Bed Bug Bite
Is this your child's symptom?
- Bites from bed bugs
If NOT, try one of these:
What to Do
Select the First Symptom that Applies
Call 911 Now
- Life-threatening allergic reaction suspected. Symptoms include sudden onset of trouble breathing or swallowing.
- You think your child has a life-threatening emergency
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
- Spreading red area or streak with fever
- Spreading red area or streak that's very large
- Your child looks or acts very sick
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Painful spreading redness started more than 24 hours after the bite. (Note: Any redness starting in the first 24 hours is a reaction to the bite)
- More than 48 hours since the bite and redness gets larger
- You think your child needs to be seen
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Severe itching not better after 24 hours of steroid cream
- Scab that looks infected (drains pus or gets bigger) not better with antibiotic ointment
- After 7 days, bites not better
- After 14 days, bites not gone
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
- Normal bed bug bite
Care Advice for Bed Bug Bites
- What You Should Know About Bed Bug Bites:
- Bed bug bites cause itchy red bumps.
- They are usually less than ½ inch (12 mm) in size.
- Some are larger (like a hive). These are normal reactions to a bed bug.
- A large hive does not mean your child has an allergy.
- The redness does not mean the bite is infected.
- Bed bugs do not carry any infectious diseases.
- Don't panic: You can get rid of bed bugs from your home.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
- Steroid Cream for Itching:
- To reduce the itching, use 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid). No prescription is needed.
- Apply 3 times a day until the itch is gone.
- If you don't have, apply a baking soda paste until you can get some.
- Allergy Medicine For Itching:
- If the bite is still itchy, try an allergy medicine by mouth.
- Benadryl is a good one. No prescription is needed.
- Try Not to Scratch:
- Cut the fingernails short.
- Help your child not to scratch.
- Reason: Prevent a skin infection at the bite site.
- Bed Bug Repellents - Not Helpful:
- Insect repellents do not keep bed bugs from biting.
- Repellents containing DEET (used on skin) and permethrin (used on clothing) do not help.
- Removing Bed Bugs from Your Home:
- Getting rid of bed bugs requires a licensed pest control service.
- Look in the phone book or on the internet under Pest Control.
- What to Expect:
- Any pinkness or redness usually lasts 3 days.
- The swelling may last 7 days.
- The itch may last for 2 weeks.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Bite looks infected (redness gets larger after 48 hours)
- