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Sarasota Dermatology Blog

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Posted on 25. Nov, 2009 by in Rashes, Skin Care, Skin Conditions

   Bed bugs are tiny nocturnal bloodsucking parasites that can live in your mattress. Their bite sites are usually itchy and found on body areas not covered with clothing while you sleep such as the arms, legs, and face. 

      These nasty, annoying creatures are found in warmer climates and most frequently affect humans. Unfortunately they are becoming increasingly prevalent due to insecticide resistance.  

      Often the sites of the bites in humans consist of 3 red raised bite areas on your skin. The critter’s bites are painless, although the human reaction to the bite can become quite itchy a short while after the bite. Bed Bugs usually feed just before dawn and the human skin reaction usually occurs in the morning on the host’s skin.  

      Bed Bugs are most frequently located on the mattress of the person being bitten.  Any movement alerts the bugs to burrow into the mattress making them difficult to spot with a visual inspection. You may see dark spots on the mattress, which are feces, or red blood spots.  

      The bugs range in size from about 1.5 mm when young to about 5 mm in length as adults. They are brown with an oval shape, have six legs and two slender antennae, but no wings. Female Bed Bugs lay between 200 to 300 eggs in their lifetime. Once laid, the eggs hatch in 10 days. It takes 6 weeks for the bugs to reach adulthood and during this time they are ready for a blood meal. 

      Bed bugs are very adaptable to adverse environmental conditions.  They can withstand a wide range of temperatures and can survive up to a year or longer without a meal. 

      In addition to living in the mattress, they can live in furniture, behind loose wallpaper or hung pictures, inside luggage, under carpets or in floor cracks and the space along the baseboards of the room. The bugs secrete an oily malodorous smell and may give a pungent odor to the room. 

      Nighttime is party time for Bed Bugs. They reveal themselves at night and feed in the early morning hours before dawn. They are attracted to the human body because of its warm temperature and carbon dioxide production. 

      The bugs painlessly bite you when you’re sleeping. When you wake in the morning they scurry back into the mattress and you are left with red itchy bumps. The itchiness is a reaction to the enzymes in the bed bugs salvia, and will subside in a few days or sometimes weeks.  

      Treatment of bites is often to let them resolve on their own although in our office we can treat the itching with oral antihistamines as well as topical corticosteroid creams. If the itching is unbearable we can treat the patient with systemic steroids for a short term.  

      It’s important to understand that we are treating the skin condition that is the reaction to the bite. We are not trying to kill bugs on the body because they don’t stay on the body.  

      To rid yourself of these bugs in your home is not a simple task and will likely require the help of a professional exterminator. While the exterminator may use insecticides specifically targeted for the Bed Bugs, the mattress itself will have to be discarded and replaced. In general, insecticides should not be used on mattresses since these can be toxic to humans.

       With a new mattress, the bed should be moved away from shelving and the wall and the legs of the bed can be coated with a 2-inch wide band of Vaseline or mineral oil to act as a protective barrier. Cracks in the floor and walls should be caulked. Loose wallpaper should be glued down.   

      If you travel, there is a chance you could encounter Bed Bugs in a hotel. While this encounter is rare, it is important to know that Bed Bugs will be comfortable stowing away in your luggage and travelling home with you.  

      If this is a concern when traveling, first check the mattress for black dots, smell for any unusual smells, and if you think the mattress is infested – RUN.   

      If you have red itchy bumps after sleeping at home or in a hotel don’t panic. See your dermatologist to have the bumps diagnosed and get relief. 

      For more information on Bed Bug pesticides contact the National Pesticide information Center at 800-858-7378 or

3 Responses to “Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!”

  1. Theo

    26. Nov, 2009

    This was a very informative site about having bed bugs and what not to do, but it doesn’t say how to prevent bed bugs so much. I heard that to stop bed bugs from traveling with you, you can buy a bed bug luggage liner. I got a mattress protector for my house because I didn’t want to have to spray my bed and my daughters crib with insecticides. Those can be even more dangerous than bed bugs!
    p.s. if you’re looking for a good anti- bedbug crib mattress protector, I got mine at

  2. Frank

    13. Sep, 2010

    I have heard that heat kills these bugs and many exterminaters are using industrial heaters to make your house very hot to kill them.

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