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Bed Bugs - Bed Bug Bites

Skin Rashes

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Updated September 15, 2010

Bed bugs are usually about a 1/4 long and can cause an itchy rash when they bite.

Bed bugs are usually about a 1/4 long and can cause an itchy rash when they bite.

Photo Courtesy CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack

Parents often bring their kids to the pediatrician for treatment of bites and stings.

Although the focus is usually on more well-known bites, such as ant bites, spider bites, bee stings, and even chiggers, bed bug bites are getting more attention lately.

Once limited to hotel and motel rooms, perhaps from international travelers, bed bugs are now a problem in many homes, dorm rooms, and apartments. In addition to the theory that bed bugs have been spreading because of an increase in international travel and immigration, many experts think that the fact that many dangerous pesticides were taken off the market has greatly contributed to the spread of bed bugs.

Bed Bugs

Whatever the cause, bed bugs are here and bed bug bites are something you should learn to recognize in case you have them in your home.

Fortunately, bed bugs don't spread any contagious diseases.

It is a bit disgusting to think that bed bugs might come out and feed on your kids at night though, and since the bed bug bites are painless, you may not even know it.

Of course, you may soon suspect bed bugs once your child develops a rash. With an appearance like many other common bites, bed bug bites often appear as small itchy raised red areas on exposed skin - usually a few days after your child has been bitten by bed bugs.

You might especially suspect bed bugs if you or your child:

  • has traveled recently, since bed bugs can climb into your luggage or onto your clothing from an infested hotel room
  • has slept on a used mattress or sat on other used piece of furniture
  • lives in an apartment building, where bed bugs could have infested another apartment and have moved into yours too
  • lives in or recently spent time in a college dorm room, since these have increasing been found to be infested with bed bugs, both because of increased international travel by college students and because of an increase in international students
  • are getting new unexplained bites each night, and for example, you don't have a dog with fleas and your child isn't exposed to mosquitoes, etc.
  • are actually see bed bugs hiding in the seams or crevices of your child's mattress or box spring, along the edge of carpeting, behind picture frames, and hiding inside recesses of furniture. Keep in mind that you may have to take apart the bed frame to find some of the places where the bed bugs are hiding or you may need a professional exterminator to find them.

Treatments for Bed Bugs

Treating a bed bug rash is usually easy, including the use of:

  • non-steroidal topical anti-itch medications, such as calamine lotion
  • over-the-counter topical steroid creams, including 0.5% and 1% hydrocortisone cream
  • oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride) or Atarax (hydroxyzine), a prescription strength antihistamine
  • prescription strength topical steroid creams

Since the bed bugs don't actually stay on your skin, a prescription medication to kill the bed bugs isn't necessary. And since bed bugs don't transmit any diseases, no treatment is necessary for the bed bugs, besides the treatments to control the itching they cause.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Although treating a bed bug rash isn't difficult, actually getting rid of the bed bugs is another story. Many people report challenges and that they have to get rid of their mattress and other household items when their home is infested with bed bugs.

A professional exterminator can help you get rid of bed bugs.

To keep them away, be sure that you:

  • avoid used furniture, especially used beds, mattresses, and couches, or at least closely inspect them for bed bugs before bringing them home
  • get rid of the clutter around your child's bed, toys, clothing, stuffed animals, etc., where bed bugs can hide
  • don't let your child's sheets or blankets touch the floor
  • examine beds and hotel rooms for bed bugs when you travel
  • keep luggage off the floor when you travel


Sources:

Bed Bugs. Biology and Management. Harvard School of Public Health. Richard Pollack, Ph.D. and Gary Alpert, Ph.D.

Bed Bugs. Michael F. Potter. Extension Entomologist. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

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