Bed bugs are the nastiest and most stubborn type of household parasites that you can find. Not only are these insects very adept at hiding but they have now become immune to certain chemicals that once were very effective at killing them.
Bed bugs also tend to bite a lot. Although they are not known to carry any dangerous diseases, their bites can result in relatively large welts that can be very itchy and irritating for many days.
In this guide, we shall study the effect of bed bug bites and how to treat them. To do that, however, we first need to find out how bed bugs feed and how long does it take for a bed bug infestation to manifest.
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How Do Bed Bugs Feed
Bed bugs are parasites and feed on blood. Although they can feed on any animal, human blood is their most favored diet. Bed bugs feed on humans by piercing their skin with their sharp and long beak-like proboscis to draw blood from their victim. In order to not make their prey aware of them, bed bugs excrete saliva at the same time. The saliva contains anesthesia that numbs the wound and an anticoagulant that keeps the blood from clotting. This allows the bed bugs to drink from the host as long as they want without waking us up.
The bed bug saliva is the reason why a large majority of bed bug bites become red and inflamed.
When Do Bed Bug Bite?
Like most blood-feeding animals, bed bugs are nocturnal and usually come out during the night. While it is still possible to see an errant bug crawling on your bed sheet in early mornings, during the day, bed bugs prefer to hide inside cracks, crevices, nooks and crannies, cracks in the walls, the seams and inside of your mattress, your pillows, and your box springs. One of their most favorite places is hiding inside mattresses and cracks in the bed as it allows them easy access to their victims.
When people go to sleep at night, these bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide that humans breathe out. They follow their lure and bite their victims. If a bed bug is especially hungry, it may even venture out in the day time and bite any humans reclining on the bed. Under these circumstances, it may also feed on any animal that is occupying the bed.
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
Bed bug bites can easily be mistaken for other small insect bites like mosquitoes and fleas. All of these insects can cause small round bumps on human skin. However, bed bug bites have a few characteristics that can help tell them apart.
The first step in identifying a bed bug bite is to make sure that you are looking at a bite and not just a scratch or a puncture wound from some object. Bed bug bites appear in the form of inflamed and red welts, which are circular with irregularly shaped boundaries. It usually has a darker spot in the center, which marks the site where the bed bug’s proboscis entered your skin. The outer circle is a lighter red compared to the middle.
Bed bug bites are usually clustered together in straight or zigzag lines along the exposed surface of your arms, legs, and face but these insects can also crawl beneath your clothes and bite your back and abdomen.
Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites
Almost all bed bug bite results in severe itchiness and a slight burning sensation. People who are allergic to insect bites may have more severe reactions. The bites may look more enlarged and inflamed. They may also experience hives and blisters around the affected areas.
In some cases, if the rash is severe enough, it can develop into popular eruptions or pustules which are filled with fluid. There have been a tiny number of reports of people suffering from breathing problems, slight fever, flu-like symptoms, swollen mouth and tongue, and irregular heartbeats. Fortunately, these kinds of reactions are extremely rare.
People may also find dead bed bugs flattened by their bodies when they turn over during the night or small spots of blood on their clothing form the bite. There may also be reddish brown spots on the bedding that may indicate bed bug droppings.
How Long Does it Take For Bed Bug Bites to Appear?
Interestingly, unlike many other bites, many people may not feel the effects of a bed bug bite for several days. Some people may not notice they have been bitten at all, while others may notice a burning sensation within a few hours of the bite. A bed bug bite can take up to 14 days to appear, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That makes it even more difficult to diagnose as there is no way of knowing if, when, or where you were bitten.
As mentioned above, many people do not feel the bite at all, while some people who are hypersensitive may develop severe reactions. But the vast majority of the population experiences the relatively mild reaction of the welt with a slight burning sensation and itchiness. In this case, the symptoms usually occur a few hours after the bite and can progress over the next few days.
How Long Do Bed Bug Bite Last?
The time it takes for a bed bug bite to go away varies from person to person. Usually, a bed bug bite may take one or two weeks to heal and will not cause any serious, long term issues. With some home remedies or over-the-counter drugs, you can easily speed up the healing process. However, for some people, a bed bug bite can last for around a month.
Since bed bug bites are extremely itchy, people often tend to scratch them. Although this may give them temporary relief, scratching can damage the affected area and may cause bleeding. If the wound opens, bacteria may spread, posing risk for secondary infections. It will also make it longer for the bed bug bite to heal.
Similarly, people who have an allergic reaction may find that a bed bug bite takes longer to go away since it is larger and more inflamed.
In short, there are many things that you can do to make the bite heal quicker (explained in detail below). On the other hand, other things, like scratching, can make the bed bug bite worse!
Can Bed Bug Bites Result in Scar?
One good thing about bed bug bites is that they do not leave any scar if not aggravated. Usually, bed bug bites heal within a couple of weeks, even without the use of medication or home remedies. Scarring is extremely rare.
How to Alleviate Symptoms and Get Rid of Bed Bug Bites Quickly?
