Go to Cole Home Maintenance home page

Go to insect index



How To Medically Treat Bed Bug Bites

( Copyright 2012 Shawn Cole. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.).

Cole Home Maintenance is an exterminator Located in Palatine and serving towns in
Lake County, Cook County, Mc Henry County, Du Page County, Kane County
630-306-7925
$60.00 to spray up to a 2 bedroom apt for bed bugs


At the end of the article there are instructions for the care and  treatment for bed bug bites. 

Also included are home-made    and over-the-counter treatments for bed bug bites

 
Bed bug bites not only cause psychological distress -- but also cause large, red bite marks on the body of the victim.  These bites itch and look awful.  The victim scratches the bite marks and the marks look worse.  People are suffering!   People spend a lot of money going to  doctors to diagnose what is wrong with them.  It is not easy for doctors to determine what the person has  bed bug bites.


The bite pattern is known in science as "breakfast, lunch and dinner feeding".  The victim does not feel the bites because bed bugs inject a small amount of anesthetic into the bite would before they  start to feed.  This causes the victim to not feel the bites. 

These bite marks may not appear immediately after a bed bug infestation.  Some people do not react as much as other people.  It is common for one person to suffer with red bites marks and rashes.  Another person may only have small marks.  Some scientists believe that people who drink alcohol beverages  show less signs of bite marks.  There is not much information on the subject. 

One Person is Bitten -- the Other Person is Not

If there are two people sleeping in the same bed, it is possible that one person is being bitten and the  other person is not.  This is  probably due to the fact that the infestation is only on one side of the bed mattress.       It may also mean that one person has been drinking alcoholic beverages and the bed bug prefers the other person who has not consumed the alcoholic beverage.    There is no strict rule.   There is very little research on the subject.

Some people do not have a strong reaction to bed bug bites.  Some people have a very strong reaction.  People react differently from each other.  Some react quickly.  Some people seem to have a delayed reaction and can go for months without showing signs of bite marks and rashes.      This is why it is  difficult for doctors to determine what is happening to you.  It is estimated that 20% to 30% of the people  do not have a reaction to bed bug bites. 

What to Look for on Your Mattress

Bed bugs are very tiny when they first hatch from the egg.  People need a magnifying glass to see them.   When the bed bugs are as large as an apple seed, the infestation is approximately  five (5) months old.   Look at your mattress.    .  If you have bed bugs -- you will see the bed bug droppings.

The droppings will look like fine, black pepper on your mattress.  These droppings will be in the seams of your mattress.  They could be under your mattress.  The older bed bugs leave the "shell " of their  body as they grow.  The older the infestation -- the more shells you will see.  There will be  spots of blood on your mattress.  Every time a bed bug feeds -- the bed bug ejects the old blood from the previous  bite to make room for the new blood.  That causes blood spots on the mattress. 

How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?

"This is a difficult question to answer. It depends on how severely you have been bitten.  It also  depends on how sensitive you are to the bed bug bites.  Normally the bed bug bites last one (1) week.  In rare cases they can last much longer.  Normally the bed bug bite marks will appear three (3) days to one (1) week after you have been bitten.

Never scratch the bed bug bites.  Scratching will make the bites much worse.  Scratching can also  cause an infection on your skin.  Children suffer and will continue to scratch their skin after you tell them not to scratch.  Keep an eye on them and make sure they do not infect the bite marks.  If they do -- seek medical help immediately.

If you choose to treat the bed bug bites yourself -- be aware that you should see a doctor if the  rash and  bites do not get better.  Most bed bugs bites do not get severe.   The bites last three (3)  to five (5) days.    Some bed bug bites last up to ten (10) days.  If the bites do not get better -- see your doctor.    There are some people who receive a severe reaction to the bed bug bites.  These need medical attention. 

What to Do  After Being Bitten

Soap and Water

Wash the bed bug bites with antiseptic soap and some warm water as soon as you discover them.    The bed bug  dribbles a liquid that contains chemicals which cause allergic reaction in your body.   It is this allergic  reaction that cause the pain and  itchy feeling on each bite area.   It is important to wash off the bed bug  liquid as soon as possible.

