How To Help Bed Bug Bites Not Itch

Bed bugs: Six cheap and natural solutions to treat itchy bites at home

BED BUG bites can be extremely irritating, especially if you have a serious infestation and lots of bites, but there are ways to deal with them. David Cross, head of Technical Training at Rentokil Pest Control outlines six ways to treat the itch.

Bed bugs are small insects that live in the cracks and crevices in and around beds, and the recent heatwave has caused a reported increase in their numbers in the UK.

They crawl out at night and bite exposed skin, leaving small, red lumps. Bites can appear from a few minutes after being bitten up to a week or two later, according to the NHS.

Although bed bug bites are painless, they can be very itchy and irritating.

“Bedbugs aren’t dangerous and don’t spread any diseases, but some people experience a reaction to their bites and they can be stressful to live with,” the NHS said.

Related articles

There are many natural remedies and ‘old wives tales’ on what you can use to help reduce the inflammation and itching associated with bed bug bites

David Cross, Rentokil Pest Control

So what’s the most effective method of treating bed bug bites?

“There are many natural remedies and ‘old wives tales’ on what you can use to help reduce the inflammation and itching associated with bed bug bites,” said Rentokil’s David Cross.

According to Cross, there are six treatments to try, which should be applied after washing the bites with soap and water, before drying them.

Calamine lotion

This relieves itching and also helps to dry rashes and protect the skin.

Baking soda and water

Make a paste with baking soda and water, and apply it directly to the skin. Let it dry before wiping away with a cotton pad.

Bed bug bites are painless but can be itchy and irritating (Image: Getty Images)

Toothpaste

The menthol contained in toothpaste is said to be a good anti-itch remedy. Apply a generous amount to the bite to soothe the burning sensation and relieve the itching.

Witch Hazel

This provides a mild anaesthetic effect that helps to calm the itching caused by bites.

Aloe Vera

Both “fresh” Aloe Vera or gel works well against insect bites. The active substances and amino acids present in Aloe Vera help relieve itching and burning sensations.

Lemon juice

This has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is also a natural astringent. Lemon juice can help dry rashes and itchiness while reducing redness and swelling.

As bed bugs are small and only come out at night, they can be difficult to spot and it is therefore not always easy to identify if you have an infestation.

Related articles

Bed bug bites usually fade in a few days, but there are ways to treat the itch (Image: Getty Images)

Bed bugs often bite in lines or clusters on the skin (Image: Getty Images)

Bed bugs: How to spot them and how to get rid of them

Bed bugs: What are bed bugs? How to spot an infestation and how to get rid of them.

Bed bugs: How to spot them and how to get rid of them

However, one thing which distinguishes them from other biting insects is the pattern in which they bite.

Because they are crawling insects, as opposed to flying insects such as mosquitoes, bed bugs often bite in lines or clusters across the skin.

Bed bug bites also usually occur on exposed areas such as the face, neck, hands or arms.

In more severe cases, bed bug bites may cause a rash or fluid-filled blisters. They can also become infected with bacteria if scratched.

According to the NHS: “The bites usually fade in a few days. If they’re very itchy, you can buy a mild steroid cream (such as hydrocortisone) or antihistamine tablets to relieve the itch.”

“See your GP if you develop signs of a skin infection, including pain, redness and swelling, as you may need antibiotics,” the NHS said.

How to Identify Bed Bug Bites—and How to Treat Them

Wake up with reddish welts or itchy skin? The culprit may be a bed bug hiding under your bed. These are the signs a dermatologist and entomologist look for.

Changlu Wang/Courtesy Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station

Unfortunately, a bed bug bite has no telltale sign, according to a review published in theAmerican Society for Microbiology. The reaction to bites varies tremendously from one person to the next. Some people will have no reaction or just minor itching and mosquito-like bumps in one area; others will get dramatic red raised welts all over. “It depends on the number of feeding bugs on the body, how long the person has been suffering bites, and also where the bites are located,” says Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Five stages of post-bed bug bites

If you have evidence of bed bug bites on your skin, it’s due to your body’s allergic response, according to the U.S. Armed Forces’ 2019 Pest Management Board: Technical Guide #44. That response can take a few different forms: little to no reaction; an immediate reaction—often a red spot with minor discomfort; a delayed reaction in which red weals turn up within 14 days that trigger intense itching that can last two to five days; or, unfairly, a combination of immediate and delayed reactions. This makes it tough to know what’s gnawing on you without the help of an entomologist or dermatologist. Although this guide to bug bites may help.