Fortunately, there are many ways to lessen the symptoms of bed bug bites and help your skin heal faster. Naturally, you cannot expect the bite mark to fade within a day but these home remedies and over-the-counter medications can help accelerate the healing process.
Clean the Area
As with all bites, make sure you wash the affected area with antibacterial soap and some warm water. Just keeping the bite clean may hasten the recovery process and make your bite mark fade quickly.
Even if you experience intense itching, refrain from scratching! Instead, put a cold compress on it. You can make a cold compress by taking some ice cubes, wrapping them up in a thin towel and applying it to the site of the bite. Keep the pressure on the bite for periods of 30 seconds. The cold will numb the area, making it less inflamed. Whenever you get the urge to itch, apply ice to the bite instead.
Lemon Juice and Honey
Lemon juice is a natural astringent and has anti-inflammatory properties. Mix some lemon juice in honey and apply the paste to the bite. It can limit itching and promote healing. Do not apply lemon juice to open sores as it can worsen the situation.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and anti-itching properties, which can help lessen the irritation. Pour some apple cider vinegar onto a ball of cotton wool and apply it to the affected area to promote healing.
When it comes to insect bites, one wouldn’t think oatmeal would make the list of things that can help treat bed bug bites. However, oatmeal is actually a wonderful remedy to treat the itchy, inflamed, and irritating bed bug bites. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, oatmeal is an effective skin protectant as it contains a high amount of phenols that are responsible for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Add a few drops of water to oatmeal and make it into a smooth mixture. Apply the paste to the bed bug bite for 10-15 minutes and then rinse it off with cool water.
Since toothpaste contains menthols, a cooling agent, it is quite effective for soothing inflamed and itchy bites. Apply some toothpaste to the bite and wash it off after 10 minutes.
Aloe vera gel contains a high percentage of pectic acids and glucomannans as well as essential vitamins and amino acids, which make it one of the best remedies to soothe a bed bug bite. Take an aloe vera leaf, cut off the spines on its sides and split it into upper and lower halves. Take out the aloe vera gel with the help of a knife and apply it to the bed bug bite. Once you apply the gel, it will sting on the application; however, it will soon provide relief.
Tea contains polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can help you reduce inflammation and pain. Once you have made a tea, keep the used tea bags in the fridge. If you get bitten by a bed bug, apply the cool tea bags to the affected area for 15 minutes a few times a day.
You can buy corticosteroid ointments and creams which can help reduce itching and irritation from bed bug bites. These creams can prevent the urge to scratch at bites. This will help decrease the time it takes the bite to heal. For severe cases, a doctor may prescribe you a stronger dose of corticosteroid or inject you with the hormone.
For people who are especially sensitive to bed bug bites, use of antihistamine is a good option. You can buy antihistamine creams and pills easily from any drug store or pharmacy to help alleviate the symptoms of a bed bug bite. For those with severe adverse reactions, a doctor can prescribe a stronger dose.
How Long Does It Take for a Bed Bug Infestation to Manifest?
If you have a long-term infestation in your house, it is very difficult to determine when the bed bugs first came to your house. Usually, a large outbreak means the insects have been living in your home for several months or even years without you noticing. However, if you have a small infestation, it is fairly easy to gauge when it manifested.
In case of small infestations at warm room temperatures (72° F), with lots of bloodmeals nearby, it takes bed bugs about a week to grow out of each phase of their nymph stage with molting. With every molting, the nymph will shed their exoskeleton also known as exuviae or bed bug casings. These casings can be used to determine the approximate time of a bed bug infestation. For example, if a nymph in its fourth stage is found inside a mattress with excuviae of three different sizes, it is reasonable to assume that it has been using your bed as a home for about three weeks.
In similar circumstances, it takes eggs about 10 days to hatch. Therefore, if you find tiny milky-white eggs attached to your furniture, it means your bed has been infested for that long. Some eggs can also be collected and you can estimate the time of when they were laid, once they hatch.
A big indicator of when a bed bug infestation manifested is the number of adult biting insects in the bed. Generally, it takes about seven weeks for a bed bug to complete its lifecycle and turn from an egg into a fully-grown adult, so there shouldn’t be any new adults from eggs during that period. This is assumed under the circumstances that the outbreak started from a few adults and no new bed bugs were introduced to your home during that time.
In essence, there is no surefire way you can estimate when a bed bug infestation started, but you can prescribe some limits and use them to determine an estimate. This type of task is best left to professional exterminators who can determine the age of the infestation by studying bed bug fecal matter, the number of eggs and excuviae, and adult biting insects.
Dealing with bed bugs can be a complete headache. Unfortunately, bed bug infestations have grown quite common and no one really knows why. Although bed bugs bites are quite irritating and unsightly, most people will heal from them in a couple of weeks at most. People who are extra-sensitive to bed bug bites should consider the home remedies mentioned above as well as visit a doctor if their symptoms worsen.
The tips given above can help you deal with bed bug bites without any long-term side effects. Meanwhile, you can hire the services of a professional exterminator or try some bed bug powders and sprays to get rid of these pests from your house.