How To Treatment Bed Bug Bites
Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.
Check if it’s bedbugs
Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo
Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.
Signs of bedbugs include:
- bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
- spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
- small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)
Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.
Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo
Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.
How you can treat bedbug bites
Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.
Things you can do include:
- putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
- keeping the affected area clean
- not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
- antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
- the redness around the bites is spreading
You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.
Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP
It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:
- visit their website
- use the NHS App
- call them
How to get rid of bedbugs
contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides
wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes
put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)
clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early
do not keep clutter around your bed
do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first
do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs
Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
Next review due: 21 January 2022
How to treatment bed bug bites
A look at some of the most effective bed bugs treatment methods that you can do it yourself to control and kill bed bugs without hiring expensive exterminators.
1. Vacuum Cleaning
Vacuuming is one of the primary steps to getting rid of bed bugs. You should thoroughly vacuum the entire house if you suspect there are bed bugs in your home. Vacuum all mattresses in your house, including any upholstered furniture such as sofa, as well as curtains. Use the vacuum’s crevice suction tool for deep vacuuming especially for the bed frames, headboards and any seams and cracks on your walls or floors that the regular vacuum tool cannot clean. Last but not least, do vacuum the carpets and rugs too.
Immediately after vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag and trash it outside away from the house.
Note:Although vacuuming will not kill bed bugs, it can help to control and get rid of most of them before your whole house or apartment get infested. For complete elimination, you will need to combine vacuuming with several other bed bugs treatment and removal methods.
2. Thermal Treatment
Bed bugs are very sensitive to heat and are easily killed when exposed to temperature over 100В°F (or above 38В°C) . Therefore, you can use steamers that are commonly used by most professional exterminators to kill both bed bugs and their eggs naturally.
Thermal treatment can also be applied to your bedding and clothes. For bed linen and garments, soak or wash them with hot water for 10 to 20 minutes and then set your dryer to the heat cycle to completely eliminate them.
In additional, bed bug steamer can also be used to clean and sterilize toys, stuffed animals, shoes, luggages or any other items that cannot be easily wash with hot water.
3. Bed Bug Spray
In general, bed bug spray are able to kill bed bugs upon contact with them. Bed bug sprays work by penetrating the exoskeleton of the bugs with a formulation of salts and surfactants, causing them to dehydrate and die. Sprays can be applied on mattresses, box springs, furniture, baseboards and are most effective treatment for hard to reach areas like a crack or crevice.
It is recommended that one should purchase an odourless and non-residual spray such as the STERI-FAB Bed Bug Disinfectant (that kills bed bugs on contact) so that it will not leave behind any residual or chemical that may be harmful to people and pets. STERI-FAB water-based formula also ensures that it will not stain fabrics or water safe surfaces and it is perfectly safe to use on your mattress and sleeping areas.
4. Mattress Covers and Encasements
Using a waterproof, hypoallergenic, zippered mattress cover labeled "allergen rated" or "for dust mites" is a simple way to prevent and kill bed bugs. A bed bug proof mattress cover can prevent any bed bugs from crawling in and out. By placing a cover over the mattress, new bugs are unable to enter and the ones living under it cannot escape and will die due to lack of food. The mattress cover will not only trap the existing bugs, it will also ensure that the eggs do not become adults and reproduce, causing further infestation. This way, you do not need to purchase a new mattress.
It is recommended to keep the cover on for at least one year to keep bed bugs out of the mattress, and eventually kill any bed bugs trapped within.
5. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized shell from aquatic diatoms. It is a 100% natural and organic pest control dust that scratches and cuts the exoskeletons of hard bodied insects on contact, causing them to dehydrate and asphyxiate. Diatomaceous earth lasts virtually forever if left untouched and provides continuous and long-lasting control of insect pests.
Simply sprinkle the diatomaceous earth around the bed, in cracks and crevices and along other hotspots where you believe bed bugs live and hide. Once that is done, any insects or bed bugs that crawl through the diatomaceous earth will die within an hour of contact.
A bed bug infestation can post significant nusiance and health problems and therefore, should be dealt with immediately. Since bed bugs can survive for several months without feeding, treatments should be repeated weekly for several weeks to fully eliminate any infestations so as to ensure a bedbug-free home.
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Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.
Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.
Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.
When Bedbugs Bite
Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.
Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.
People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.
Signs of Infestation
If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
- Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
- An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.
If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.
Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:
- Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
- Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
- Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
- Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
- Get rid of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.
While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.
Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."
The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."
University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."
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.
Bed bug bites: What you need to know
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Most people who are bitten by bed bugs experience symptoms that include irritation, sores, or itchiness. But how should bed bug bites be treated and can they be prevented?
There are several ways of reducing the chances of getting bites, while the treatment options include good hygiene and antihistamines.
This article explores bed bug bite treatment and prevention methods in detail.
Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood.
While they are a public health concern, bed bugs are not known to transmit disease through their bites.
Bed bugs use a small tube-like structure called a proboscis to pierce the skin and drink a person’s blood. The pests are most active when humans are asleep, during the night and early morning.
An estimated one in five Americans have personally dealt with a bed bug infestation or knows someone who has encountered the pests.