Familiar signs of bed bug bites

While there is no exact way to tell what bug bit you, dermatologist A. Yasmine Kirkorian, MD, an assistant professor of Dermatology & Pediatrics, Children’s National Health System, says there are some patterns doctors look for: “Bed bugs typically bite several times in a row so people may notice several red itchy bumps grouped closely together, a pattern sometimes called ‘breakfast, lunch, and dinner,’” she explains. “They can occur anywhere on the body; bed bug bites on the face may cause intense swelling including of the eyelid.” A small study found that 72 percent of people who were bitten by bed bugs had itchy red welts, 50 percent had redness or discoloration, and 28 percent had itching with no welts. Call your doc or dermatologist and look for these signs of bed bugs in your house.

It can’t be bed bug bites

Let’s say you are sleeping in the same bed as your partner and your partner wakes up with bites but you don’t. Must not be bed bugs, right? Sadly, it still could be. “The most challenging thing about bed bug bites is that there is are people who do not react to bed bug bites, so they have no adverse skin responses and have no idea that they are being fed upon while they are sleeping,” says Green. One survey found that nearly one in three people had no reaction to bed bug bites. When the researchers broke out reactions by age, they found that 42 percent of people over 65 had no reaction. Bites or no bites, this is how bed bugs could get in your bedroom.

Bed bug bite treatment

People who do react to bed bugs often have intense itching. “Once a patient has been bitten, it is difficult to eradicate the itching. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams that contain one percent pramoxine can help,” says Dr. Kirkorian. Try Aveeno with pramoxine and calamine. Oral antihistamines such as Zyrtec and Benadryl may be effective too, says Dr. Kirkorian. But if your itching persists, your dermatologist or doctor might prescribe topical steroids such as triamcinolone and fluocinonide.

Just thinking about bed bugs can wreck your sleep, as well. Talk to your doctor if you start suffering from insomnia. “A sedating antihistamine such as Benadryl could be safe to use,” says Dr. Kirkorian.

Home remedies for bed bug bites

Before you commit to natural bed bug treatment, remember to practice good hygiene and caution, advises Larry Bishop, MD, a dermatologist with Health First Medical Group: Be sure to wash the area with soap and water first to reduce the risk of infection; if the area appears irritated or develops a rash, stop using the treatment and see a doctor. For remedies, Dr. Bishop suggests trying peppermint oil: “It works by two mechanisms—the peppermint oil is a vasoconstrictor (blood vessel constrictor), which lessens the pain and irritation from bed bug bites. Additionally, the peppermint works as a soothing agent by gently stimulating the nerves around the bite.” Try adding a few drops to a warm bath; if you want to apply it to the bites, dilute it first with an oil such as coconut, jojoba or olive.

Lemon balm is another favorite for bug bites. Crush or roll the leaves with your fingers to release the juice, apply it to the bites, and wrap with a bandage. “It works by having soothing properties and antibacterial properties,” Dr. Bishop says. Finally, there’s household ammonia—research suggests that it can help with itchy bites. It may not smell great, says Dr. Bishop, but if you put a little on a cotton ball and dab it on the area right away, it can help. “It works by neutralizing the proteins that are in the saliva of the bed bugs.” The saliva is what produces the allergic reaction in some people, and the quicker you neutralize it, the better.

When to see the doctor

Your bed bug bites will generally clear up on their own, but if you itch them the scratching can lead to secondary infections. “The initial bite may be a portal for bacteria to enter the skin. If a patient develops a worsening red bump, pus drainage, a fever, or other signs of systemic illness, they should seek urgent medical attention,” advises Dr. Kirkorian. Then, find out how to get rid of bed bugs.

Why does bed bug bites itch and what to do with it?

This is the last post on the ultimate guide on how to get rid of bed bug bites.ВBed bug bites tend to be itchy and you are not supposed to scratch them because it can lead to an infection! But why does bed bug bites itch? The simple answer to this is in the saliva that the bed bug injects onto your skin before feeding!В That saliva is packed with anticoagulants and anesthetics that cause different reactions on different people’s skins.

Why does bed bug bites itch? Bed bug feeding habits

Bed bugs tend to feed at night, more so in the wee hours of the morning. They are drawn to warmth and the presence of carbon-dioxide. Just because bed bugs tend to feed at night however doesn’t mean that they won’t feed at any other time of the day. As long as they are hungry and there is blood to be drawn, they will come out and feed.

