Scientifically known as Cimex lectularius, bed bugs are tiny wingless parasites, that are found in warm houses, dorm / motel rooms, dressers, beds and bedding, and other sleep areas. These flattened brown insects resemble the wood ticks. After they have fed, these bugs change from being nearly colorless to a purplish red color. It is quite difficult to discern a bed bug infestation in the house, unless you observe the ugly red bed bug rashes on your entire body. This is because these parasites hide during the day, and it is only at night that they come out to feed. However, they can feed in the daytime when hungry. Cimex species feed exclusively on blood. Cimex lectularius prefers to feed on human blood.
Bed bugs have been closely associated with human beings for thousands of years. Bed bug bites or cimicosis may cause skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic reactions. The bites can cause a range of skin manifestations. Some people may not have skin rashes, while some may develop prominent blisters. The effects may vary from person to person.
Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide exhaled by human beings and the heat emanated from the body. When these blood-sucking bugs draw blood from humans, they release anticoagulants into the skin of the host along with the saliva. This mixture delays the process of blood clotting, and acts as an anesthetic. So, the person does not feel the bite immediately. The skin rashes may appear on the same day, or may not appear till around one week of the bite, depending on the body's reaction to chemicals secreted by the bugs. Multiple red itchy bumps on skin that may be swollen, indicate bed bug infestation.
Distinguishing a bed bug rash from other insect bite rashes can be quite difficult. This is because these red patches on skin are quite similar to allergic skin conditions, especially urticaria. However, an allergic skin rash can occur on any part of the body, while bed bug rashes usually occur on exposed parts of the body. Bed bug rashes may exhibit a linear pattern or they can be found in clusters. The rash starts off as a small inflamed red spot, similar to a mosquito bite. However, a short while after, the single red spot seems to multiply. One of the distinguishing factors of the bed bug rashes is the itching, which can be really aggravating, especially if you are sensitive to insect bites. Unlike a mosquito bite where the itching stops an hour or so after the bite, bed bug bites can itch for a day or two depending on how sensitive you are to the chemicals released by the parasites. The skin lesions may look like a flat welt or a raised bump. And if the parasites are not removed from the bed or the home, the person may have more severe symptoms due to repeated bites over time. Intense scratching can lead to scarring or a secondary skin infection. Although rare, one may develop a severe allergic reaction to bed bug bites.
The bed bug rashes usually go away on their own, once the causative factor is removed. However, for severe cases, antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride), Atarax (hydroxyzine), and certain cooling lotions may be prescribed to deal with the itching and the swelling.
Other than that, calamine lotions and other non-steroidal topical anti-itch medication may be used to reduce the itching. A hydrocortisone cream and certain other over-the-counter steroid creams are quite efficient in reducing swelling. Most of these medicines will not resolve the problem of the red spots, they will only alleviate the severe itching. In certain cases hydrocortisone cream may speed up the healing process though.
The best way to avoid the ugly bed bug rashes is to get rid of the bed bugs. This can be done by a professional exterminator from a pest control service. If you have a persistent problem of bed bug rashes, check the mattresses, couches, and the beds. Most bed bugs hide in the lining and in the nooks and corners of the furniture. Used furniture can harbor bugs, and it is best to inspect it before getting it home. If your child is getting the rashes, then check the stuffed animals, toys, and clothing for the bugs.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.