Bed bugs are insects that are attracted to body heat and carbon dioxide – they look like lentils because of their flat body shape. Bed bugs hide in the cracks and crevices of bedrooms, crawling out at night and biting any areas of uncovered flesh. One of their favourite places to hide is in the creases of mattresses. These pesky bugs feed for between three and 10 minutes, until they’re bloated and red in colour, and then retreat to their hiding places.
A lot of people confuse bed bug bites for flea or mosquito bites; this is because they can look similar. However, there’s an easy way to tell what you’ve been bitten by, and that’s by looking at the bite and where it’s positioned on the body. If the bites are on your feet and ankles, they’re probably flea bites. If the bites are dotted randomly around your body, then they may well be mosquito bites. Providing, of course, that you’ve been somewhere where you could get bitten by mosquitoes, that is. If the bites are in a line and are only affecting areas that are exposed while you’re sleeping, then they’re probably bed bug bites.
There are, of course, other ways that you can determine whether it’s a bed bug bite or something else. One of these is by how it looks, for instance. Another is by how much discomfort it causes. One of the main questions people have about bed bug bites is whether they itch like flea bites and mosquito bites. The answer is yes, bed bug bites do itch and can look and feel similar to flea and mosquito bites. The main difference between bed bug bites and other bites is that they tend to form welts that are red and sore, as well as itchy.
Today, we’re going to delve a little deeper into bed bug bites and the impact that they can have. As well as how to effectively deal with the itching and discomfort that they can cause.
What Causes Bed Bug Bites to Itch?
Unlike a lot of insects, bed bugs don’t inject a venom when they bite – this is because they’re biting to feed, not as a defence mechanism. Whereas insects like wasps and spiders, inject a venom when they bite or sting. This is because their sting or bite is their form of defence, and they’re trying to ward off danger.
When a bed bug bites, it punctures the skin, causing swelling and soreness around the affected area. This isn’t because of venom; it’s simply due to the skin being punctured. This not only causes pain but also itching due to irritation. The skin around the bite can become red and itchy – this is a response to the bite itself. Another reason for the itching is that when bed bugs bite, they inject a form of anesthetic into the host. Some people may have a reaction to this, resulting in a more severe reaction, such as blistering, for instance.
Why Don’t We Feel the Bite Itself?
Often, when an insect bites or stings, we feel it biting us. However, when it comes to bed bug bites, we don’t tend to feel them. This is because before a bed bug uses its elongated beak to pierce the skin and feed, it injects a form of anesthetic into the host. This numbs the area, preventing any pain from being felt as the bug is feeding. Bed bugs can feed for up to 10 minutes, as long as they’re undisturbed.
When biting, bed bugs are sensitive to the movements of their host. So, should they roll over or wake up, the bed bug will stop feeding, hence why it’s rare to see a bed bug biting. Of course, the fact that we won’t feel the bite until a few hours later helps to prevent us from waking up when a bed bug is feeding.
Is Itching the Only Symptom?
Although itching is one of the most common symptoms of bed bug bites, it is far from the only one. Bed bug bites can cause all manner of other symptoms, from pain and soreness to anaphylaxis. Of course, more severe reactions, like anaphylaxis, are rare. The most common symptoms of bites are pain, swelling, stinging, burning, and warmth in the affected area. However, it’s important to be aware that anaphylaxis is a possibility. (If this occurs, call an ambulance immediately.)
Normally, bed bug bites start off burning and stinging, before developing into sore, itchy welts. These can be incredibly irritating and uncomfortable, especially as you’re not supposed to itch them. This is because itching can lead to a secondary infection taking hold, and can also slow down the healing process. However, when a bite is itching like crazy, it can be incredibly difficult not to scratch it.
Sometimes, bed bug bites are more severe and can develop into painful blisters instead of itchy welts. If you notice blisters have developed, this is classed as a serious reaction, so it’s a good idea to make an appointment to see a doctor. If you make an appointment to see your doctor, they’ll be able to prescribe you antibiotics to help prevent infection when the blisters pop.
What are the Best Methods of Stopping the Itching?
The good news is that although bed bug bites can be extremely itchy, there are plenty of ways you can deal with the itching. The most important thing, as mentioned above, is not to itch. This will only make things worse and will make you more prone to developing an infection in the affected area.
To reduce how irritating the bites are, antihistamines can be good to take. You can buy mild ones over the counter. However, if those aren’t doing the job, you should be able to get a prescription for stronger ones from your doctor.
If you’d rather not take drugs, there are natural alternatives that you can try to treat the itching. Ice, for example, applied to the affected area, can be a great way to not only stop the itching but also to reduce the swelling and numb the area. Thus preventing you from feeling any pain or discomfort. Another option is to apply pure aloe vera to the affected area. Pure aloe vera has healing qualities and is also a natural anti-inflammatory. So will not only help to soothe the soreness and itchiness but should also help to reduce the amount of swelling that there is.
If your skin is feeling really itchy and uncomfortable, taking an oat bath could help. Place a handful of oats in an old pair of tights, attach them to the taps and the run the bath water onto them. The bath should turn a creamy colour. Have a soak and your skin should feel a lot less itchy and sore.
Bed bug bites can be extremely itchy. However, what it’s important to understand is that the itchiness (and other symptoms) may not appear straight away. It can take hours or even days for the symptoms to start appearing. It’s also important to understand that no matter how itchy your bug bites are, you must not itch them. It can be tempting to itch, but by doing so you’ll not only make them sorer, but you could also introduce an infection to the area. This isn’t something that you want to do, as an infection can be incredibly painful. So, try to prevent yourself from itching, by using some of the methods mentioned above.