It is also important to wash and dry the clothing that you use when you sleep.   This liquid is on that clothing.     Always use fresh clothing to sleep in the next night to eliminate spreading any bed bug dribble onto a new area of your skin.

Ice Bags

Some people experience swelling on the bite area.  Applying ice bags will help reduce the swelling.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look  Like?

The most common question that people ask is:  What do bed but bites look like"   Bed bug bites resemble mosquito bites.  They are small bite that leave a red mark and a bump on your skin. 

The most important feature is that the bites are in a group of three (3) to five (5) bites.  These bites are in a straight line on your skin.    This is caused by the way that bed bugs feed.   They pierce your skin and suck blood.   Then they move  forward and again pierce your skin.   They will do this several times until they are finished.   This causes the distinctive bite pattern.

The following are the signs of bed bug bites

The symptoms are often diagnosed as mosquito or a flea bites at first.  A bed bug bite has the distinguished pattern of biting in a row and does not have a red dot at the center of the bite.

The bed bug bite can also start an anaphylactic shock in some victims that are severely allergic.  It is rare. 

These bites itch.  Scratching the bite can cause secondary skin and other infection throughout the body.  If any of these symptoms appear, see your doctor immediately.

If the bed bugs are in your hair, the bites will probably be on your face.   Bed bugs do not have claws.  The bed bugs will crawl through your hair until they find your face.  This is how many people discover the bed bugs bites on their face.    The bed bugs may have crawled onto your pillow.  Then they crawl on your face that is laying on the pillow.   It is a common way that people have bed bug bites on their face.


The Bed Bug Saliva Contains Proteins that Irritate Your Skin

It is the proteins in the bed bug's saliva that cause the bite reaction on your skin.  Your reaction to that liquid and protein causes the large red welts and bite marks.   Some people have reported that the bites have a white mark or depression in the center, though this is not common.  The bite marks look different from another person's bite marks.  This makes it difficult for the  doctor to determine what is happening to you.   If you suspect that you have bed bugs,  tell your doctor.


Length of Time Needed to Heal

The length of time to heal the bed bug bites lasts from a few days to a few weeks.  The severity of the symptoms depends on the victim's immune system.   Any symptoms that last more than three (3) weeks may require medical attention.

Wash and Dry Your Sheets and Bedding Often

It is very important to wear clean pajamas every night.  You do not want any liquid from any previous bed but bites to be on your clothing and then on your skin.    Wash bedding and clothing that you sleep in in hot water and dry in  a hot dryer every day if you can.     If you cannot wash the clothing and bedding every day, put the used  bedding and clothing in a plastic bag and seal the  top until you can wash and dry the clothing.   Bed bugs may in in the seams of the clothing.  They may have laid eggs in the seams of the clothing.  Wear different clothing each night.

Problems for Health Inspectors and Exterminators

Health inspectors and exterminators look for signs of a bed bug infestation.   The victim may be telling  them that they are being bitten.  When the exterminator and inspector cannot find the bed bugs, it  does not mean that the bed bugs are not present.  It may mean the infestation is very new and the  evidence is not visible yet on the mattress. 

When bed bugs hatch from the egg, they are so small the  inspector and/or exterminator would need a magnifying glass to see them.  Both the health inspector  and the exterminator should keep this in mind when investigating a bed bug infestation. 

Bed Bug Complications

Frequently bed bugs are not easily seen.  These are usually new infestations.  By the time you see the blood marks and small bed  bugs the size of an apple seed, the infestation has been  in your room for months.  In an older infestation, you may even start to smell a sweet odor that may remind you of raspberries.  This is also how some exterminators  use bed bug sniffing dogs to detect an infestation.   This is the  smell that the dogs detect.

People worry about possible bed bug bite diseases that bed bugs could transmit.   As of the latest  research, there is no evidence that the pathogens inside bed bugs are transmitted to the victim.    This is the reason that bed bugs do not pose a critical health threat to humans.  However, medical attention continues to  be focused on bed bug bite symptoms and treatment of the bites.  More research needs to be done.