Bed bugs can bite anywhere on the body where there is skin. Typically, bites tend to occur on areas exposed during sleeping, such as:
Many people do not feel the bite itself or develop clear symptoms other than the dots where the bug bit and some minor, surrounding inflammation and irritation. Others are considered hypersensitive to bites and develop more severe symptoms.
In most cases symptoms occur more or less immediately after the bite, but they can develop or progress over the following days as well. Without further irritation, symptoms typically resolve after a week or so.
Almost all bed bug bites will produce some degree of discomfort, typically itchiness and inflammation. Other signs and symptoms of bed bug bites include:
- a burning painful sensation
- a raised itchy bump with a clear center
- a red itchy bump with a dark center and lighter swollen surrounding area
- small red bumps or welts in a zigzag pattern or a line
- small red bumps surrounded by blisters or hives
- papular eruptions or areas of skin with raised or flat patches that may be inflamed
- small spots of blood from bites often dried or stained onto sheets or bed clothing
- reddish or reddish-brown dried stains on fabrics due to bed bug droppings
- white or clear skins, shed by the nymphs as they mature
Individual characteristics of the bug’s bite and the person who is bitten also influence the resulting sore.
While fairly rare, some people have or develop severe reactions and symptoms from bed bug bites. Serious symptoms that require medical attention include:
- difficulty breathing
- feeling nauseous or flu-like
- swollen tongue
- irregular heartbeat
Living with bed bugs can cause additional health complications:
- Increased likelihood of infection: Due to the skin’s surface being compromised.
- Sleep deprivation: The idea of being fed on can be extremely stressful. Given that the bugs only feed at night, some people will avoid sleep or will only get fitful or restless sleep.
- Decreased wellbeing: A continual lack of sleep has been linked to feelings of depression, anxiety, general fatigue, and lowered immune function. The misconceptions surrounding bed bugs, especially the mistaken association with lack of cleanliness, can add to feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
There are relatively few treatments options when it comes to uncomplicated bed bug bites.
The first recommended line of treatment involves cleaning the wound, ideally with soap and water.
For itchy bites, the following may relieve minor symptoms:
- over-the-counter hydrocortisone, which can be purchased online.
- anti-itch creams
Most wounds heal on their own within a week, sometimes two.
If severe swelling, inflammation, or itchiness occurs or persists, a person should seek medical attention.
A dramatic immune response may be a sign of an allergic reaction. If this is the case, one of the following may need to be administered:
- an injectable corticosteroid
- epinephrine medication
If infection occurs, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Severe itchiness may result in further complications, such as infection or scarring. If severe itching is experienced, people may be prescribed corticosteroid creams and antihistamine pills or liquid.
One way to help prevent exposure and potential infestations by bed bugs is to be able to recognize bed bugs and distinguish them from other pests.
In a 2017 study, some 35 percent of polled American business travellers and 28 percent of leisure travellers were unable to tell a bed bug apart from other household pests.
Common characteristics of nymphs (young bed bugs) include:
- being less than than 5 mm in length
- whitish-yellow and or clear-colored
- invisible without a microscope or magnifying glass
The nymphs are easier to see if they have just feed when the blood fills their abdomen, giving it a reddish brown color.
Adult bed bugs are typically far easier to spot than nymphs. Identifiable characteristics of most adult bed bugs include:
- an oval-shaped body
- apple seed in size
- a body that is fairly flat unless recently fed and inflated
- reddish-brown to light-brown or tan color of shell, depending on how recently it fed
- a length of 5-7 millimeters (mm)
- three segments, an antenna with four parts, short yellow hairs, and unusable wings
- a musty or stale-sweet scent released by glands on the underbelly
Controlling bed bugs needs the identification and complete removal or destruction of the pest’s eggs.
On average, one female can produce at least 345 eggs over her lifetime. Egg-laying females often increase the volume and frequency of feeding to support their brood.
Common characteristics and signs of bed bug eggs include:
- they are often laid in the same places where the female choses to rest
- they resemble tiny barrel-shaped, pearl-colored specks, no bigger than the head of a pin
- they develop a noticeable eye spot after a few days
The key to preventing bed bug bites is to stop the insects entering, feeding, and breeding in human environments.
In the daytime, bed bugs often seek refuge in the cracks and crevices of furniture, flooring, walls, and mattresses.
The seams and folds of upholstered furniture can also offer an ideal hiding place. Bed bugs have been known to persist in vacuum canisters or units.
The insects tend to pick hiding spots near human sleeping quarters, including bedrooms. Bed bugs found in other rooms are usually a sign of a severe infestation.
Areas where bed bug infestations commonly occur include:
- apartment or condominium buildings
- large office spaces
- vacation rentals
- cruise ships
- nursing homes
- college dormitories or housing units
- public transportation, including airplanes
- shopping malls
- furniture or second hand stores
- urban areas
- rented homes
Items commonly responsible for spreading bed bugs include:
- used or secondhand furniture
- new furniture or textiles exposed to bed bugs during transit
- items of luggage
- chairs or loungers where people fall asleep
- bedding or bed clothes
- moving or storage boxes
- shipped items, especially if held at several locations or warehouses
Bed bugs do not have a preference between sanitary, messy, or unsanitary conditions.
They can, however, be found at higher rates in places, such as hotels, if infestations are not properly cleared.