Bed Bug Bites: Symptoms, Facts & Natural Treatments – Dr. Axe

Over 99 percent of all professional pest control companies report treating homes or buildings infested with bed bugs within the past year, which makes bed bug bites extremely common annoyances. (1) And theyre arent going away anytime soon, it appears.

Bed bugs are found in every state in the U.S., just about every country, and in new and old homes alike.The Pest World Organization reports that bed bug occurrences are up dramatically from about 1015 years ago, and experts around the world feel that these bugs have recently undergone a worldwide resurgence for reasons that arent totally understood.(2) Pest control surveys show that the top three places where bed bugs are found include apartments/condominiums, single-family homes and hotels/motels making just about anyone susceptible to bed bug bites without a moments notice.

Thankfully, there are ways to get rid of bed bugs, along with ways to treat bed bug bites, naturally and safely, and it starts with understanding bed bugs and knowing how to identify bed bug bites.

Bed bugs, which canlive on many different surfaces in your home aside from mattresses, and are considered blood-feeding insects that bite humans and other animals to survive. There are many different species of bed bugs found globally, but two of the leading types includeCimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus.

Although their name makes it sound like they only live inside of beds or mattresses, bed bugs can survive in other spaces too, including couches or sofas, luggage, sheets, inside dressers, or in rugs/carpets. Other than homes or motels, places where its common to find bed bugs includeany spacewhere people live or work in tight quarters, especially if the space is cluttered and not cleaned often such asnursing homes, college dorms, corporate offices, schools, day care centers and hospitals.

The most common sign or symptom of bed bug bites is a type of dermatological reaction that causes an itchy, bumpy rash.A small percentage of people develop somewhat serious reactions to bed bugs beyondjust itchy skinrashes, including anemic symptomsor various symptoms of allergies, but for the majority bed bugs are mostly just a nuance, inconvenient and downright gross to encounter. (3)Even though there isnt evidence that bed bugs carry dangerous human pathogens, you still definitely want to avoid them at all costs due to the rash they can cause along with significant psychological distress.

If you do suspect youve been bitten, youre probably wondering how you can get rid of bed bugs in your home and prevent them from returning without the use of harsh chemicals. Prevention of bed bugs and treatment for bed bug bites include using natural bug-repellent solutions in your home, such as essential oils, along with treating skin rashes with natural skin careingredients.

People react to bed bugs differently depending on their tolerance to bites and strength of their immune systems. Rashes caused from bed bug bites can start out as small macular spots and later progress into larger, intensely itchy, dry patches that might erupt as they heal. The good news is that bed bugs themselves are usually not very dangerous, since they tend not to carry harmful bacteria that can cause any lasting infections or viruses in humans. Research shows that some bed bugs carry up to 40 different species of microbes/bacteria, but most (if not all) are harmless.

The most common symptoms of bed bug bites include:

There is also a strong psychological toll associated with bed bugs, since they can cause anxiety, shame and trouble sleeping for many people. (5)

Keep in mind that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same way. Some people experience little to no symptoms from bites and therefore have no idea that theyve even been bitten. Others respond more drastically and can suffer from allergic reactions, pain and fever-like symptoms.

For people with average or strong immune systems, the majority of bed bug species are nonvenomous and relatively harmless. Bed bugs are roughly equivalent to head lice or common mosquito bites, since they cause skin reactions but usually not more.Boosting your immune system can help to reduce allergy/histamine reactions to bug bites.

The reason bed bugs can trigger skin rashes is because their saliva can carry substances that irritate human skin.Bed bug bites usually arent felt and dont hurt while theyre happening because the bugs can first inject a numbing agent into the skin that makes their fangs essentially undetectable.

Although most bites cause minor reactions, including small, red bumps, some people develop more intense hive-like rashes, swelling and painful skin lesions.The most severe reactions occur in people who tend to be allergic to many different types of common bug bites, including mosquitoes or fleas.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that if you have a history of strong allergic reactions to bug bites or notice signs of an infection caused from any bites, its best to see a doctor. (6) Early treatment can help control any skin inflammation from worsening and keep the allergic reaction from causing more serious complications.

Bed bugs are considered by many experts to be one of the most challenging pests to treat, considering theyre both resilient insects and also capable of reproducing quickly. They can survive in many different climates, go very long periods of time without eating, and are small enough to live in tiny places and go easily go undetected. (7)

There are many myths surrounding bed bugs including that they only bite at night, are only found in the summer and can jump across entire rooms.Bed bugs dont just wait until youre sleeping to start biting; theyre actually capable of biting any time of day.Although its a common misconception that bed bugs fly and can move quickly from room to room, they dont actually have wings, and they arent capable of jumping/hopping far either. Instead, they crawl from surface to surface, usually on the search for more food.

