Treating Bedbug Bites
This is the thing people are usually most concerned about when they find out they've got bed bugs: how do they stop that itching, and are the bites dangerous?
First of all, it's important to know that not everybody reacts to the bites in the same way. A lot of people don't feel or notice them at all - you're bitten when you're asleep, and the bed bug will inject a chemical into the bite that stops the blood from clotting and keeps you from feeling it. Many people are allergic to this chemical - if you're itching, or seeing a reaction on your skin, then you're one of them. Most people's allergies are mild in the sense that they aren't dangerous. It's highly annoying, and your skin will itch like crazy, but it is extremely rare for anyone to have a serious health problem based on a bed bug bite (though there have been a few cases where people have gone into shock. Obviously, if you see something that seems like it's a more serious symptom than itching you need to see a doctor).
How do I know for sure that what's on my skin is a bed bug bite?
It's actually pretty hard to tell, because they can look like little bumps, a rash, or just reddish skin. There's nothing really distinctive about them, and many doctors misdiagnose them as some other skin condition. They're basically just an allergic reaction, so they could look like a lot of different skin conditions.
Here's one example of what they could look like - a bunch of little red welts (thanks to Martin for giving permission to use the photo):
Here's another one, this time thanks to Andrew. You can see in the picture below that the bites could easily be confused with a rash:
The ones below are being used with the permission of Caryn, who has blogged all about her repeated infestations of bed bugs here. They are another good example of how the bites can look completely different depending on the person. They just look like little bumps or welts, and are more pink than red.
If you've got your own pictures of bed bug bites, and are willing to have them up on a website to help people identify them, feel free to send them in.
Bed Bug Bites on African-Americans
One thing several readers have noted: the bites will look somewhat different if you are black, or otherwise have a darker skin color. They may not look as red because the skin tone is slightly different. Some readers have sent in pictures to show what they can look like on black skin to help people who aren't Caucasian to identify them.
Thanks to NaSchelle for this picture, which shows what the bites can look like on your arm (they're still raised and have swelling, but you can't really see any redness).
Here's some close-up pictures (thanks to Valerie, who is also black):
You can see they look similar, but slightly different - while they can cause raised bumps like on white skin, the redness does not come through as clearly.
How do I stop the itching?
You'll need to get rid of the bed bugs, which the rest of this site will tell you how to do. In the meantime, you should focus on trying to keep from getting bitten and using products that will alleviate the itchy feeling. One that will help out some is called Corticool, which is a cream that relieves itching from insect bites and that you can buy over the counter. Other people say that taking Benadryl or using calimine lotion will help with it. Of course, that won't stop you from actually being bitten. Some people have gone to extreme lengths like sleeping on the kitchen table (that would probably help reduce the number of bites, but they can still find you). A couple of less extreme remedies:
1) Use double-sided tape and make a line around the side of your bed, at the top of the mattress. You can buy it online here. This is a cheap way to make a bed bug trap - any ones that try to climb across to get at you will stick to it.
2) Sterifab is a good stopgap solution until you can bring an exterminator in. It's a spray bottle product that is effective at killing them. You'd never get them all with it, but reducing the number of them helps reduce the number of times you're bitten. It also lingers and keeps killing for a day or so after you spray it, so it can keep working overnight.
When are these bites going to go away?
That could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It depends on how allergic you are to them. Some people are really allergic and will have them for a lot longer. Most of the time, the itching will stop first and the bite mark will gradually disappear.
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