We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t “let the bed bugs bite,” but would you even know it if they had? Do you even know what a bed bug looks like?
Chances are, you have probably never seen a bug bite (at least, let’s hope not). While we sing cheesy nursery rhymes about them, they are actually pretty dangerous.
Did you know that bed bugs can carry an array of diseases, many of which can be deadly? In fact, bed bugs are known to carry the plague, yellow fever, and even anthrax.
And while there is yet no direct evidence that these nasty critters can actually transmit the diseases to us, it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, you’d hate to be the guy (or girl!) who finally proved the link.
So it’s best to learn what a bed bug bite looks like, how to identify them, and how to treat them. Possessing this knowledge can aid you in protecting you and your family.
If you have small children, learning to identify and treat a bed bug bite is even more of a priority. For that reason, we hope you pay careful attention to the following information, as it could prove useful to you in the future.
Identifying Bed Bug Bites
The first step to realizing that you have a bed bug problem is usually by identifying bed bug bites. Because bed bugs are small, hide well, and only come out at night, the probability that you will see a bed bug before it bites you is pretty slim. And, while you can inspect your home for bed bugs, if you haven’t been bitten, you probably don’t have a reason to.
So, how do you know if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug? Studies indicate that most individuals who are bitten by bed bugs misdiagnose the cause of their bites, often citing fleas or other insects. Unfortunately, even many individuals who seek treatment often find themselves misdiagnosed by their dermatologists. This may be because the presence of bed bugs as a common infestation is a relatively new occurrence–with only 25% of pest control experts reporting having encountered a bed bug infestation in the year 2000. In the past decade, the number of bed bug infestations in the US has increased dramatically, but the wealth of information concerning them has not. Though bed bug infestations are a rising problem, it remains that most Americans are unaware of how to tell if they have been bitten by a bed bug and how to distinguish it from other types of bug bites.
The first thing to look for is the appearance of a red bite or rash on your skin. Though this may seem pretty vague and could indicate any number of conditions–from skin allergies to other types of bug bites–there are some tell-tale signs that you may be the victim of bed bugs. The below are characteristics that indicate that you are suffering from bed bug bites:
- The timing: you should be aware that most bed bug bites appear after you’ve slept for the night. This makes sense, as bed bugs feed on your blood while you sleep. If you find that you frequently have itches bumps or rashes after you wake up, it’s likely that you are suffering from a bed bug infestation, and you should immediately conduct a bed bug investigation.
- The location: Bed bug bites usually appear on parts of the body that are exposed while you sleep. This can include your face, arms, back, or any other part of your body that you leave exposed.
- The pattern: bed bug bites are commonly found in a linear or zigzagging pattern across your skin. The bites may be slightly raised and itchy, but flat without a ring around the center. This helps distinguish a bed bug bite from a flea bite. Additionally, the bites may cause skin dryness in surrounding areas and break and ooze pus before finally disappearing.
- The effects: Bed bug bites can lead to scarring, so if you notice that your bites begin to scar after a week or two, it could be that you are experiencing a bed bug infestation.
What Else Should You Know About Bed Bug Bites?
Though we have listed the most common symptoms and tell-tale signs of bed bug bites, there are some other, sometimes more serious, indications that you have a bed bug infestation. If you notice or experience any of the following, we encourage you to contact a medical professional immediately as they be symptoms of a more serious condition:
- Paleness in children: children who live in an infested environment may appear pale and sometimes listless. This is likely due to large exposure to bed bugs that feed on their blood. Because other, more serious, causes can exist, you should not assume bed bugs are causing this problem.
- Allergic reaction: Though it’s rare, there are some individuals who exhibit signs of sometimes severe allergic reactions to bed bug bites. As is standard when one presents signs of an allergic reaction, you should seek medical care immediately.
- Disease: While there is currently no proof that bed bugs actually transmit disease, they are known carriers of agents that have dangerous diseases and do carry diseases themselves. If you or your loved ones exhibit the signs of a serious disease, you should contact health professionals immediately.
- Infection: Because bed bug bites are often very itchy, it’s common to scratch them. However, this can lead to a secondary skin infection. As infections can spread and become dangerous, you should always seek medical care if you notice an infection that worsens or doesn’t respond to treatment.