When a bed bug finds its host, it makes use of its mouth to perform two tasks simultaneously with the help of two hollow tubes. The first task will be to inject its saliva into the host’s body. This saliva contains anticoagulants and anesthetics. That’s the reason why you don’t feel the bed bug on your skin as it feeds.

The second task is to draw blood from the host with the help of the second hollow tube. When the feeding is done-this usually takes between 5 and 10 minutes, the bed bug will return to its hiding place. The bed bug can then take five or seven days without feeding then it repeats the same process. Bear in mind however that bed bugs are capable of staying over a year without feeding and still survive.

Why does bed bug bites itch? The reaction

When bed bugs are done with feeding, some hosts may not notice that they have been bitten until hours or days later. Other hosts may not even know they have been bitten because they don’t end up with bite marks. Those that end up with bite marks however may have different reactions. Some may end up with itchy red welts while others may get blisters.

No matter the reaction however, it is important not to scratch the bite mark as this can lead to secondary infections.

What can influence itching?

The level of itching depends on one’s skin and its reaction to the saliva left behind by the bed bug. Some people are more sensitive to this saliva than others which is why one person may experience serious itching from the bites while another may not.

For those that experience serious itching, there are a number of natural remedies that can help relive the itching. You can make use of Aloe Vera gel for example and apply to the affected area. You can also make use of pure witch hazel to help relieve the itching. If natural remedies fail however, there are creams or medications that can be used to help solve the problem.В For example, you can make use of hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamines to help relieve the itching. In such cases however, you might need to seek medical attention in this case.

One of the first remedies to help relieve potential itching is to make use of soap and water. You should thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water to not only help prevent a skin infection but to also reduce itchiness.

Why do bed bug bites itch so much?

Because of the saliva injected to the skin, the bed bug bites may itch. The skin reacts to the saliva and its anticoagulants which is why it may itch so much. In case itching becomes unbearable then it is very likely that you are hypersensitive to the bites. Instead of over-scratching the affected area, it is best to visit a dermatologist.

You should seriously consider seeking medical attention if the bite marks turn into blisters or if they end up with pus or discharge. You should also consider visiting a medical professional if the red welts on your skin turn into hives or if there are so many bites on your skin.

Get rid of the cause

When all is said and done, it doesn’t make sense to treat the bed bug bites and not get rid of the bed bugs. In order to kill bed bugs fast and easy, you should make use of powder named Diatomaceous earth. Whenever bed bugs come into contact with the powder, they dehydrate and die. The effectiveness of powder that contains diatomaceous earth is that it will continue working days or even weeks as long as it remains dry.

Another way to get rid of bed bugs fast and easily is to steam a given room, mattress, couch or furniture.В Be sure to thoroughly vacuum the room or furniture before introducing steam to the equation. You could also consider washing clothes and beddings in very hot water in order to kill majority of the bed bugs.

If you feel that Diatomaceous earth, steaming or vacuuming is not helping with the bed bug problem, then you could consider any number of chemicals on the market. Be sure to investigate the chemical you intend to use as you have to take care of your health and that of those around you. You could also consider hiring a professional bug exterminator to get rid of the problem.

Conclusion

Bed bug bites itch as a result of the saliva deposited by the bed bugs when they feed. Different people get different reactions to the bed bug bites. While some bites may be successfully treated at home with natural remedies, there are instances where medical assistance is called for. In case you are hypersensitive to the bites then it is important to seek medical assistance. Otherwise, you should not scratch the bites as this may lead to an infection.

How to Stop Itching from Bed Bug Bites

Wondering how to stop itching from bed bug bites? Bed bug bites are one of the reasons that these pests can be a nuisance. While not everyone experiences symptoms, many people suffer from bothersome itching sensations. Learn more about bud bug bites and the symptoms and side effects.

Cause

Like other living species, bed bugs needfood to survive, specifically blood. From the moment they’re born, they depend on frequent feeding to grow and exist. While they prefer humans, bed bugs may travel up to 20 feet to reach another food source like pets, chickens or bats. Bed bugs can detect hosts using cues such as carbon dioxide emitted from warm-blooded sources. Bed bugs are typically nocturnal, meaning that they will usually feed throughout the night when the host is asleep. We don’t often see bed bugs and may not even feel them bite.

