Great at hiding and having a big appetite for human blood, bed bugs are a major and growing problem for homeowners, renters, and businesses across the country. Their bites may go unnoticed or cause annoying itches or allergic reactions. Many of the bed bug experts focus on complicated and expensive ways to eradicate them, ranging from extensive pesticide treatments to blasting your home with intense heat.
The American Academy of Dermatology has a lot of useful information on dealing with bed bug bites. Here we will focus on the facts of treating bed bug bites at all extremes. First you need to recognize you’ve been bitten by one, which is not easy. That’s because these insect bites look much like others.
You might not be able to tell the difference from a mosquito bite. They’re also commonly mistaken for spider or flea bites. Some even mistake them for typical rashes or hives, or even conditions such as chicken pox.
Signs of a possible bed bug bite include:
- Swollen reddish areas on the skin.
- Multiple welts that form in a line or in a zigzag pattern.
- Intense itching.
- Secondary skin infections.
Bed bug bites may appear on the hands, face, neck, arms, or legs. They can take a few days to show, or it might be as long as 14 days for you to see signs of a bite (with multiple bites, welts may form in seconds). That’s also why it’s hard to tell one type of bug bite from another.
What to Do
How to treat bed bug bites depends on the reaction, since everyone responds differently. Chances are, you won’t have to do anything, especially if there’s just a red mark and a slight itch. These go away in a week or two most of the time. You may not even have an itch if it’s the first time you’ve been bitten.
Sometimes, reactions don’t develop for quite some time. Larger itchy welts can take a few days to start. It might not get worse than that, but there are things to look out for. Allergic reactions and infections will require treatment.
If the only symptoms are redness and itching, an over-the-counter itch remedy cream may do the trick. Try not to scratch too much until the swelling and redness go away.
Seeking Medical Treatment
Bed bugs don’t transmit disease and most people don’t have a bad reaction to bites. If there is a large number of bites, or you develop blisters or an infection, then treatment by a dermatologist is needed. The exact treatment depends on your reaction. A simple allergy can be alleviated using an antihistamine or corticosteroid. In severe cases, you may get an injection of epinephrine, a form of adrenaline used in people with anaphylaxis or other severe reactions.
If an infection develops, a dermatologist could prescribe an antibiotic or antiseptic medication. In some cases, antiseptics can be purchased without a prescription. The goal may be to prevent an infection if your skin is really irritated.
For itching that is severe enough, you may want to seek a doctor’s advice. Prescription antihistamine pills are good at reducing itching and are sometimes sold in liquid form. There are also many types of corticosteroids; a dermatologist can prescribe or direct you to the best one for the problem.
Can I Treat Bed Bug Bites Myself?
You can treat these bites at home if there’s no serious reaction. Simply wash the bite area with soap and water, which can take away some of the itchiness, but also prevent infections. Anti-itch creams can be found in drugstores if you don’t need something really strong. Bed bug bites are usually a very minor problem compared to the presence of the insects.
Focus on Prevention
Treating bed bug bites is usually simple. Your efforts should go toward preventing an infestation in the first place. Avoid clutter and frequently vacuum and clean your home. Periodically check for the insects and take action as soon as you see signs of their presence. If they don’t appear, then you won’t be looking for how to treat bed bug bites.
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