Dealing with a nightmare is one thing, but waking up with bites all over your body, particularly your back, is a whole other story. Bed bugs are nasty biters, leaving behind red blotches all over your skin.
Lurking in the unseen shadows, beneath those comfortable mattresses and comforters, are these little critters who come out at night to feed on their unsuspecting victims. So the question is: do bites from bed bugs itch?
One of the annoying things about bed bug bites is aside from the fact that they leave bright red blotches, they also cause a great deal of itching.
The slightly swollen red marks may feel a bit tender. Scratching away at your skin is not a wise move as it will only aggravate the affected area and exacerbate the issue.
The itchiness from bedbug bites can also be caused by the body’s reaction to their saliva.
How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Stay Itchy?
Insects that bite us can leave us with itchy skin for a few days. Similar to mosquitoes, these bites leave swollen and sometimes red marks, with a matching itching sensation. This is one of the reasons why bed bugs are difficult to have inside the home.
Initially, these bed bugs are often painless. However, as the swelling and the itching start to set in, and the welts appear after a few hours, the affected person can start to feel more irritation and discomfort.
Imagine getting bitten in the middle of the night, and then waking up to the painful and itchy feeling of the bite. It’s a horrible experience that can last for days. In general, it takes 1-2 weeks before the bite, including the itching to get better.
Are There Things You Can Do to Make the Itching Go Away?
In general, these bites will get better on their own. Mosquito and bed bug bites are the same in this context; they will heal on their own with time. However, there are some things you can do to make the itching go away sooner:
Apply a Cold Pack or an Ice Cube
This goes for any other type of insect bite. Applying a cold pack or an ice cube onto the affected area can help reduce the swelling and itching sensation from bed bug bites.
The cold pack helps soothe the inflammation caused by the bite. Cold temperatures constrict the blood vessels in the area, thus reducing swelling and itchiness.
To apply a cold compress, wrap a few ice cubes in a clean towel and press it against the affected area for a few minutes. You’ll notice that the itching will automatically subside after a few minutes.
Take note, however, that this isn’t a permanent solution. If the itching resumes, you may have to reapply the cold pack or ice cube to the affected area.
Wash Affected Areas with Soap and Water
While soap and water won’t technically stop the itching, it can reduce the potential for any infection caused by scratching too hard.
So make sure to keep the bite clean with a bar of gentle soap and water. Pat dry before applying a cold compress or anything else you may use to relieve itching.
Cold water seemed to work best since it can temporarily reduce the swelling caused by bed bug bites.
Clean the Area with Antiseptic
Cleaning the area with an antiseptic is necessary to reduce bacterial infection. If left untreated, these bites can become infected and spread bacteria all over your body.
With that being said, as itchy as it can be, do not scratch. It won’t help or stop the itching. Scratching will lead to further complications, and a single bite can become a long-term problem.
Babies are often given calamine lotion to help soothe mosquito bites and other insect bites. If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with a calamine lotion or cream.
This is a life-saver that parents swear by, even offering instant relief from diaper rash.
For insect bites like bed bugs, calamine lotion provides the same relief. Again, it’s important to remember that calamine lotion won’t heal the bed bug bite.
Don’t expect the lotion to instantly make the swelling and redness, including the itching, instantly go away.
As mentioned earlier, these insect bites will go away on its own – with or without any topical application. However, if the itch becomes unbearable, you’d want to use calamine cream to prevent the occurrences of scratching, thus, preventing bacterial infection.
Lavender Essential Oil
Just a little bit of a fun fact about lavender essential oil. Did you know that chemist Rene Gattefosse was the first one to document this oil’s healing properties after he burned his hand and immediately put it under lavender essential oil?
He was working in the lab and accidentally burnt his hand. He doesn’t have anything on hand and reached for the nearest bottle which happened to be a lavender essential oil.
To his surprise, the oil actually reduced the burn’s pain and redness. Based on this instance, this urged him to research the effectiveness of lavender oil and other essential oils.
Because of its soothing and relaxing properties, lavender oil is well-known all over the globe. However, it’s not just used for aromatherapy and relaxation, it also has antiseptic properties that make it perfect for treating insect bites.
Apply a few drops of lavender oil onto the bed bug bite to get immediate relief from itching. This is an all-natural solution that works wonderfully in reducing inflammation and redness caused by insect bites.
Hydrocortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory cream that is often used for reducing swelling, itching, and redness. You can purchase a weak form of hydrocortisone cream over the counter.
Although there are over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, it is best to consult your doctor, especially if the bites are widespread and you’re experiencing severe itching.
Hydrocortisone cream works by reducing inflammation and preventing infection from developing in the area. It also helps reduce swelling and redness caused by insect bites. This cream can be applied up to 4 times a day until the bites heal.
It should be noted, however, that this cream should not be used for more than two weeks as it can cause further skin irritation, dryness, and redness if used for too long.
Oral Antihistamine Medications
Lastly, if the itching has become unbearable and over-the-counter medications aren’t working, then it is best to consult your doctor for a prescription antihistamine medication.
These oral medications work from within the body and can provide relief from itching and reduce inflammation caused by insect bites.
Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you experience any signs of infection like swelling, redness, and fever. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition that needs immediate medical attention.
On a general note, oral antihistamines are rarely prescribed as these bed bug bites may be resolved with topical creams and treatments. Antihistamines are often prescribed to those who have a severe case of bed bug bites.
Do Bed Bug Bites Heal on Their Own?
Bed bug bites rarely pose life-threatening threats and risks to humans. Although they can be annoying and itchy, they will usually go away on their own. However, if the itching becomes unbearable, you can try various remedies such as applying a cold pack or an ice cube onto the affected area to reduce swelling and itchiness.
Additionally, cleaning the area with antiseptic and using topical applications like calamine lotion or lavender essential oil can help with the healing process. In more severe cases, oral antihistamines may be necessary to provide relief from itching and inflammation.
Do Bed Bugs Bite You Every Night?
In terms of feeding, a single bed bug may feed multiple times throughout the night until they are completely full. However, they don’t do this every night (or day). Instead, they feed once every one to two weeks.
If you only have a small number of bed bugs present, you might not notice these bed bugs as there’s a slight possibility that they don’t bite you every night.
However, for those homes with severe bed bug infestation, they may experience getting bitten on consecutive nights. Thi sis because of the increasingly large number of bed bugs (and counting) that are present in their home.
Time and time again, even if bed bug bites don’t wake you up every single night, if you’ve already been bitten, it means that these pests are already present in your home.
Doing something about it immediately is the best course of action as these little bugs can multiply quickly, not just causing physical harm but also psychological distress.
Do Bites from Bed Bugs Itch: Final Thoughts
The feeling of a bite from a bed bug can range from painless to overwhelming. It all depends on the individual’s sensitivity and the number of bed bugs present in their environment.
Itchy, uncomfortable, and sometimes even embarrassing, bed bug bites can be often unpleasant and irritating.
OTC creams, calamine lotion, cold compress, and antihistamine medications can all help alleviate the itching and swelling, however, if you suspect a severe infestation, it is best to consult your doctor for further advice.