If you notice the signs and symptoms of a bed bug bite and decide to be your doctor, be honest and let them know that you think you may have a bed bug problem. Do not be ashamed to admit it. Because bed bug cases have been misdiagnosed even by professionals, it’s important that you be completely honest with your doctor so that you can get the treatment you need.
If you believe you have a bed bug bite, an easy way to test your theory is to check your bed or sleeping space for signs of bed bugs. In brief, here are a few steps that you can take to locate these creatures in your home:
- Use a magnifying glass: because bed bugs are very small–only growing to be about as big as an apple seed–and paper-thin, it is difficult to see them with the naked eye. Using a tool like a magnifying glass can help you accurately check for bed bugs in your home.
- Check thoroughly: once you’ve got the tools you need in order to locate bed bugs, you need to know where to look for them. You may be tempted to check your bed, but you should be aware that bed bugs are extremely adept at hiding. Though you should check your mattress, it’s important that you check all cracks, crevices, and other dark hiding places on your bed. This includes your mattress, headboard, foot board, sides, etc. Be aware of their hiding places and don’t overlook any crack–no matter how small. Checking these places will likely let you know if you have a bed bug infestation, as many as 70% of bed bugs can be found in your bed.
If you find bed bugs in your bed, there are several things you should do to prevent the spread of an infestation in your home and to help solve your problem.
- Don’t move your mattress: though you may be tempted to throw your mattress out, you should make sure that you don’t move it. Because bed bugs are likely to spread if you take your mattress through your home, you want to make sure that you don’t move it through the rest of your house. Some pest control experts believe that bed bug infestations are the hardest to fight, but a good bed bug extermination program starts with a policy of containment. You should make sure that anything that has bed bugs stays where it is so that they don’t travel throughout your home.
- Inspect the rest of your home: that being said, you need to make sure that bed bugs haven’t already invaded other parts of your home. This can be a long and time-consuming process, but it is necessary to diagnosing the extent of your bed bug problem. This means that you have to do what you need before with your bed on a much larger scale. It’s recommended that you start with furniture and other areas where bed bugs might find warmth and human contact and search for small cracks and crevices. Because this can be a long process, make sure that you have the time and fortitude to carry out a thorough investigation. Again, the policy is the same: do not move anything with bed bugs throughout your home because it can make the problem worse.
- Get help: once you have discovered that you have a bed bug problem, you should take the necessary steps to getting rid of them. If you live in an apartment or other complex, this means reporting your problem to your landlord and finding an exterminator, as bed bugs will likely be living in other buildings. If you cannot afford to hire an exterminator for your home, there are some steps you can take on your own to rid yourself of your bed bug problem. This includes isolating your bed and other bed bug-ridden furniture and covering them with bed bug treating devices. Do not use insecticides without first fully reading the directions and understanding the possible implications.
There are steps that you can take to make sure that you don’t get bed bugs in your home. If you live in a complex with multiple tenants, this may be hard, as they can spread from one dwelling to yours. However, you can take preventative measures by protecting your bed with an ActiveGuard liner on your mattress and by keeping any part of your bed from touching the floor. Additionally, be extra vigilant in summer months, especially if you have gone hiking, stayed in a summer camp, or have been in an outdoors environment, as these locations tend to be infested and can bring bed bugs back to your home.
If you’re experiencing minor complications from bed bug bites, below are ten of the best home remedies.
Ten Home Remedies for Bed Bugs
- Apply an Ice Pack
This may seem like the most obvious answer. Bed bug bites can cause severe itching and annoyance (if not pain). The irritable welts these brown and red blood-suckers leaves behind can leave you in a large amount of discomfort.
That’s why applying an ice pack can be a good home remedy. The cool of the ice will relieve the swelling of the bite, and it will also numb your nerves. This numbness will give you temporary relief from the itchy bites. It’s important to remember that you should never apply the ice directly to your skin, but rather wrap it in a cloth or towel first.
- Baking Soda
If you have ever been stung by any type of insect before, chances are you already know that baking soda can be a great remedy for itchy and inflamed areas. In order to use this home remedy, mix a small amount of baking soda with water. Spread the resulting paste over your bug bites. If you have been bitten on your back or other hard-to-reach places, it might be helpful to have someone assist you.
Leave the paste on for approximately one hour and then wash it off with water. The area may a little dry, but it will no longer be itchy. Make sure to continuously apply moisture to the area(s) so that your skin does not become too dry and flaky (and thus, itchy again).
