How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?

​​How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?

If you come to the unfortunate realization that you’ve been attacked by a bed bug, how long bed bug bites last is going to be a primary concern. Today, we’re going to address all there is to know about bed bug bites and discuss some other common insect bites that look similar to a bite from a bed bug.

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How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last

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What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

The first step is identifying a bed bug bite to ensure that what you’re looking at is actually a bite at all. Bed bug bites are characterized by the appearance of an irritated, red mark, bump, or rash on the skin. The bump is usually circular, and it typically has a tiny dark center, with lighter red radiating from the middle of the bite.

Bed Bug Bites

In rare cases where the person who has been bitten is allergic to the bite, a more severe reaction can occur. Bites usually appear much larger and more irritated.

Bed Bug Bites

In some cases, a bed bug rash can develop, and if it’s severe enough, pockets of fluid will appear near the site of the bite. Fortunately, this kind of reaction is quite rare and only affects a tiny percentage of the population.

Bed bugs feed by piercing the skin with their long and sharp beak-like appendage that extends from their mouth. This appendage is known as a proboscis. A bed bug uses their proboscis to draw blood from its unsuspecting victim.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

To avoid detection, a bed bug secretes their saliva at the time of the bite, which contains anesthetic and anticoagulant agents. The anesthetic allows the bed bug to extract blood without disturbing their host, while the anticoagulant keeps the host’s blood from clotting at the surface, which allows the bed bug to consume as much blood as they wish.

This anticoagulant is likely the reason why bed bug bites cause irritation and redness on the skin. However, other compounds in the bug’s saliva may also play a role in why we react to bed bug bites.

Another unusual characteristic of bed bug bites is when they appear. For many people, bed bug bites will appear quickly once that person is bitten. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes, the bites may take several days to appear, which can make it very difficult to identify a bite immediately.

When Do Bed Bugs Usually Bite?

One of the many characteristics of bed bugs is the time they bite. Bed bugs are nocturnal, and almost always bite their victim at night.

During the day, bed bugs retreat to their preferred hiding place. Bed bugs are most typically found in the folds of bedding, along with the seams of mattresses and box springs and along the seams of pillows.

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A bed bug looking for a meal is also exceptionally flat, which allows them to take refuge in tiny cracks. One of their favorite hiding places is small cracks that exist on wooden bed frames. Bed bugs can also travel through the small cracks in walls, ceilings or floors an infest other rooms of the home.

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In rare circumstances, or when a bug is extremely hungry, they will bite their host in the daytime.

How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Usually Last?

The timeline for a bed bug bite can differ from person to person. At most, a bed bug bite will last for about two weeks. For most people, the bites will disappear within about a week, although various treatments can help to get rid of bed bug bites faster.

For those with an allergic reaction to the bite, bites can last for considerably longer. Since an allergic reaction often features a bite that’s larger and has more irritation, they can take longer to heal.

Bed Bug Bites

There are many things that you can do to improve your body’s ability to heal the bite, and there are also things you can do to make the bite worse, and take longer to heal.

Scratching at the bite may provide temporary relief from the itching, but it’s also a way to damage the skin in that area further. Scratching also spreads bacteria into the wound and can result in an infection.

By scratching at the bites, you may make the bites last longer, or worse; you may give yourself a secondary infection as a result of the scratching.

Can Bed Bug Bites Scar?

Fortunately, bed bug bites on their own will heal relatively quickly, with little additional care required. If you allow the bite to heal without scratching or further irritating the area, long term scarring is extremely rare.

If a person is particularly allergic to a bed bug bite, the chance for scarring is increased. Most people who are severely allergic to these bites are still able to heal completely, without any long term effect from the bites. 

If you scratch the bite repeatedly and cause further damage to the skin, scarring is possible.  For this reason, it’s critical that you resist the urge to scratch the bites. The temporary relief you may feel may result in much larger issues like scarring or infection.

Bed Bug Bites

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bug Bites Faster

Thankfully, there are many ways that you can help your body heal faster, and limit the possibility of any visible scarring from the bites. Of course, it’s going to take some time to heal from the bites no matter what, but these tips can accelerate how long it takes to heal.

Clean The Area

The first thing you’ll want to do is thoroughly clean the area of the bite with antibacterial soap and warm water. Simply keeping the area clean is a great start and will help your body recover from the bite quickly.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroid creams and ointments help to reduce or eliminate the itching associated with bed bug bites. These creams can help you resist the urge to scratch at the bite, which will increase the time it takes to heal the bite.

Low dose corticosteroids are available over the counter. These creams or ointments are usually sufficient enough to provide relief from the itching and irritation caused by bed bug bites. For more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe a stronger corticosteroid to help you deal with the itching and irritation.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines can be especially helpful for those experiencing a more severe reaction to a bed bug bite. Most people can find relief with an over the counter antihistamine pill or cream, but for those who are severely allergic, a doctor may administer a more powerful antihistamine.

