​​How To Get Rid Of Bed Bug Bites Fast

  • Written By Dan Edwards on January 8, 2018
    Last Updated: December 29, 2020

Nothing will likely send chills down your spine more than the thought of bed bugs crawling under the covers with you at night.

If you’ve discovered bites over your body and are fairly confident they’re from bed bugs, take a look below for some of our tips for getting rid of them as quickly as possible.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

Bed bugs are quite small, leaving equally little signs of their presence. Often, people won’t even know if they were bitten. They’ll leave small red marks on some individuals. You may even see tiny drops of blood. In others, the bites will appear as larger, swollen welts. You’ll find them on exposed areas of your skin.

Their appearance depends on your reaction to the insect bites. They’ll seem more noticeable in individuals who have a greater sensitivity to them or even an allergy.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

Side Effects and Symptoms

The visible sign of a bite mark is a classic symptom. However, it may resemble a mosquito bite, or hives too. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear, making positive identification even more difficult, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re allergic, you’ll notice the symptoms that indicate a reaction, such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth at the site of the bite
  • Moderate to intense itching

These symptoms are all signs that your immune system has kicked into gear. It is trying to do two things to help you. First, it’s bringing in the reinforcements with a surge of white blood cells to do battle with any pathogens. Second, it’s trying to create a hostile environment for bacteria, in order to protect you against further side effects.

Bed Bug Bites

You can distinguish a bed bug bite from a mosquito bite by several other traits. They are often clustered or occur in lines. You may find evidence of them with blood or droppings on your sheets and pillows. They also have a characteristic sweet musky odor that is identifiable. About 20 percent of victims won’t show any visible signs of bed bug bites.

They can worsen if the wounds are not cleaned properly, or if you scratch them. The best advice I can give you is to leave them alone. Even if you have to wear gloves, don’t mess with them. You’ll only make them worse and set yourself up for secondary bacterial infections. The affected areas will also spread as pathogens and invade the surrounding tissues.

Bed Bug Bites

If that happens, you’ll need to take additional measures and may even have to see a doctor. Symptoms of a more serious infection include:

  • Worsening of inflammatory effects listed above
  • Pus or oozing from the wounds
  • Pain at site of bites

Needless to say, these are signs that you don’t want to see with a bed bug bite or any wound. It’s not the time to test the responsiveness of your immune system, with something that is totally preventable.

When Are You Most Likely To Get Bitten?

Bed bugs are sneaky devils. They attack at night when you’re asleep or when you’re inactive for long stretches. During the day or active hours, they’ll hide in crevices, box springs, mattresses, or any other hidden place. That’s what makes them so difficult to get rid of once an infestation is underway.

That’s not to say that they won’t seek out a warm body during the day if they’re hungry enough. It’s worth noting too that both humans and animals are potential targets. When a bed bug gets ready to feed, it will inject a pain-killing chemical into your skin so you won’t feel it biting you. That’s why you often don’t find them until well after the damage is done, and the culprit is long gone.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Where Do Bed Bugs Usually Bite?

Bed bugs are no different from other parasites or predators; they take the path of least resistance. That means exposed areas of your skin during sleep are most vulnerable to an attack rather than under your blanket or clothes. That also applies to when they occur too. You’re most likely to get bitten while you’re asleep. Common places for bites include:

  • Waist
  • Arms
  • Shoulders
  • Legs
  • Eyelids

However, that is not a comprehensive list. As the saying goes, desperate bugs do desperate things—even crawl under the covers if need be. Suffice to say, that any part of your body is vulnerable if your bedroom is home to hungry bed bugs. Let’s go over what you can expect to happen if you get bitten.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

How Long Do Bites Usually Last?

As far as their duration, a lot depends on the nature of the bites, your reaction to them, the degree of sensitivity, and your success at leaving them alone. You’re not scratching them, right? In the best-case scenario, they’ll resolve in just a few days once your immune system has taken over the reins. If you’re allergic, it’ll take longer to get over the symptoms.

Bed Bug Bites

Your body will need to rid itself of this allergen before you’ll see a noticeable improvement. As long as the trigger is present, the symptoms will persist. That means if they’re in your mattress or headboard, you may experience a continuum of healing/infected cycles. The other thing to consider is the role of secondary bacterial infections.

