What bit me last night in my sleep?
How can I protect myself from bedbugs? What should I do to treat the bites?
Bedbugs are becoming more common and can cause an itchy rash and distress but carry no diseases.
If you wake up in the morning with a rash from insect bites on exposed skin that itches, it is possible you were the victim of bedbugs. These small insects bite people and animals to feed in the middle of the night and as such are often not seen. If you are traveling, it would be a good idea to try to sleep somewhere else.
The rash from the bites do not always appear immediately after you are bitten. They sometimes take a few days to appear and some people do not even get the rash. It should also be noted that bedbugs do not come out to feed every single night. It may take a few weeks to notice that your bites are part of a larger pattern. You will not feel the bugs bite at the time you are being violated because they excrete a tiny amount of anesthesia into your skin before they bite. If you scratch the bite excessively, you may cause a secondary infection that can lead to swelling and bleeding.
Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. The good news is that they do not transmit any known diseases to humans. The bad news is that they are hard to get rid of and they can live for months without feeding.
Bed bugs are great hitchhikers in luggage but they do not live on your body. They are becoming common in hotels and other travel venues and unfortunately are often brought home with you. They may enter your home undetected through luggage and clothing. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night. Thus the name “bedbug”…
Prevention: While traveling be picky with where you stay and leave your luggage and travel items as far away from the bed as possible. Be sure they are zipped closed at night. When you get back home, you may want to consider unloading your luggage in the garage before bringing in any unseen bugs.
Treatment: Bed bugs are quite distressing but they are not dangerous. The symptoms of a bite typically disappear in one to two weeks without treatment. If you want to confirm the diagnosis and get prescription treatment for more rapid resolution, you should be seen by your physician or at Urgent Care. Prescription doses of cortisone creams are much stronger and effective than the over the counter strength and is commonly adequate for dramatic improvement. If needed, for more severe cases, oral or injectable cortisones are available at Urgent Care. In the unlikely case the rash gets infected from excess scratching, topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed.
In mild cases, use an over the counter anti-itch cream, such as 1% cortisone, for symptom control. Take an antihistamine, such as benadryl, to also reduce the itching and swelling. Ice packs can help numb the skin and reduce your urge to scratch.
See our Physicians and P.A.s at Doctors Urgent Care for the highest quality medical evaluation and treatment. We are familiar with and treat the rash from bedbugs.
David B. Dean, MD
Doctors Urgent Care