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The First Signs of Bed Bugs and Treating Bed Bug Bites

July 28th, 2014

It is summertime, and you may notice some weird red marks or welts on your body. It could be from a mosquito – those pests are notoriously rampant at this time of year. It could be from your laundry detergent. Some people are highly allergic to the fragrances in your typical laundry soap. Or the red marks could be the first signs of bed bugs, and the marks could be bed bug bite reactions!

Having bed bugs in your home is a nightmare situation as it is. Getting bitten by bed bugs is even worse. So how do you identify and treat bed bug bites? We’ve collected some helpful tips from experienced professionals in the pest control industry to help.

Now a dermatologist has given some advice to tell you what you need to do if you were actually bitten by bed bugs. Dr. Seemal R. Desai, a Texas dermatologist, tells Suncoast News that while bed bug bites generally do not “require serious medical attention,” they can make people feel anxious and afraid to sleep. He said that the bed bug bite reactions can “sometimes turn into itchy welts.”

Dr. Desai has some advice about noticing the first signs of bed bugs. Please pay attention to these before you go to sleep, whether it is at your home, in a hotel room or on a cruise ship, or just visiting a friend (he says that many bed bug infestations occur while traveling):

  • Signs of bloodstains on bedding materials: We are not talking about tons of blood, like something out of a crime scene. But bed bug infestations will involve specks of blood, though, after they bite people. Also check upholstered furniture for these signs.
  • Black specks: You may also see black dots on bedding materials. This could be signs of bed bug excrement. It may look like little grains of pepper.
  • An odor that is sweet or musty: Dr. Desai says that bed bugs communicate with their bed bug friends by emitting an odor. So there may be a smell emanated, although these first signs of bed bugs might not be noticeable to everyone. (That scent is what bed bug dogs can notice when it comes to identifying the pests.)
  • Bed bug exoskeleton and eggs: You may also be able to identify these items – the bed bugs shed the exoskeletons and lay the eggs. However, they are very small. Keep in mind, however, that a fully grown bed bug is only about the size of an apple seed. So you may want to bring in a bed bug specialist, especially if you are at home, to take a look to determine whether you have bed bugs.

Common Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

  • Bed bug bites in a group or a zig zag pattern
  • Bite marks which are more red in the center
  • Blisters
  • A rash
  • Hives
  • Skin irritation
  • Itching feeling
  • Anaphylactic response – rare, but can happen

What should you do if you do have bed bugs

Aside from contacting a bed bug expert to take care of an issue, you may want to get treatment for any bed bug bite reactions. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Some people may require an injection of an antihistamine, corticosteroid, or epinephrine (adrenaline) for a severe allergic reaction.” Dr. Desai says that you should visit a physician – preferably a board-certified dermatologist – if you have severe bed bug bite reactions. “A dermatologist can treat an infection and help relieve the itch, he says.

For more information about bed bugs, and what the infestations — and infections — look like, watch this video from the American Academy of Dermatology to get more info.

In rare cases, such as if you have an anaphylactic response, you will need to see a physician immediately. However, in most cases, the bites will go away in one to two weeks. Fortunately, most bed bug bites can be taken care of using at-home bite treatments.

At-home ways to treat bed bug bites

  • Make sure to wash the affected area with soap and water, to help prevent any infections. If you feel itchy, you can treat the itching with an antihistamine cream. Putting an ice pack on the affected area can also help alleviate any itchiness as well.
  • You can also take an over the counter antihistamine to alleviate the symptoms. A hydrocortisone cream can also help alleviate the redness and the swelling symptoms. Calamine lotion on the affected areas can also help. You may also want to use an over the counter antiseptic to prevent future infections. If the over the counter cortisteroid product does not work, see a dermatologist.
  • Some at-home remedies to stop itching include making a paste of baking soda and water, soaking in a warm bath with oatmeal, peppermint oil, and baking soda, or using white vinegar or lemon juice to keep the itching under control.
  • Make sure you do not scratch an itch, because you can potentially get a secondary infection via open skin caused by bed bug itching. Bacteria could be introduced into the skin that way.

After treatment, don’t forget removal

If you have gotten bitten by bed bugs, you will need to completely treat the problem. Perhaps you have gotten bitten when you were out of your home, like being out of town on vacation, and stayed in an infested hotel room. Even so, the bed bugs could have hitched a ride with you to your home.

Bed bug detection and treatment in your home is a necessity; otherwise the problem could just come back. Most in-home treatments are short term solutions at best; the only real way to remove bed bugs and stop them from coming back is to speak to a professional bed bugs control company to help treat the issue.

If you think you may have had anaphylactic response, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

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