Home Remedies

There are also several home remedies which can help provide temporary relief of the itching and irritation common with bed bug bites. By helping to limit or prevent itching, these remedies can help the body heal more quickly from the bug bites.

Some helpful remedies include lemon juice, tea bags, aloe vera gel, calamine lotion, apple cider vinegar and colloidal oatmeal. You can read more about how these methods may be able to help on some in some of my other articles.

Bed Bug Bites

What Other Insect Bites Can Look Like Bed Bugs?

One of the things that makes bed bug bites difficult to identify is the fact that the bites are rather ambiguous looking. While there are some characteristic differences between bed bug bites and bites from other insects, to the naked eye, many bites can mistakenly be identified as bug bites and vice versa.

Flea Bites

Bites from fleas are very similar in appearance to bites from a bed bug. These bites also can result in raised, circular red bumps on the skin. Flea bites also can cause itching, inflammation, and discomfort at the site of the bite. While the two bites may look similar, the location of the bite may be able to help you differentiate between the two.

Flea bites are most commonly found around the ankles, and can also be found around the waist as well. On the other hand, bed bugs will bite any area of exposed skin on the body. Since bed bugs attack most commonly while you’re sleeping, you may find bed bug bites in an area where you aren’t covered.

Another helpful differentiator can be how the bites appear on the body. Often bed bug bites will appear in a line, cluster or zigzag pattern. Flea bites tend to be more random, without any visual pattern.

Mosquito Bites

Another bite that can often be mistaken for a bed bug bite is a mosquito bite. Similarly to bed bug and flea bites, mosquito bites will result in a raised circular bump, irritation, itching, and redness.

While mosquitoes most often target exposed areas of skin, they’re able to pierce some clothing with their needle-like proboscis as well. So, the location of the bite won’t necessarily indicate whether it’s a mosquito or a bed bug bite.

A person may be bitten by a mosquito multiple times in one area, but usually, a person will only have one or two bites in a given area, whereas a person being bitten by bed bugs may have many more bites.

Scabies

Another parasite that can be confused with a bed bug is scabies. Scabies is also known as “itch mites, ” and they are microscopic parasites that live within the first few layers of skin. This parasite affects about three million people each year.

Scabies causes a rash that’s characterized by raised, red bumps that are exceptionally itchy. While scabies and bed bug bites can be mistaken to the naked eye, there’s a test that can determine if the cause of irritation is scabies.

Since scabies actually live underneath the skin, a scraping of skin in the affected area can reveal if scabies is the cause of the irritation or not.

Skin Conditions

There’s a chance that the cause of irritation isn’t a bug bite at all. Certain rashes can be confused with a bug bite. These rashes include staph infections, prurigo, chicken pox, and miliaria (heat rash); allergic reactions to food may also manifest in a skin rash that can be mistaken for a bug bite.

Best Way To Identify Bed Bug Bites

If you’re unsure whether you’ve been bitten by bed bugs, or another insect or parasite, a little bit of detective work may help you reach a definitive conclusion.

While bed bugs may be able to avoid detection while they’re biting their host, it isn’t hard to identify the presence of bed bugs in your home. There are several different telltale signs of a bed bug infestation.

Bed bugs rarely stray far from the site of their last feeding. When they’re not out looking for a meal, they’re easy to find. Bed bugs can commonly be found on and around your mattress and bedding. They may appear in the folds of your bedding, along the seams of your mattress, in between the mattress and box spring, or in the cracks of a wooden bed frame.

Bed bugs also leave behind droppings, which appear as tiny rust-colored specs or streaks that may be present on your sheets or comforter. Since bed bugs molt several times as they reach different stages of maturity, you may also find the translucent casings of adolescent bed bugs.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

A popular device to help you detect bed bugs is an interceptor. These devices are usually made from white plastic and feature a deep well that sits underneath the legs of a bed frame. Since bed bugs aren’t able to walk up smooth surfaces, any insects that fall into the interceptor are unable to climb out, making them easy to identify.

If you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, at least some, but probably all of these signs will be present. These signs can help you quickly identify if bed bugs are genuinely the cause of the bites you’re experiencing.

Summary

Dealing with bed bugs is a nuisance that no one wants to bear. Unfortunately, bed bug infestations have grown increasingly common. While bed bug bites are unsightly and embarrassing, most people will heal from these bites within two weeks at most. How long bed bug bites last will differ, and those with a severe allergic reaction may take more time to heal. The tips and information above can help you tackle your bed bug problem and get you on the path to eradicating these annoying bugs entirely.

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