Bed Bug Myths

Bed Bugs are Methodical When They Feed

Bed bugs have a predictable feeding pattern.  Once a bed bug finds a host, it will usually feed for 5 to 10 minutes until it is finished.  Bed bugs take one feeding and then move in a straight line forward and then bite again.  They do this three  (3)  to five (5) times in a row before finishing its feeding.

Bed bugs don't wake up its human host when it feeds.  The bed bug has a component in its saliva that acts as an anesthetic and promote increased blood flow at the bite site.  This component makes your blood flow easier and you do not wake up when bitten.

After feeding the bed bugs move to a secluded place and hide for 5 to 10 days.  During this time they  digest their blood meal, mate and lay eggs.  Bed bugs can become adults within 30 days of hatching and be capable of laying eggs themselves.  This is why it is so important to call an exterminator as soon  as possible after discovering the infestation.  Bed bugs can increase their population very fast and infest apartments and condos and homes that are attached to the first infestation so fast they can spread throughout the entire building structure.

Bug Bombs are the Worst Thing to Use

It is also important to know that when an exterminator starts the process to eradicate bed bugs, the bed bugs can move into the cracks and crevices, into the walls and into the adjacent condo or apartment.   This happens frequently when an exterminator starts to spray for cockroaches.   It is not uncommon for an  exterminator to spray only one (1) apartment for cockroaches and the tenants in the adjacent apartments find dead cockroaches in their apartment too.    The cockroaches received a lethal amount of pesticides and ran  into the inside of the walls and into the adjacent apartment. 

Some tenants and owners think that going to the hardware store and buying a canister of aerosol bug bomb spray will solve the problem.  Some of the "bug bombs" that you light and fill the apartment with gas even state on the label that they eliminate bed bugs.   The only thing that these canisters do is cause the bed bugs to run through the cracks and crevices and into the adjacent structure.   You have now spread the initial infestation to other attached apartments and townhouses and condos.  

The same problem occurs when homeowners try to use these canister smoke bombs to rid their home of cockroaches.  The cockroaches run away , through  cracks and crevices, under baseboards and into the walls.  Then they travel to the other attached homes and apartments.


 
Do-it-yourself "bombs" or "foggers"
    Susan Jones is an entomologist and household and structural pest specialist with Ohio state university extension has written an article in the 2012  issue of the journal of economics entomology, a peer reviewed publication of the entomological society of America. Jones stated that bug bombs rarely kill bud bugs and cause them to scatter into areas you wouldn't usually fine them such as your kitchen or bathroom.
In the study, Jones evaluated three different fogger brands commonly found in stores. Jones found that there was little or any adverse effect on the bed bugs. Jones stated that even if the bed bugs come in contact with the foggers, most will survive. Jones concluded that the foggers are a waste of money and will delay effective treatment of your infestation.


There have been so many homeowners and tenants trying to solve the bed bug problem themselves, so much so that bed bugs are becoming tolerant to the chemicals in these over-the-counter products.     The  store bought foggers are also unable to penetrate the  cracks and crevices in furniture and  walls where bed bugs hide and live.    

These foggers can also cause the bed bugs to travel into the walls and move to another adjacent apartment, building and condo.

The Centers for Disease  Control and Prevention issued a report that in 2008 there were 466 fogger related injuries or illnesses.  The most common illness effects were headaches, nausea and coughing.   The problem occurred because people did not leave the room fast enough and inhaled the chemicals emitted from the canisters.     These canisters are also dangerous.  They are also flammable.

You Have Bed Bugs and Bites

What You Should Do First

Over-the-Counter Products to Relieve Itching

Here are some over-the-counter products that will help relieve the itching.  No prescription is needed.  All drug stores have them in the store.  Gently pat these products on the bed bug bites.  Some products will work better than  on some people than other people.  Soak a ball of soft cloth or cotton ball and pat the skin with these products.

These products are a natural astringent.  They will dry out the area and help the bug bite to dry.  Gently pat the area with a clean cotton cloth or cotton ball to help dry the rash and relieve the itching.


