Bed bugs are a nuisance that millions of people struggle with. If you are currently dealing with a bed bug infestation, you may also find yourself covered in bites. These bugs feed off human blood, leaving bites, rashes, and skin irritation on their hosts.
In this article, you will learn how to stop bed bug bites from itching and why they itch in the first place.
What do bed bugs and their bites look like?
While bed bugs are small, they are visible to the human eye. The average size of a bed bug is about five millimeters. They have a flat, oval-shaped body and may appear reddish-brown or light brown in color.
It is common to detect just one or two of these small bugs during an infestation. However, most people first detect a bed bug problem due to the bites.
You can get the bites anywhere on your body. However, bed bug bites are most commonly found in areas that are more exposed during the night, such as your legs, arms, and face.
The bites often produce a small, red mark on the skin, with a darker red center. And the bites may be grouped together or appear in a line.
Common symptoms of bed bug bites
The symptoms of bed bug bites vary. Some individuals experience rashes or general irritation. While others experience extremely itchy skin since bed bug bites are quite itchy. And you may not even notice the bites immediately, as the symptoms often take several days to appear.
Bed bugs do not need to feed every night. After a full meal, they may wait several days before eating again. This inconsistency may cause some individuals to assume that the bites are caused by a random critter, such as a spider.
One to three days after getting bit, the skin around the bite may become itchy or you may notice a burning sensation. However, most people do not experience any additional symptoms, unless they are allergic to the bed bug bites.
Those with a bed bug bite allergy are more likely to experience a few extra symptoms besides the itchiness. The bite marks may appear larger and be more painful. An allergic reaction may also cause a rash to break out and in extreme cases, may cause anaphylactic shock.
The itchiness should pass within a few days, even without any treatment. If there is an allergic reaction, taking an antihistamine may help relieve the symptoms. For severe cases, medical assistance from either a physician or dermatologist may be needed.
Understanding the cause of the itching
Now that we know a little more about bed bug bites, let’s take at why do they itch and how long will the itchiness last!
Why do bed bug bites itch?
The itching is your body reacting to the bug bite. Most people have a mild reaction to the saliva left behind by the bed bug after it feeds. However, for people with a bed bug bite allergy, the reaction can be more severe.
When a bed bug bites you, it excretes an anesthetic to numb the skin and prevent irritation, so that you do not detect the bite immediately. They also inject an anticoagulant to help prevent blood from clotting. This allows them to feed quickly and efficiently before crawling off your body.
The anesthetic eventually wears off, allowing your skin to react to the saliva. This produces an inflammatory response to fight off the threat, which typically results in itchiness or a burning sensation.
How long do bed bug bites itch for?
When you avoid scratching the bites, the irritation may go away within one or two days. However, scratching can inflame the bites, increasing the itchiness and delaying recovery.
Another danger of scratching is developing an infection. When you scratch the bites, you may end up with a skin infection that may require additional treatment.
How to stop bed bug bites from itching
The itchiness can be hard to ignore. Luckily, there are several ways to relieve some of the irritation!
Some of the best ways to stop bed bugs from itching are:
- Using a topical cream with mild medication, such as corticosteroid cream. These ointments are available without a prescription at most drug stores.
- Using soap and water to wash the skin around the bite marks. This can help reduce some of the itchiness as well as lower the risk of the skin becoming infected from scratching it.
- Applying a cold compress. Applying an ice pack to the irritated skin can help numb the affected area of your skin which will keep you from scratching the bite.
And although these steps may help you control the itchiness and the urge to itch the bites, you will not stop the bites without dealing with the bed bugs.
Additional ways to detect bed bugs
Besides the itchy bites, there are other signs of a bed bug infestation.
If you notice bites on your skin, you should search your home or apartment for the presence of bed bugs. The most common bed bug hiding spots are mattresses and bedding. However, you may also find them in curtains, carpeting, or under your furniture.
While bed bugs are visible, you may not always see them. Instead of the bugs, you may find their droppings or eggs. The eggs are translucent or milky-white, while the droppings often look like small black dots.
Stop the infestation to stop the bites
The best way to deal with bed bug bites is to treat the infestation! Because, when you get rid of the bed bugs, you will stop the bites from occurring in the first place.
Bed bug infestations are difficult to treat on your own. In most cases, you will need professional assistance from a pest control company to eradicate the bugs and their eggs.
In the meantime, you can attempt to relieve the itchiness from the bites by applying a topical cream such as a corticosteroid cream or taking an antihistamine that can help neutralize the irritation. And you should also avoid scratching the bites, which can make them itch even more and increase the risk of an infection.