While bed bugs were once a rare occurrence in the United States, they have made an alarming comeback and are now a widespread problem throughout the country, especially in big cities.
Encountering bed bugs in the home should be treated as a serious concern, largely due to the fact that these bloodsucking parasites can be a threat to your health through their incessant biting.
While bed bug bites are not life threatening, they can be incredibly itchy and can leave red welts or rashes on the skin. Their biting at night can also lead to lost sleep and paranoia. This is why it is crucial that when you have bed bugs attacking you in your home, you need to act quickly to put a stop to the invasion as the population will only grow larger and the bites will become more frequent.
In this article we will cover how bed bugs operate and inflict bites on people which lead to rashes and welts, how you can treat the irritating bite marks and how you can do to remove an infestation from your home and put a stop to the biting.
How Bed Bugs Operate
If you are not familiar with what bed bugs are, this insect is a parasitic arthropod that is about the size of an apple seed with six legs and small antennae. Bed bugs require a host to survive off of and the bad news for us is that they prefer human hosts because of their preference for our blood.
Bed bugs commonly infest areas where there are high amounts of human traffic such as airports, parks, hotels, bus stations and movie theatres. Bed bugs are opportunists and lay in wait until a human comes by or happens to leave their belongings in close proximity to them.
Bed bugs will use their exceptional crawling abilities to sneak onto an item and will hitchhike back to a person’s home. Once they have gained access into the home is when bed bugs really begin to establish themselves. Often the pests set up camp in the nooks and crevices of mattresses and will wait until we sleep to begin feeding.
Bed bugs will crawl onto the host and begin biting and sucking the blood of the victim while at the same time injecting their saliva into the host to numb the area where they are feeding so the person does not immediately wake and interrupt the meal. It is actually this saliva injection that causes a skin reaction in humans resulting in itchy welts and rashes.
How Do Bed Bug Bites Or Rashes Look?
It’s important to distinguish how a bed bug bite looks since it can itch or look similar to a bite caused by fleas, ants, mosquitoes or other biting pests. Also other times what is believed to be a rash caused by bed bug may be due to a skin condition like eczema or some other allergic reaction.
The way you can differentiate between a bed bug bite and other bites is the pattern that you see them in. Bed bug bites cause raised bumps in the skin and most of the time these bites will appear in clusters or rows of two or three bites side by side. This is usually due the bed bug feeding more than once in the same general area or multiple bed bugs feeding at the same time.
You can also distinguish a bed bug bite from other insect bites or skin reactions depending on where the bite is located. Bed bugs usually bite on legs, arms, the neck, face and back. Especially where there is little to no hair to hinder their crawling.
Bed bug bites cause rashes or bumps within hours or days after the bite. They will be very itchy and irritating and scratching the bite can lead to infection. An infection will make the bite or rash take longer to heal and go away. If left alone, the bite will last for a few days and gradually fade away.
Treatment Options For Bed Bug Rashes
Bed bug bites can cause swelling and redness that can make it hard for you to resist scratching it. However, there are treatment options available if you are looking for relief from the irritation so you can heal faster.
Upon noticing a bed bug bite, you should first cleanse the area with a combination of soap and warm water. If you have particularly sensitive skin or are allergic, applying a cold pack to the affected area can tone down the inflammation.
The most important thing that you should do next is to resist scratching the bites as it will only make them more itchy and can lead to a worsening skin condition or infection from the bite. The following are a few remedies that you can use to help sooth the bed bug rash and help it be less irritating.
- Over the Counter Creams – There are a number of topical creams available that can be helpful in lessening the itching sensation such as an antihistamine or a steroid cream that you can purchase with or without a prescription. In most cases the over the counter option will work despite being a lower strength cream.
- Calamine Lotion – Calamine lotion is another effective remedy that helps to protect the skin as it heals and quickens the process by drying out the rash.
- Toothpaste – Most toothpastes contain menthol which is an ingredient that helps to sooth itchy skin. Rub the tooth paste onto the affected area of the bed bug bite for relief.
- Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera is another low-cost item you can get from your local store to rub onto your bed bug bite for relief as it lessens the itching and burning sensations cause by bites.