Common Symptoms

Bed bug bite symptoms can differ from person to person. On some, the bites can look likesmall mosquito bites. Bed bugs typically feed on exposed skin, potentially causing linear bite patterns. On others, bed bug bites may appear larger, like welts, and may consistently itch. Then there are the lucky few who experience no symptoms at all. Bites are good indications that bed bugs live in your home, and if you don’t experience symptoms, you may never realize that these pests are living near your bed. To make matters worse, bites may take longer to appear on some than others. This can range anywhere from two hours to two weeks. This may also make identifying the origin of the bed bugs difficult, especially if you recently traveled.

Other symptoms may stem from an allergic reaction. For example, some bites canlead to further skin infections. This can include bites that burst open, crust and leave individuals with additional pain and visible scars. They may also lead to inflammation of the lymphatic system, which can impact your vessels and organs. According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), beyond physical health effects, bed bug bites can also cause mental health effects. Common repercussions can include anxiety and insomnia.

Symptom Prevention

One side effect of the bites can be itching. Scratching the bites can cause further irritation and potentially cause infection. TheUniversity of Albanyrecommends that you take an antihistamine or apply an over-the-counter topical cream to bites. They say that these measures may help provide temporary bed bug bite itch relief. As a best practice, avoid scratching itchy bites. This may cause them to tear and increase your risk of infection. If you suspect that you have bites that have worsened, call your doctor immediately.

Bed Bug Prevention

To avoid bed bug bites, start by eliminating bed bugs from your home.Schedule an inspection with Terminix®to identify where they may be hiding. Our trained technicians can customize a plan to help get rid of bed bugs that may be lurking around your house. With our help, you’ll be able to sleep tight without any bed bugs biting.

The Best Mouse Trap Method

Everyone has seen the cartoon mouse trap: A big wedge of cheese perched precariously on a small wooden rectangle, just waiting for an unsuspecting mouse to come along. Most modern mouse traps don’t use pieces of cheese, although they can still use food as bait. One of the most popular baits, believe it or not, is peanut butter. There are still versions of the snap trap from cartoons, but there are also other kinds like electronic traps. Because these traps usually mean dealing with dead mice, plenty of people wonder if there’s a way to help get rid of mice without classic mouse traps. Although mouse traps are the most effective in helping to get of mice, you can also try the following natural methods to see if they help remove these pesky rodents.

How to Help Remove Fruit Flies from Your Home

Fruit flies are one of the most common household pests and they can be a huge nuisance for homeowners. Not only that, but researchers have found that fruit flies can “transfer bacteria from a contaminated source, food, or waste to surfaces or ready-to-eat food.

How to Naturally Get Rid of Bugs on Plants

Buying houseplants can put you at risk for harboring unwanted pest infestations. Before these bugs cause damage to your new plant, know how to take care of them using natural remedies.

How to Help Prevent Mosquito Bites

Itchy bites and illness may occur after exposure to some arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks. The bites can cause discomfort and, in some cases, transmit pathogens (bacteria, viruses and protozoans) that can cause a variety of diseases. Some examples of diseases that are of concern in the United States include: (mosquito) chikungunya, dengue, La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile fever, Zika; (tick) Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The good news? There are many precautions you can take to help avoid bites from mosquitoes and ticks.

Bed bugs: Diagnosis and treatment

How do you know if you have bed bugs?

To find out if you have bed bugs, you need to look for two things:

Bites on your body

Signs of bed bugs

Bites on your body:If you have bed bugs, you’re likely to have bites. Bed bug bites usually cause itchy welts. These welts usually appear in a zigzag pattern as show in the photo below.

Bed bug bites

When bedbugs bite, you often see clusters of bites. Each cluster usually contains 3 to 5 bites that appear in a zigzag pattern.

You’ll seldom see bed bugs, so many people mistakenly believe that mosquitoes, fleas, or spiders bit them. Sometimes people mistake bed bug bites for a common skin condition such as an itchy rash, hives, or chickenpox.

To make sure you have bed bugs, you’ll need to look for signs of bed bugs.

How to check for bed bugs

Although bed bugs don’t usually require serious medical attention, they can cause a great deal of anxiety and restless nights. To help find bed bugs before they find you (and your belongings), dermatologists recommend looking for the following signs near places where you sleep.

How to check for bed bugs

Although bed bugs don’t usually require serious medical attention, they can cause a great deal of anxiety and restless nights. To help find bed bugs before they find you (and your belongings), dermatologists recommend looking for the following signs near places where you sleep.

Signs of bed bugs:This step is important. If you have a bed bug infestation, you need to find out so that you can get rid of the bed bugs. Getting rid of the bed bugs is the only way to stop the bites.

