Understanding The Bed Bug Skin Rash

Common bed bug symptoms typically involve red, itchy bites on any exposed skin while sleeping. Bed bug bites are raised, red welts, and often come in a straight line or zig-zag pattern. 

The physical reaction from bed bugs can differ from person to person, but an adverse skin reaction could turn into a larger rash. If you’re unsure whether the rash is from bed bugs, you should look for evidence of an infestation, and consider seeking confirmation of what caused your injuries from a trained health professional.

Evidence of a bed bug infestation could be blood stains from squashed bugs, excrement on the bedding, mattress, or clothing that resemble black ink dots, and sometimes a bad smell from the bugs’ scent glands. If you discover multiple fecal stains, and possibly bed bug exoskeletons, this is a sign that you’ve stumbled onto a bed bug nest.  

You will need to look closely between sheets, blankets, and along the folds of the mattress to locate signs of an infestation. Whatever you find, you should take multiple photographs and videos.

If you suspect you encountered a bed bug infestation, it’s important that you diagnose the rash and/or bites properly because different skin reactions will benefit from different treatments. 

It’s important to note that skin rashes from other entities can often be confused with bed bugs. This is why it is usually best to have your injuries diagnosed by a physician that specializes in skin conditions, such as a dermatologist. 

Here are a few examples of mistakes that a treating physician can make: 

  1. Bed Bug Bites and Scabies

Scabies is caused by a mite that burrows into your skin. Scabies is contagious and spreads through contact. It has a more traditional rash-like appearance than the individual welts of bed bug bites, but will cause similar symptoms. Scabies do not group like bed bug bites do, which tend to appear in groups of three. 

Treatment of scabies usually requires prescription topical or oral medications. 

  1. Bed Bug Bites and Poison Ivy

Minimal bed bug injury and poison ivy rash treatments are similar – you can just leave it alone and it will go away within a few weeks, or to ease discomfort use a skin cream containing hydrocortisone or an oral antihistamine. ​​ 

A poison ivy rash will look like patches or streaks of raised blisters, and not the individual small bites of the bed bug rash.

  1. Bed Bug and Flea Bites

Flea bites tend to cluster around the ankles, while bed bugs can be anywhere there is exposed skin when in bed. Bed bug bites do not have the red spot in the center like flea bites often do.

Flea bites and bed bug bites are similar in that they are distinct individual welts that are clustered together. 

Bed Bug Rash Treatment

The level of symptoms you experience will dictate whether you need immediate medical treatment. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms such as intense swelling, inflammation, or any sign of a dramatic immune response, you may be having an allergic reaction and you should get professional help immediately. 

For typical rash symptoms, any of the following medications may help: 

  1. Hydrocortisone – This is a steroid cream that helps reduce inflammation on the skin.
  2. Calamine Lotion – This is an over the counter medication that can help soothe irritated skin. 
  3. Benadryl – An oral antihistamine that can relieve itching and help with trouble sleeping.
  4. Antibiotics – If the skin becomes overly irritated and turns into an open wound, a healthcare provider may prescribe an oral antibiotic to prevent or treat an infection. 

Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?

Bed bugs are not known to be extremely dangerous, but they should not be underestimated. These insects can turn your life upside down, causing pain & suffering, anxiety, property damage, mental anguish, and other lingering problems.

Bed bugs can also trigger an allergic reaction, causing the bites to become inflamed. In rare cases, this may evolve into a more fluid filled rash or difficulty breathing – in this case seek medical treatment immediately.

Though these creatures aren’t generally lethal, they can be known to transmit disease as well and if you are allergic to them the reaction can be severe. Therefore, even if you have mild symptoms you should take great care in dealing with any exposure you had to bed bugs. 

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