Tracking Down Bed Bugs
While all the above remedies may be helpful to relieve you of itchy bed bug bites, they will not eliminate the bed bugs. Locating the infestation is your best bet to end the biting because it will continue to reoccur until the bed bugs are gone.
All bed bug control programs should always start with a detailed inspection of your home. Bed bugs are excellent hiders, using their small size and flat bodies to their advantage by hiding in the tightest of crevices and the darkest of corners. To locate them you will need a keen eye and also some helpful tools like a credit card or thin hard piece of plastic and a flashlight.
A good place to start your search is where you are being bitten the most which is most likely your bed. Strip away your mattress of the bed sheets and pillows until it is bare and then scan the perimeter and lift the tufts and folds since bed bugs mainly like to hide in these areas.
If you cannot find bed bugs themselves, you may instead find evidence of their activity via the blood spots or feces they leave behind (brown or black spots) or shed skins and eggs they may have deposited in certain areas.
Aside from the bed you should also check adjacent furniture like the box spring, bed frame, carpets, picture frames, dressers, along baseboards, electrical outlets and even in clothing.
You should not just use your eyes to locate bed bugs, but also your nose by smelling areas where there is a sweet musky smell. This is an odor that bed bugs emit to communicate with one another and can be easily detected in the air when there is a heavy infestation.
Steps To Eliminating Bed Bugs And Ending the Bites
Once you have pinpointed the hot spots where bed bugs have been active, you can then proceed with actions that will remove or kill the bed bug infestation. The following treatment options are highly recommended
- Heat Treatment – If bed bugs have a weakness, it’s high amounts of heat. Bed Bugs die from high temperatures between 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures can be best implemented by your home washer and dryer. Toss your bedding materials, curtains, clothing and other fabrics into your washer on the highest heat setting. Afterward, toss the same items into your dryer on the highest heat setting as well. This will kill any bed bugs that may be hiding in these items. Aside from this, you can also use a steam cleaner and steam clean your mattress, furniture, carpeting and rugs.
- Vacuum Your Home – Bed bugs can easily be removed with the help of your vacuum. When you have an infestation that you want gone, you should be vacuuming your home on a daily basis. Vacuum your carpets, rugs, furniture and your mattress, making sure to attach the crevice accessories to the end of your vacuum hose to deeply sweep over the crevices and cracks that bed bugs will be hiding in. After you have completed vacuuming for the day, always immediately toss out the vacuum bag into a sealed plastic bag and discard it outside in a sealed dumpster to trash can.
- Apply Reputable Bed Bug Pesticides – There are a large assortment of bed bug pesticides products out there that you can find either online or locally at the pest control aisles of your local grocery store or big box store. For the highest chances of successfully getting rid of your bed bug problem, we suggest using more than one product that uses a different treatment method (for example: use a bed bug aerosol and a bed bug treatment powder/dust). You should use a bed bug aerosol that is safe to apply on your furniture and mattress. This will kill bed bugs that crawl over the sprayed areas. Bed bug dusts and powders are good for treating the tight spaces bed bugs like to hide in such as cracks and crevices, drawers and electrical outlets.
Reapply these products every two weeks and monitor bed bug activity. You can stop applying after you see no more bed bugs or suffer no more bites.
Preventing Future Bed Bug Invasions (and rashes)
After you have successfully gotten rid of the bed bugs in your home, your rashes and itchy bite-marks should be long gone. However, that doesn’t mean your home will be immune to future bed bug invasions. This is why you should be diligent and alert so you bed bugs are not accidentally brought into the home and re-established. Here are a few measures you should take:
- Be careful when traveling or staying at a hotel – Always check your hotel room for signs of bed bugs. Keep your belongings in the bathroom or near the front door.
- Examine and Clean Items when you return home – You can never feel too secure that bed bugs didn’t hitch a ride back with you so before you unpack, check for signs of bed bugs in your luggage items and wash or heat treat everything just to be safe.
- Don’t Buy Secondhand items – Bed Bugs can also come into the home via secondhand items. We recommend buying new, but if there is a deal too good to pass up, examine and clean the item (be it furniture, clothes or an electronic) before ever bringing it into your home.
Be taking the proper precautions above, you should no longer have bed bugs invading your home and causing irritation with your rash-inducing bites.