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How To Treat Bed Bug Bites

Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD · Aesthetics

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Feb 24

    How To Treat Bed Bug Bites

    Bed bugs are insects that seemingly pop up out of nowhere but cause all kinds of discomfort. While bed bugs are not known for spreading disease, the psychological effect of knowing your bed might have bed bugs can leave you anxious for nights at a time. Knowing what bed bugs are, why they inhabit beds, how they are transmitted, and what can be done for bed bug removal are among the steps in how to treat bed bug bites.

    What Are Bed Bugs?

    Bed bugs are small, wingless, reddish-brown parasitic insects. They bite the exposed skin of sleeping humans and animals and feed on their blood. They are about the size of an apple seed and  hide in the cracks and crevices of beds, box springs, headboards, bed frames, and any other objects around a bed.

    The risk of encountering bed bugs increases if you spend time in places with high turnovers of nighttime guests. That means hotels, hospitals, or homeless shelters are more likely to house bed bugs than regular houses or residences.

    About Bed Bug Bites

    Since bugs in general leave almost indistinguishable marks from other bugs when they bite, knowing what kinds of marks bed bugs leave behind is critical.

    In general, bed bug bites appear red with a darker red spot in the middle. They are itchy, arranged in a cluster, and located on a person’s face, neck, arms, or hands. While some people may have no reaction to a bite, others have severe itching, blisters, or hives due to an allergic reaction to them.

    Why Infestations Happen

    Bed bug infestations can occur due to increased travel, changes in pest control practices, or resistance to insecticides. When an infestation happens, that means the bugs need a warm host and hiding places. They can move from one site to another by traveling on clothes, luggage, furniture, boxes, and bedsheets; hence the presence of bed bugs doesn’t necessarily mean that a place is clean or dirty.

    Bed bug infestations could have substantial adverse effects on health and quality of life. That’s why it’s crucial to not just treat the bites, but also to prevent infestations. 

    How Do We Treat Bed Bug Bites?

    Reports say we can treat bed bug bites with over-the-counter solutions. 

    If the affected area becomes itchy, topical application of over-the-counter or prescription anti-itch agents (paroxime, doxepin) or intermediate potency corticosteroids (triamcinolone) may be helpful.

    Superinfected sites may benefit from topical mupirocin or systemic antibiotics, which require prescription. Doctors treat systemic reactions to bed bug bites as insect-induced severe life-threatening reactions. Treatment for these include intramuscular epinephrine, antihistamines, and corticosteroids.

    There is still no evidence that bed bugs can transmit human pathogens. However, they are responsible for significant psychological distress, have produced anemia when abundant, and have contributed to the triggering of asthmatic reactions.

    Key Takeaways

    Bed bugs may not be a daily concern for the general public, but when the problem occurs, it can cause discomfort and distress.
    Appearing in the cracks and crevices of beds, bed frames, and items around a bed, bugs can be transported via clothes, luggage, and furniture, among others. Bed bugs only require a warm host and they can proceed to bite the exposed skin of humans and animals.
    There’s no proof that bed bites can transmit diseases. However, their mere presence, and the reactions that their bites induce can leave psychological distress and physical discomfort. The good news is that there are answers in how to treat bed bug bites. We can treat them with topical ointments and over-the-counter solutions. For more serious cases, the patient needs to consult a doctor. 

    Learn more about Skin Health here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Martha Juco, MD


    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Feb 24

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