Bed bugs arent seasonal pests for the most part, like mosquitoes or ants, for example, and can take up residence in your home or other areas at any point in the year.Although not a seasonal insect that tends to thrive or die off at certain points in the year, surveys show that bed bugs are reported in higher numbers during the summer months. The reason experts believe this is true isbecause people tend to do more traveling during the summer and stay in more hotels/motels. Public transportation use can also increase in the summer months, which raises the risk for bed bugs being transmitted from location to location.

What do bed bugs look like?

Conventional treatment for bed bug bites usually includes:

The Department of Medical Entomology at Westmead Hospital in Australia warns: The misuse of chemicals and other technologies for controlling bed bugs has the potential to have a deleterious impact on human health.

Insecticides, prescription drugs and chemical household cleaners can be toxic and sometimes cause reactions like worsened skin problems, allergic responses and more. Whenever possible, its best to prevent bed bugs come infesting your home in the first place. When a rash occurs, you can work on easing itching naturally and thoroughly cleaning your home to prevent another infestation.

1. Inspect Your Home and Clean Up Clutter

Although its a myth that bed bugs only live in old or dirty homes, its true that the more cluttered a space is the likelier they are to survive and continue reproducing. Clearing away clutter from your home gives them less opportunity to find spaces and surfaces to hide.

If you suspect youve been bitten, try to locate the bugs in your home by investigating your mattress, headboard, carpet, sheets and area around your bed. A clue your skin rash might be due to bed bugs is if you wake up with itchy areas you didnt have before going into bed (since this is where many people get bit since its easy for the bugs to live if they have access to blood frequently). Another risk factor is if you recently bought a new bed, carpet or furniture, especially if any of it waspreviously owned.

Some people notice certain signs that point to bed bugs around their homes, including:

2. Thoroughly Wash Affected Surfaces and Fabrics

Its recommended if you spot bed bugs in your home or develop any signs of bed bug bites that you call a professional service company thats experienced with dealing with them. There are some companies that use organic, natural products to help control bed bugs, but most wont. Ask about what types of options companies in your area offer in regard to the type of insecticides they use. If you do choose to hire a company that uses chemical insecticides, make sure theproducts are safe to use on mattresses that might later come into contact with your skin.

The good news is that you dont necessarily need to throw out your mattress, couch, carpet or clothing if bed bugs have infested them, although many people choose to. Its possible to clean fabrics and surfaces enough to remove bed bugs and their eggs, which is most successful when done using professional cleaning equipment thats powerful.

3. Use Neem Oil

Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide thats derived from seeds of the neem tree.Azadirachtin is the most active component of neem oil that helps repel insects and pests due to its strong smell.The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that neem oil can be safe and effective against bed bugs both in both private homes and other commercial environments.

Not only does it repel bed bugs from settling in your home, but neem oil helps stop them from reproducing if theyre already there. Look fortwo products thatcontain concentrated neem oil and are ready to use: TER-TRU1 (containing 5.5 percent cold-pressed neem oil, which is best for homes) and TER-CX1 (containing 22.0 percent cold-pressed neem oil, which is best for commercial use in large spaces).

4. Apply Diatomaceous Earth

Another natural bug-repelling substance,Diatomaceous earth (DE), is made up of fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms.It usually comes in the form of a white powder and is also used in water filtering, food manufacturing, skin products and farming to naturally eliminate free radicals, viruses, insects, parasites and other harmful organisms.

DE contains silica, which has beenfound in studies to kill insects by removing a portion of the razor-thin, waxy outer coating that helps the insects conserve moisture and survive. It essentially dries them up from inside without the use of chemicals and tends to be more effective than products that rely on abrasion or poisoning. (12)Sprinkle DE powder where needed in your home, rub the powder into fabrics/your carpets with a brush or broom, and then letthe powder sit for about four to 12 hours before vacuuming. Its recommended that you repeat this process once a week for a total of three to four weeks.

5. Help Stop Bed Bug Bite Itching

Skin that has been affected with a rash caused by bed bug bites should be cleaned and treated with mild anti-itch solutions. You can use a natural antihistamine product on your skin to lower swelling, itching and redness. Natural treatments for bites include:

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Bed Bug Bites: Symptoms, Facts & Natural Treatments - Dr. Axe

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