams that include cortisone or hydrocortisone, like Cortaid. These medications help in reducing the itching and inflammation.

The topical creams can be directly applied on the affected area to treat the bites. Following are some of the medications that you can use:

  • Creams that include pramoxine and diphenhydramine as they will help in decreasing the itchiness, pain, and tenderness.
  • Lotions and creams that include benzyl alcohol.
  • Alka-Seltzer, only if you are not allergic to aspirin. Use a cotton ball to dap this solution on the affected area.
  • Prednisone and other oral steroids can be effective to treat itching. You would need a prescription for this.
  • Antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotic can help with skin infection caused by the bed bug bites.
  • Epinephrine, corticosteroids or antihistamines injections might be administered by the doctor in case of a systemic allergic reaction.

Always follow the instructions mentioned in the package of the creams, ointments or lotions. Make sure you consult your doctor to get the right medication prescription.

Step 4: Using Calamine Lotion

You should also apply calamine lotion on the bites. This lotion offers symptomatic relief from the constant itching and will assist in drying out the rash and protecting the skin as it begins healing.

Step 5: Taking Oral Antihistamine

Oral antihistamines, like Benadryl, help in controlling the allergic reaction that can be caused because of the bites, for instance rashes or swelling. Keep the following things in mind:

  • Make sure you follow the dosage amount mentioned on the package or consult your doctor.
  • These medications might cause drowsiness so it is best to take them at night and avoid taking them while driving.
  • You can also try antihistamine creams that can be topically applied to the bites for relief.

It is always best to consult your doctor first in case of any confusion.

Step 6: Getting Pain Relief

If the bed bug bites cause you pain or discomfort, try oral medications like aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medication. Following are some medication that can help in relieving pain:

  • Ibuprofen – it is an anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drug which reduces the hormones that cause pain and inflammation, as well as the ones that trigger fever.
  • Aspirin is an analgesic drug that relieves pain through restraining the pain signals being sent to the brain. It is also effective in decreasing the fever. It is best to no give this to children.
  • Tylenol – it is another pain relief medication that is also safe for children. However it will not help in reducing inflammation.

It is recommended that you consult your doctor if the bed bug bites are getting painful to determine if these medications will work for you or not.

Step 7: Consulting a Doctor

Lastly, if the bites don’t clear up naturally in about two weeks, then you need to consult your doctor. Moreover, it is recommended that you consult your doctor immediately if you are experiencing:

  • Allergic reaction, like hives, swollen skin, or redness
  • Skin infection, like oozing discharge or tenderness
  • Blisters
  • Multiple bites

Bed bugs bites can get more infected because of excessive scratching since your fingernails can host a number of bacterial pathogens. In case the bites get infected, they will become tender, swollen, and red. Usually, there isn’t a fever unless you received multiple bites. It is important to get medical attention as this could lead to skin infection and other issues.

10 Remedies To Relieve Itching

Do bed bug bites itch? They usually do. Whether it is a bite or a rash, it can get super itchy but it is best that you don’t scratch the affected area or it might get worse. You must clean the affected area thoroughly and apply anti-itch treatments on them for relief.

Woman Scratching Red Area on Her Arm

It is recommended that you apply antihistamine products on the affected area to reduce the redness, itching and swelling. Following are four effective natural remedies for bed bug bites:

1. Patchouli Oil

This oil has antiphlogistic properties which help in soothing the inflammation and speeding up the healing process.

  • Take a few drops of patchouli oil in your hands.
  • Apply them on the infected area.
  • Gently rub the oil on your skin and massage for a few seconds.
  • Let the oil absorb in your skin, instead of washing it out.

This will give you relief from the itching. You can also add 6 to 10 drop of this oil in your bath to stop the inflammation and itching.

2. Cool Compresses

You can also use cool compresses to stop the itching and swelling. Make sure you wrap it up in a cloth to protect your skin. This will not only reduce the swelling and itching but will also help in soothing your skin, giving you relief from the constant itching.