If you have a large number of bed bugs, you may see the bugs. Most people, however, only see signs of bed bugs. To look for signs of bed bugs, check the places that people sleep for the following:

A sweet, musty odor.Take a deep breath. If you notice a sweet, musty in your hotel room, cruise-ship cabin, or other sleeping area, there may be a heavy bed bug infestation in the room. Bed bugs produce chemicals to help them communicate, although not everyone will notice the smell.

Specks of blood on bedding, mattresses, or upholstered furniture such as couches and headboards.Look carefully at your blankets, sheets, and mattress pads and then check the mattress and box spring. Are there specks of blood anywhere, especially near the seams? If so, there could be a bed bug infestation. You should also check for specks of blood on all upholstered furniture, including couches and headboards.

Exoskeletons.Bed bugs have an outer shell that they shed and leave behind. Do you see shell-like remains on the mattress, mattress pad, or beneath couch cushions?

Tiny, blackish specks.If you see blackish specks on the bedding, mattress, headboard, or beneath couch cushions, it could be bed bug excrement.

Eggs.After mating, female bed bugs lay white, oval eggs in cracks and crevices. Keep in mind that these will be small, as a bed bug is only about the size of an apple seed. The photo below shows a bed bug near eggs. The photo was magnified so that you can see the bed bug and eggs.

If you do get bed bugs and have many bites or a bite that looks infected, see a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can treat an infection and help relieve the itch.

Bed bug with eggs

A bed bug is a tiny insect with a broad, oval body. If it has recently eaten, it has a reddish-brown color.

If you see bed bugs, they will likely scurry toward the closest hiding place. Any dark place such as inside a mattress or even a picture frame makes a good hiding place.

As you watch bed bugs move, it can look like they are flying or jumping because they can crawl quickly. Bed bugs cannot fly or jump; they can only crawl.

If you find signs of bed bugs, call a pest-control company or your property manager. You should not use bug spray or a fogger. These products have little effect on bed bugs.

Treating bed bug bites

You should see a dermatologist for treatment if you have:

Skin infection (bites feel tender or ooze discharge, such as pus)

An allergic skin reaction (skin red and swollen or hives)

Your dermatologist may prescribe the following to treat bed bug bites:

Allergic reaction.Some people may require an injection of an antihistamine, corticosteroid, or epinephrine (adrenaline) for a severe allergic reaction.

Infection.An infection may require an antibiotic. If the infection is mild, your dermatologist may recommend an antiseptic medication that you can buy without a prescription. Your dermatologist will tell you which one to use. Your dermatologist also may recommend an antiseptic to prevent a skin infection.

Itch.A prescription antihistamine pill or liquid can help. You also can apply a corticosteroid to the bites. Your dermatologist will tell you which is best for you.

At-home treatment

If you do not have any signs of an infection or a serious reaction, you can often treat the bites at home.

To treat bed bug bites:

Wash the bites with soap and water.This will help prevent a skin infection and help reduce itchiness.

If the bites itch, apply a corticosteroid cream to the bites.You can get a weak form of this medicine without a prescription at your local drugstore. Stronger corticosteroids require a prescription.

Bed bug bites usually heal and go away within a week or two.

Image
Getty Images

References
Leverkus Met al. “Bullous Allergic Hypersensitivity to Bed bug Bites Mediated by IgE against Salivary Nitrophorin."J of Invest Dermatol. 2006;126:2364-2366.

Liebold Ket al. “Disseminated bullous eruption with systemic reaction caused by Cimex lectularius.”J Euro Acad of Dermat and Vener. 2003;17:461-463.

Steen CJ, Carbonaro PA, Schwartz RA. “Arthropods in dermatology.”J Am Acad Dermatol2004; 50:819-42.

Find a dermatologist by location
Find a dermatologist by name

Advanced search

  • About AAD
  • Contact AAD
  • Donate
  • Employment
  • Store
  • Support AAD
  • Website feedback
  • AAD meetings & events
  • Advertise
  • Classifieds
  • Licensing
  • Mailing lists
  • Meeting advertising
  • Legal notice
  • Corporate partners
  • Donors
  • Exhibitors: AM 2020
  • Media
  • International
  • For AAD members
  • Patient advocates
  • Diseases & conditions
  • Everyday care
  • Cosmetic treatments
  • Parents & kids
  • Public health programs
  • Find a dermatologist

Copyright © 2020 American Academy of Dermatology Association.
All rights reserved.

Reproduction or republication strictly prohibited
without prior written permission.

Add Comments: