Our winter vacation was something the whole family had been looking forward to for months – two whole weeks of skiing in Colorado! The kids, Elaine, Todd and Stevie as well as John and I were all having so much fun that we never really noticed the bites initially. On our last day at the resort, Todd showed me a whole row of red dots on his skin that he said itched horribly, but we were packing and getting ready to leave so I’m afraid I didn’t pay the attention I should have.
Of course we bought some souvenirs while we were there: some cute animals on skis and some hats with the resort name on them. Unfortunately, we never knew that we were bringing home some very unwanted and disgusting souvenirs without knowing it.
Everything settled down like always after we came home, the kids went back to school and John and I returned to work. However, after a couple of weeks, the mysterious bites started again. At first we had no idea what was causing all these bites on us, not only did they look ugly, but they itched like crazy. I also noticed some brownish spots on the sheets and pillows that I couldn’t explain.
We thought mosquitoes might be biting us, or maybe fleas. John came home one day with bug spray and we sprayed around the beds, thinking that we’d solved the problem. The next morning, I swear we had more bites than ever – whatever was biting us seemed to regard the spray as a garnish.
Finally, I took Stevie to the doctor; as he had developed a terrible rash on his arm. When the doctor told me he had bed bug bites, I was speechless. We’d never had anything like this in the house, and I keep a pretty tight ship. Our doctor asked if we’d been away from home and I told him about our vacation, and it was then that I remembered the bites we’d gotten at the resort. The doctor said we’d probably brought some stowaways home with us, and that they’d established themselves in safe nooks and crannies in the house.
He gave me some cream for Stevie and anyone else who needed it and told me to get in touch with our local health department. I called as soon as I got home with Stevie and they had plenty of information for me. The first thing I found out was that typical ‘bug sprays’ will do nothing against bed bugs, and that they are now immune from most of the pesticides used against them. The folks at the department told me where to look for cast off bed bug skins and now I understood what those brown spots on the bedding were.
I followed the advice of the health department people and called some exterminators. I asked a lot of questions and finally settled on a pest control company that would come and heat up our home enough to kill off the bed bugs. It seems that high heat is the only thing that really kills these little vampires, and there aren’t any chemicals left behind, either. Since the house was treated, we haven’t been bitten again, but you can be sure that we’ll be very careful the next time we go on vacation.
Bed Bugs Bites FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
I know I had a lot of questions about bed bugs especially after been bitten by them, so I’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about bed bug bites that might help anyone out there who may be victimized by these tiny bloodsuckers.
1. How do you know if you have been bitten by bed bugs?
Since bed bug bites leave red, itchy, highly visible welts on your skin, usually in groups or rows of three or more, there is little doubt when you’ve been bitten.
2. How to tell if bed bugs are in my bed?
Bed bugs often live nearby rather than in your bed – in an electric wall socket, behind loose wallpaper, in a crack or behind baseboards. Sometimes they do lurk in a mattress seam – look for the bugs itself, plus droppings (red-brown stains) and shed skins.
3. How long does it take for bed bug bites to show?
Most bites appear within two to three hours after been bitten, but sometimes don’t show up for several days or even two weeks, depending on the individual.
4. What other bugs make bites that look like bed bug bites?
Spider bites can be any size, but usually appear alone. Flea bites are concentrated on the legs, where bed bugs can bite any where on the body when the skin is exposed during sleep particularly on the arms, neck, face as well as on the legs. Mosquito bites appear one at a time and last an hour or less. Some symptoms of bed bug bites can be similar to a mosquito bite, but they are somewhat smaller, last longer, and come in groups or lines; they also continue to itch for days and sometimes weeks.
5. Are bed bug bites dangerous? Do they transmit disease?
Though disgusting, there are no medical evidence to proof that bed bug bites transmit diseases from person to person. They can cause an allergic reaction, though.
6. If a bed bug bites someone who is HIV positive and then bites me, could I get HIV?
No, you can’t catch HIV from bed bugs. A hepatitis outbreak in Gambia and independent laboratory research proved that bed bugs can’t transmit infectious viruses. Isn’t this a relief?
7. Do bed bug bites cause a spreading rash?
To some degree, yes. Bed bugs inject anesthetic when they bite you. This causes a rashy allergic reaction sometimes. People also give themselves skin infection by scratching the extremely itchy bites hard enough to break the skin. If the rash spreads, visit a doctor; you may need an antibiotic cream for a mild infection.
8. How can I stop bed bug bites from itching and swelling?
Applying calamine lotion to bed bug bites can help soothe away the itching and swelling. Alternately, try cortisone cream or a paste of wet baking soda (also good for wasp stings). Use a cold pack for extra relief.
9. Can wearing pantyhose while sleeping prevent bed bug bites?
Technically, no. Bed bugs bite any exposed skin anywhere – arms, hands, neck, face, and so on. You can’t cover your skin everywhere 24 hours daily. If you want to prevent being bitten by bed bugs, the only solution is to exterminate them.
10. Does alcohol help bed bug bites go away?
Yes, rubbing alcohol can help relief bed bug bites. The alcohol dries the bites, and plus helps sterilize the area, lessening the chance of infection. Don’t use rubbing alcohol near your eyes or your mouth. Note that rubbing alcohol does not repel bed bugs.
11. What natural remedy works best on bed bug bites?
If you want to try natural ways to help soothe your bed bug bites, St. John’s wort, witch hazel, oatmeal soaks, or lemon juice are recommended.
12. Is there something I can put on my skin to prevent bed bug bites?
No, many people have claimed fail-safe bed bug repellents, but there’s no scientific evidence these work. Insecticides used as repellents can poison you, while essential oils like tea tree oil are also hazardous, and do nothing.
13. How long does it take bed bug bites to heal?
Bed bug bites last longer than mosquito bites, but they usually go down in a few days if no new bites appear. They may take two weeks if you’re sensitive to them.
14. Do bed bug bites leave a scar? If so, what kind of cream should I use to fade the scar?
Most of the time, bed bug bites go down without leaving a scar. Injuries that you inflict by scratching at them can leave scars on your skin, however. There are some ways to deal with bite scars:
- Chemical peels take off skin and possibly scar tissue
- Silicone scar sheets help
- Prescription scar creams have a stronger effect
- As a last resort, use laser treatment (costly but effective)
15. Bed bug bites from a hotel; what are the chances I can bring them home with me?
If you aren’t careful, you can easily bring bed bugs home from an infested hotel. Bed bugs were reintroduced to the U.S. by travelers, in fact, and in many cities, the worst infestations are in hotels. Try the below tricks to prevent bed bugs from hitchhiking home with you.
- Put luggage on a folding rack or in the bathtub
- Keep most clothes inside your luggage zip-locked or sealed in a trash bag
- Back home, isolate clothing inside trash bags until washed, with a long dryer cycle
16. Can people sue hotels over bed bug bites?
Yes, people can sue hotels for being bitten by bed bugs, and some have actually won settlements of $300,000. Success is not guaranteed, however.
17. Bitten by bed bugs at home. How do I prevent more bed bug bites from occurring?
Don’t try to wipe out the infestation yourself if you are not sure or have never dealt with bed bugs – instead hire a professional exterminator who uses specialized chemicals or thermal treatment to do the job. These people may use bed bug detection dogs to check for residual infestations, too.
18. If someone has bed bug bites, can they pass them from hugging or close contact? If yes, what should I do to prevent it?
Bed bugs aren’t external parasites like lice or fleas, and don’t spend much time hanging out on people other than a quick foray to bite followed by an equally quick retreat to their favorite crack in the wall. Bed bugs don’t remain on their victim like fleas or ticks. Most bed bug infestations come from luggage or second hand furniture. So, hug away, shake hands, dance a waltz with them if you feel like it – people bitten by bed bugs aren’t infectious.
Documentary About Bed Bugs
Emmy winning documentary explores how and why bed bugs are making such a huge come back.