3. Oatmeal Baths

An oatmeal bath is an effective cure for dry and itchy skin. It can help in reducing the dryness, redness, and itching on the bed bug bites.

4. Tea Tree Oil

This oil is one of the most effective and popular remedy for various skin issues. It helps in preventing inflammation and redness; reduce itching, and treating the sensitive skin.

  • Take two drops of tea tree oil.
  • Mix it with a carrier oil like almond oil or coconut oil.
  • Apply this mixture twice a day on the infected area.

You can also add this oil in your bath. Other essential oils that are beneficial for itching and redness include lavender oil, rose oil, geranium oil and hazel oil. These essential oils can be used in the same way as the tea tree oil.

5. Toothpaste

It may sound like a strange remedy, but toothpaste can help stop the itching caused by bed bugs. The baking soda and menthol in the toothpaste is what stops the itching.

Just apply a generous amount of toothpaste to the bite. 

6. Ice Pack

Bed bug bites are incredibly itchy, but they can also burn and cause other symptoms. An ice pack can help soothe burning and even alleviate your itching.

The cool of the ice will help relieve swelling while numbing your nerves. The numbing is what will give you the temporary itch relief. 

Don’t apply the ice pack directly to your skin. Make sure that you wrap it in a towel or cloth before applying it to your bites.

7. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another natural, simple remedy to alleviate the itching of bed bug bites. The acidic nature of the juice will help reduce swelling and itching. Because it’s a liquid, it will be easily absorbed by the skin and be applied directly to the source of the bite. 

You should notice a difference in your symptoms within minutes.      

8. Mouthwash

Most mouthwash products contain ethanol, which naturally fights against swelling and inflammation. Applying mouthwash directly to your bed bug bites can alleviate discomfort and itching.

Just be careful with the amount of mouthwash that you use – it’s easy to overdo it. Only apply enough to treat your individual bites. For best results, use a cotton ball to apply this treatment.

9. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is an effective treatment for sunburns, but it can also help alleviate itching from bed bug bites. The soothing effects of the plant are what help get rid of the discomfort.

If you have an aloe vera plant in your home, simply cut open a leaf, extract the gel, and apply it directly to your bites.

If you don’t have fresh aloe, you can use the same commercial aloe vera gel that you use to treat sunburns. 

10. Anti-Itch Creams

If natural remedies aren’t working, it may be time to reach for more powerful drugstore products. 

Itchy bites can be treated with anti-itch creams as well as over-the-counter products that contain hydrocortisone. Antihistamines will also help alleviate itching.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs that can help you with the bed bug bites problem:

Q: How long do bed bug bites last?

A: Usually, the bed bug bites heal within two weeks. These bites don’t result in long-term issues. If you have a sensitive skin then it might take three weeks or more for the bites to last.

Q: How long does it take for bed bug bites to appear?

A: It typically takes about 14 days for the bed bug bites to start appearing. In some cases, the bites are not even noticeable but in others the signs might start appearing in an hour or so.

Q: Can a bite be from some other insect?

A: There are various skin reactions that might appear like bed bug bites. If you haven’t actually seen the bed bug biting you, then you should look for other signs like bed bug eggs, shed skins, fecal staining, and blood spots to determine if there are bed bugs around you.

Q: When do bed bugs bite?

A: The bed bugs rely on blood as their main source of meal. They are mostly active during night and attack when you are sleeping. This is mostly because while you are sleeping, it is easier for them to get their meal and safely get out of their hiding place.

Q: Can I get a disease or illness for a bed bug bite?

A: Bed bugs are annoying, but they’re not known to spread any diseases. Their bites can cause loss of sleep and itching. The itching from the bites can sometimes lead to excessive scratching that may increase the risk of a skin infection. But if bites are treated and steps are taken to reduce itching, the risk of getting an infection is much lower.

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