Here is a list of medications that can be found in all drug stores -- No prescription is needed

Calamine Lotion


Calamine lotion is an old remedy for bug bites and rashes.  It is called a topical lotion -- meaning you put it directly on your skin.  If the bites or rash is very severe and starts to blister -- you can also put an anti-itch cream that contains hydro-cortisone or cortisone.  Be sure to test a small patch of skin to determine your sensitivity to the these creams.  Your doctor can do a patch test for sensitivity to cortisone.

Home-Made Remedies for Itching and Bug Bites

Baking Soda and Water

Make a paste of baking soda and water.  Use a bowl and add baking soda.  Add enough water to make a paste that will stick to the skin.  Apply the paste to the bed bug bites.  Allow the paste to dry and stay on the rash for an hour or more.  Then wash the area gently with warm water.

Oatmeal Bath and Soaking the Infected Area With a Cloth

This is an old-fashioned remedy for relieving itchy rashes.  Put water in your bath tub and put in a box of oatmeal in the  water.  You can also mix oatmeal with warm water in a bowl and soak a small cloth in it.   Then put the cloth on your bed bug bites to receive relief from the redness and itching.  Soaking a cloth is a better use of the oatmeal that putting it into a lot of water and then down the drain.

Aloe Plant Gel

The Aloe plant is a house plant that many people grow in their house.  The gel from the inside of  the plant can be used to put on burns and bug bites.  The gel contains a natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties.  .  Aloe is contained in hundreds of products from tissue for your nose to cream to relieve itching and burns.

Drug stores sell tubes of pure aloe gel if  you do not want to grow the plant.   An 8-ounce tube sells for about $1.50

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is an old treatment  to relieve itching.   This product is found in drug stores and health food stores.  TO USE:  fill the tub with warm water and add 1/2 cup of peppermint oil.  Soak in the water to relive itching.

Mint

Mint is pretty well known for containing menthol.  Menthol can be used as a remedy for helping relieve inflammation.  You can take the mint leaves to make a tea.  Drain out the water and use a cotton ball to apply the tea to your bed bug bites.  This is known to  relieve the itching from bed bug bites.

Basil

Basil is listed in the Free Dictionary: Medical dictionary for it as ability to relieve pain because it numbs the nerves.  It is also an analgesic and antiseptic.  It is often used to relieve dental pain when used  topically.  To use basil to stop bed bug itching, you can either use basil essential oil or make a paste with  dried basil leaves.  Then apply the paste to the bed bug bite to relieve itching.  If you use the  essential oil, dab it on with the cotton ball and then apply on the bed bug bite.

To make your own basil paste for bed bug itching, you can either add basil to a baking soda - water mixture or dampen the basil and apply under a compress.

Honey and Cinnamon

Both of these products have unique properties which will help relieve the itch from bed bugs.  Honey is an amazing product that can help relieve an allergic reaction from the bed bite.  Honey first moisturizes the  skin and reduces the chance that the bed bug bite will become dry, cracked and turn into an open sore that could get infected.  Honey is also known to help a wound  heal faster.  

Cinnamon is known as a prostaglandin inhibitor .   Simply make a paste of the honey and cinnamon.  The two ingredients can be applied topically to the rash / bite to relieve inflammation, soothe itchiness and pain.

Lavender Oil

Lavender can be used to help relieve the itching from bed bug bites.    Lavender oil can be purchased at health food stores or on the internet.  Apply the lavender oil to a clean cotton ball or cloth and apply to the skin.   This oil can relieve itching.

Witch Hazel

The witch hazel you find in a drug store that is used as a liquid astringent to remove make-up and cleaning the face is not the best type of witch hazel to use on bed bug bites.  Find the brand of witch hazel that contains the active ingredient that helps stop the itching and reduce the redness of the bed bug bite  Look for the  witch hazel that has the ingredient TANNIN.    Witch hazel is an ingredient in hemorrhoids creams that relieve swelling.  It is also  in some hydrocortisone products. 

True witch  hazel is the type with high levels of TANNIN.  This not only kills the pain -- it also shrinks tissue which makes it perfect to reduce the size of the bed bug bites.    You can get the liquid and make your own pads by soaking pads in which hazel and then sealing them in a zip lock bag for use on your skin.