Your skin acts as a barrier to potential threats in the environment like disease-causing microbes and pathogens. As long as it stays intact, you have a formidable defense against disease. However, it’s a whole different story if you scratch them and create open wounds. Then, you’ve given bacteria a pathway into your body, and that’s where the trouble can begin.

Your body will need to take stronger actions against disease-causing organisms. If you’re healthy, your body may be able to fend off anything that’s not too serious. On the other hand, the young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems may have a more difficult time fighting off infections. If that happens, it’ll delay your recovery.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

Are Bed Bug Bites Dangerous?

The danger with bed bug bites exists with your initial reaction and the effect of secondary infections. The good news is that conventional wisdom says that bed bugs don’t carry diseases. However, that doesn’t mean that they are without their health risks.

A study by the St. Louis School of Medicine has shown an increase in infections caused by Corynebacterium striatum, a bacteria associated with respiratory conditions. The problem exists with its resistance to common antibiotics like penicillin, clindamycin, and tetracycline. That sets up the proverbial perfect storm with a side effect that is difficult to treat. In that case, it makes bed bugs dangerous to vulnerable individuals.

The scientific literature contains other evidence of a growing concern. The problems associated with bed bugs are increasing as is evident in a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. The researchers documented a sharp rise in emergency room visits linked to bed bug bites.

On another front, there is the cosmetic concern. A bed bug bite on its own is unlikely to cause any long-lasting effects. You’ll recover, and the wounds will heal. However, if you’ve scratched them, you may have damaged the upper layers of your skin to the point where you’re going to have permanent scars. That adds a psychological burden to having bed bug bites, especially if they occur on visible areas of your body.

That’ll also mean that you’ll need to take additional steps in the recovery stages to minimize their appearance. Remember, there’s no guarantee that if you follow everything your doctor recommends that you’ll have a noticeable reminder of your encounter with these parasites.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

How To Treat Bed Bug Bites

Many of the ways to treat bed bug bites will sound familiar to you, but most of them will help you to get rid of your bed bug bites quicker than just leaving them alone to heal naturally, which is a definite added bonus.

However, how long bed bites last will also be decided on several factors, and not just what you decide to put on the bites.

Most treatment methods involve things you need to do to prevent an infection from complicating the treatment of the initial cause, namely, the wounds caused by these parasites.

Let’s review the steps you need to take to reduce your risk of complications that can affect recovery:

Proper Wound Care

You should treat a bed bug bite as you would any other wound or cut. Remember what I said about the skin barrier? That attack has left an open sore that needs to be treated no matter how small it is.

Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t reach for that bottle of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Those products could actually make it worse. Instead, use a mild soap with water to gently clean the area.

This step is important because it’s your best protection against infection. That bite left an opening for foreign matter to get into your skin. Your body typically heals fast from these types of wounds as long as there isn’t anything aggravating it like an infection. That’s where the next steps for treating bed bug bites come into play.

Keep It Moist

You may have heard that it’s best to let a wound dry out to start the healing process. It’s actually better if you keep the wounds moist with a layer of antibiotic ointment. That will do two things. First, there are the antibiotics, which are your reinforcements against infection. Second, it creates a barrier that will protect it and keep oxygen out of the site.

That’s a good thing because it’ll create a hostile environment for bacteria. They’ll be less likely to penetrate the spot or survive if they manage to get under your skin. To avoid further damage to the skin, you should keep it covered too. Healing skin is vulnerable to further injury from accidental contact with things like zippers or other objects.

Change the dressing often to make sure it stays clean. You can then re-apply any topical treatments that you’re using to keep it moist. Following these steps can also reduce the chances of scarring.

Controlling the Itching

If you’re sensitive to other insect bites, you’ll likely have a problem with bed bug bites causing itching, too. You have two courses of defense. You can apply topical steroids directly to the wounds. They will reduce the redness and swelling without the added risk of side effects. You can also take oral antihistamines too. It’s an effective way to get the itch under control if large areas are affected.

