Bedbug bites are often misdiagnosed since other insects such as
spiders, fleas, mites, mosquitoes
and infections can cause similar symptoms. The average person has no
reaction and will only see a small skin puncture where the
Individuals that do see a bed bug bite reaction notice small red
areas around the clear center where the puncture occurred. Extremely
allergic individuals might experience a large
circular wheal or blister reaction. Bite symptoms can appear from 1
hour to up to 14 days after a bite episode"
Bed bug bites affect each person differently. It may take
anywhere from 1 hour to several days to have a reaction. Reactions
themselves last up to 2 to 5 days. Bed bugs do not actually
bite, but puncture the skin with a single stylet.
Every time you are bitten the reaction can happen faster than
the time before as your body becomes more sensitive to the bites. There
is a study of a person bitten in a hotel room 1 year, and then returned
to the hotel the following year and was bitten again. The reaction the
second time happened faster and was worse than the first time including
blisters and macules (spots on the skin that aren't raised).
Most people have no reaction to a bite with a small puncture
mark at the point where the bite occurred.
Reactions can include:
It is difficult to tell if a bite is due to a bedbug. If a
reaction to a bite does occur, it usually looks like a small lesion 2
to 3 millimeters in size as depicted below:
Pictures of Bed Bug Bites
Skin Lesions 1 Hour after Bed Bug Bite
Source UNLV - Raised Bites
There are several causes for bite marks that look similar to
those that could be left by a bedbug. These include:
There are certain signs associated with bedbug bites that
could help identify a bite. The checklist includes:
If bedbug bites are itched and scratched they could last for
weeks and become infected.
There is no evidence that bed bug bites spread disease.
Itch is the most common complaint after being bitten by a bed
bug. If left untreated the itch should go away within a week.
In rare cases, reactions to bedbug bites can include asthma,
There are a few
studies of systemic reactions from bed bug bites, including asthma,
generalized hives (urticaria), and anaphylaxis (immediate immune system
including a restricted airway, can cause death). Chronic skin
reactions can blister.
Left untreated, most bed bug bites will go away by themselves
in a few days. If the bites itch, then a topical over the counter itch
cream which contains paroxime or doxepin will help. All
Stop Healing and
Protection Spray is made specifically to stop bed bug itch
and itch from other insect bites. The same company offers a do it
yourself kit for killing bed bugs and bedbug eggs from your home.
The biggest decision in getting rid of bed bugs is to decide
whether you are going to do it yourself or hire a professional.
A do it yourself kit includes all of the products
needed to be successful including a spray (kills bedbugs on contact),
dust product (kills any late hatching eggs), hand steamer (kills eggs,
sprays are ineffective), and mattress covers (traps any remaining
bedbugs inside the mattress and boxspring). Kits can be
purchase on line such as the one available from Dermisil
for Bed Bugs.
There are many advantages to using a professional. This
includes their expertise in terms of knowing where bedbugs hide and any
specialized chemical and non chemical methods they have that are not
available to homeowners. The downside is cost, where inspections can
cost from $75 to $500 (bedbug sniffing dogs cause the high end price)
with the treatment costing $750+.
Given the cost, it pays to contact several exterminators to
compare methods and quotes. We'd start with Terminix
(1.877.291.4849) since they provide a free in home inspection and free
quote. Compare to Service
Magic (877.233.1145) which will provide callers with 4 free
Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius)
and Clinical Consequences of Their Bites
Jerome Goddard, PhD
Richard deShazo, MD
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