Have bed bugs been snacking on your blood as you sleep? If so, you likely have the bite marks to prove it. Bed bug bites are most commonly found on areas of the body that are exposed during sleep, such as the arms, legs, hands, neck, and face. They most often appear as small red welts in small clusters or zigzag lines. Along with the reddened skin, the bites are often accompanied by localized itching. Bed bug bites do not typically require any treatment, but there are things you can do to speed up the healing process.
Keep the Area Clean
Bed bugs drink blood from warm-blooded hosts as a form of nourishment. They tend to strike when the host is asleep, and feed by piercing the skin with an elongated beak in which they use to draw blood. As bed bugs leave behind bacteria on the skin, it’s essential to thoroughly clean and maintain the broken skin.
Directly after discovering the bed bug bites on your skin, gently wash the area with mild soap and water. Use a bar soap and lather a generous amount in your hands. Apply a layer of the lather over the bed bug bites and allow the soap to dry. The soap film offers immediate relief from itching, and can help to deter infection.
Relieve the Itch
Anyone who has ever been bitten by bed bugs know that the bites can lead to incessant itching. This intense itching is caused by bed bug salvia that is left on the skin after a feeding session. While not everyone experiences itching, those that do may scratch at the skin, increasing their risk of infection and prolonged healing.
There are many over-the-counter products and home remedies that are effective at reliving itchiness associated with bug bites. For fast relief, apply a steroidal anti-itch cream containing cortisone or hydrocortisone to reduce itching and inflammation. A homemade anti-itch concoction can be made from a paste of water and baking soda.
Take an Antihistamine
Some bed bug bite victims display no symptoms at all, while others suffer in the form of an allergic reaction. Those who experience allergic reactions may notice itchy wheals around a tiny puncture hole, or may develop blister-like rashes at the bite site. Scratching at the rash can result in a secondary, often serious, skin infection.
When asking your physician how to heal bed bug bites, he or she may recommend taking an oral antihistamine. Prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines work by controlling the allergic reaction and associated symptoms like rash and swelling. Some antihistamines also come in a cream form for topical treatment of the affected area.
Consult a Doctor
Bed bug bites take an average of three to six weeks to heal, according to the National Pest Management Association. If your bites do not heal on their own, schedule an appointment with your doctor to have the bites examined. This is especially true if you have multiple bites, or bites that have formed into blisters.
You’ll also want to consult a doctor if you develop a skin infection related to the bites. Common signs of a skin infection include tenderness at the bite site, oozing discharge, reddened or swollen skin, or the development of hives. A secondary infection is usually caused by excessive scratching.
Eliminate the Source
While you may heal your existing bed bug bites, you’re bound to acquire more if you fail to eradicate the pests from your home. To get rid of bed bugs, you must clean all bedding, curtains, linens, and clothing in hot water and dry them at the highest setting available. Vacuum your mattress thoroughly and encase it in a zippered cover.
If you’re dealing with an infestation, you’ll want to call in the professionals to get rid of the bugs before they have the opportunity to continue breeding. Bed bug exterminators typically use chemicals or heat to kill live bed bugs and eggs. The process usually takes just a few hours, allowing you to return to your pest-free home as quickly as possible.