Icing the area may provide some temporary relief from the swelling that is behind the itching. Be sure to wrap an ice pack in a towel before placing it against your skin. You can also try other topical creams. Look for ones that contain pramoxine, capsaicin, lidocaine, or methanol. You also may find relaxation techniques such as meditation helpful for getting your mind into the act to avoid scratching.

Sometimes people may scratch at bed bug bites without being aware that they’re doing it. You may want to keep your hands busy with something else like writing, cooking, or another hobby. If you scratch them at night, you may also want to consider taking a melatonin supplement to ensure a good night’s rest.

Continue to use these products or methods as long as you have visible symptoms. If you get additional bites or the wounds open again, you’ll reactivate the responses of your immune system with more itching. You shouldn’t hesitate to consult your doctor if over-the-counter products aren’t providing adequate relief.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Control The Source Of Infestation

One of the best ways to stop bed bug bites is to stop being bitten. This is easier said than done, but getting rid of the source of the bites is the end goal that you should definitely be striving towards. This can be done in a DIY way, or by consulting a professional pest expert.

My Favorite Bed Bug Treatment Products

While getting rid of bed bugs without buying any additional products can be done with very small infestations, I believe that by purchasing just a few additional products, you’ll be so much better equipped, and will be able to stamp out an infestation before it gets worse. Below is my list of essential products.

Bed Bug Patrol Natural Bed Bug Killer Spray, Child & Pet Friendly, Non-Toxic, Suitable for Home, Office, Vehicles, Mattresses & Furniture, 1 Gallon - 24oz (1 Pack) - Bug Spray Bed Bug Spray - Bug Bye

Bed Bug Patrol Natural Bed Bug Killer Spray, Child & Pet Friendly, Non-Toxic, Suitable for Home, Office, Vehicles, Mattresses & Furniture, 1 Gallon - 24oz (1 Pack) - Bug Spray Bed Bug Spray - Bug Bye

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer – One of the best bed bug sprays that I’ve yet to personally use. Not only does it have a reported 100% kill rate against live bed bugs in controlled tests, but it’s also child and pet friendly. This product can be used against both light and heavy infestations, and most importantly, it’s laboratory tested and completely chemical-free.

Studies conducted using the treatment showed an impressive kill rate of 83% within just 30 minutes after application, and 98% within the first four hours, leading on to an eventual mortality rate of 100% over time.

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover

SureGuard Mattress Encasement – It’s thick, durable, and is certain to help stop bed bugs of all sizes from getting to, or from, your mattress.

The protector prevents bed bug transportation by using SureSeal technology, and by using an extremely fine zipper that not even bed bug nymphs can impregnate.

ECOPEST Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

ECOPEST Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

In my experience, the best and most effective bed bug traps are usually the ones that are designed to work in the simplest of ways. I’ve used the Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps extensively and I find they do the job better than any other trap I’ve tried. You also get a very generous 8 interceptors per pack.

Simply place them directly underneath the bed/table/chair legs you’re trying to protect, and watch the bed bugs fall into the traps time and time again with no chance of escape.

ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service

ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service

ZapBugg Bed Bug Heater – Specially designed to kill all stages in the bed bug life cycle, including eggs, without the need to purchase expensive pest control heat treatment solutions.

Simply place infested items into the ZappBug heater and it will automatically reach the all-important bed bug killing temperature, so you can be sure the items will come out free from all life stages of bed bug once the process is complete.

Large and small versions are also available.

Treating Infections

Treatment of bed bug bites targets the symptoms rather than targeting the specific wound. The immune system response is the first line of defense no matter what the cause. Symptoms resulting from its actions are similar. Of course, you want to be comfortable and not to worry about it getting worse. The antibiotic ointment I mentioned above is an excellent start. For the best results, use the product as directed on the label.

Scratching will make you more susceptible to an infection. To prevent that from occurring, you can also use an ointment with cortisone in it to cut down on the itchiness. When you scratch the bites, you risk opening up the wound again and creating that pathway for germs to get inside your body.

Systemic Antibiotics

In severe cases, you’ll need to resort to the big guns. That will mean a trip to the doctor to get a prescription for prescription-strength topical antiseptics or oral antibiotics. It’s safe to say that if it has gone to this point, the problem has progressed well beyond bed bug bites. A secondary infection has taken a hold that is spreading from the original wound site.