- Soap and Water
This is perhaps the simplest remedy on the list. Most of us probably do not think about washing our bug bites with soap and water, but the soap can actually act as a mild antiseptic. This will relieve the itchiness of the bites, and it will also give you a good clean while you are at it.
Just remember: you must apply the soap to the bitten areas before you wash it off with water. When the soap dries, wash it off with the water. Washing your bites this way will ensure maximum protection from itchiness.
- Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion can be a great remedy for bed bug bites. If you are unfortunate enough to have been bitten by bed bugs, applying calamine lotion to your bites can be a wonderful relief. The calamine serves to dry the infected area and reduce inflammation, which will in turn help you with your itchiness.
For best results, apply the calamine lotion two or three times per day. Applying once will still help your bed bug bites, but it may not give your skin the amount of attention it deserves. When recovering from external damage, it is always best to give your skin the care it needs to return to maximum potential.
- Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is a great natural way to combat your bed bug bite inflammation. The lemon juice will go directly to the source of the bite to reduce itching and swelling, and you will notice a difference in a matter of minutes.
You can apply lemon juice to your bites, or you can cover them with lemon wedges; the choice is up to you. However, we stress the importance of not putting any type of lemon or lemon juice onto any open wound, as it could lead your wound to become worse. Be careful when applying the juice and watch your bed bug bites disappear.
It might come as a surprise, but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed that the phenol in oatmeal is a great combatant to inflammation and irritation. For this reason, it will be helpful if you cover your bed bug bites in oatmeal. Though you will certainly look strange, you will feel better—and if you get bitten by bed bugs, this is probably all you will care about.
Applying oatmeal can be a messy process, but it will work to treat your bed bug bites if none of the other options on this list are available to you.
If you have recently been bitten by bed bugs and happen to have a few spare cucumbers, you can actually use them to your advantage. A chilled cucumber can reduce the itching and swelling that goes with your bed bug bites. Cut up your cucumber and place it on your bites for around ten minutes. Following this, remove the cucumber, and your bites will feel much better.
The downside to this remedy is that it may take four to five treatments a day for consistent relief. Still, it can at least be seen as one of the more therapeutic ways to treat bed bug bites—if you have enough cucumbers, that is.
Toothpaste contains menthol, a substance that works to fight against inflammation and irritation. Because of this, it can also be helpful in treating your bed bug bites. Applying a little swab of toothpaste to each of your bites can help reduce the discomfort that comes with bed bug bites.
Like the cucumber remedy, the toothpaste remedy requires constant application. If you need to go outside or leave the house for any reason, chances are you probably do not want toothpaste lathered across your face.
Still, toothpaste can be a great home remedy when you are in a pinch.
- Banana Peels
It turns out that banana peels actually have a use besides making people fall in comic fashions. Rubbing the inside of a banana peel on your bed bug bites can reduce irritation and itchiness. This is because the natural chemicals in bananas are great at combatting inflammation.
You can find bananas easily at your local grocery store. However, the greatest thing about this remedy is that you will actually be able to enjoy delicious bananas while you are being treated. Just remember to apply the banana peels a few times a day, and you will be good to go.
Mouthwash contains ethanol, a substance that is great at naturally combatting inflammation and swelling. This means that applying mouthwash to each of your bed bug bites can relieve the discomfort and itchiness you are feeling.
Be careful in the amount of mouthwash you use, as it can be easy to overdo it. You only need enough to cover your individual bites—you do not want to end up wasting your mouthwash. For this reason, it would be helpful for you to apply the mouthwash with a cotton ball.
Apply the mouthwash whenever you feel the irritability coming back, and it will keep you from going crazy until your bed bugs disappear.
Bed bug bites can range from being an itchy nuisance to causing severe allergic reactions. These bites usually come in the form of a linear or zigzag pattern on exposed areas of the body. Raised welts that are flat and itchy without a red ring can appear within minutes to days of being bitten and can lead to scarring. If you experience any of the more serious symptoms of bed bug bites, seek medical help immediately, as they could be due to other conditions. If you spot bed bugs in your home, you should take the necessary steps to treat the infestation. You can do this on your own, or with professional help, as there are home remedies both for exterminating bed bugs and in treating their bites.