At this point, your doctor will prescribe medication based on the severity of your symptoms and the cause behind them. It could mean antibacterial or antifungal drugs. He may opt to give you an antiseptic wash or foam in addition to an oral antibiotic. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include:

  • Erythromycin
  • Tetracycline
  • Dicloxacillin
  • Itraconazole
  • Fluconazole

Bear in mind that taking antibiotics carries additional health risks and an increased chance of side effects, especially if you take other prescription medication. It’s essential to tell your doctor what other drugs you take including vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter products to prevent any possible harmful interactions.

Severe Cases

Fortunately, severe cases are rare. Anaphylaxis may occur in extremely sensitive individuals which can make a simple bed bug bite a life-threatening situation. Symptoms may develop rapidly as soon as the person has come in contact with the allergen. In others, it may take up to 30 minutes before the reaction happens. Symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

These symptoms require immediate medical attention. It involves the use of an epinephrine autoinjector, (more commonly known as an epi-pen), to restore normal breathing. The danger doesn’t end once your symptoms are under control. Each exposure afterward carries a risk of a more serious episode. Even if you experience a mild anaphylaxis attack, it’s vital that you consult your doctor.

Psychological Consequences

It’s essential to address the psychological effects of bed bug bites too. Since the surge in these pests populations is a recent event, there exists a general lack of awareness about them. People may associate them with having a dirty home or poor hygiene. You can certainly understand someone not wanting to admit they have a bug infestation because of its possible social stigma.  Even luxury spa resorts experience infestations of these pests.

Then, there is the matter of getting bit itself. Bed bugs feed on humans and animals at night, gorging themselves while you sleep. It’s not unlike a mosquito that you haven’t swatted away attacking you. The thought may alarm and disgust many people, leading to psychological trauma.

The best ways to deal with these issues is awareness and action. Education about the true nature of bed bugs and the reasons behind the sharp rise in insect populations will foster understanding. Control is vital even if that means calling in a professional service to handle the issue. Bed bugs are notorious for their tenacity.

If you find your situation especially troubling, seek out the advice of a psychologist or counselor. There’s no reason you need to live in fear in your own home. Remember, everything you share with a healthcare professional is confidential. Take care of your body and your mind.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

What Other Insect Bites Get Mistaken For Bed Bugs?

Other bugs often get mistaken for bed bugs simply because they cause similar symptoms. It doesn’t matter what caused your issues because your immune system will respond in a similar manner. That’s why the mere appearance of swelling and itching isn’t diagnostic.

Nevertheless, the goals are the same, regardless of the culprit- to try to contain the problem and prevent a secondary infection. That’s why you’ll see similar signs no matter what the reason behind the trigger.

Other insect bites commonly mistaken for bed bugs include:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Spiders
  • Chiggers
  • Mites (scabies)

The same cautions that I’ve outlined above apply to these types of bites too. Yes, that means no scratching no matter what it takes to prevent it. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. There are also other health conditions that may also produce similar symptoms. Diagnosis of these issues is generally more definitive because of the additional symptoms they may cause. They include:

  • Hives
  • Other allergies
  • Staph infections
  • Chickenpox

There isn’t a specific lab test that will detect bed bugs. Rather, your doctor will base her diagnosis on the bite marks and other definitive signs including the presence of the insects themselves. The sad fact remains that if you’ve been bitten once, it’ll likely happen again unless you take action. Every recurrence brings the risk of complications and infections.

Bed bug populations have soared to epidemic levels in recent years, bringing a surge of bed bug bite cases. Symptoms resemble those caused by other insects and health conditions. The greatest risks lie with allergic reactions and secondary infections. Additional action is crucial to avoid the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous consequences of a bite.

The best way to get rid of bed bug bites is to prevent an infestation in the first place. That means more than keeping a clean house. Regular inspection of your bedroom, its furniture, walls, and crevices is an excellent start.

Don’t hesitate to have a professional pest control company take charge. That is truly the only way you can guarantee you won’t get another bite.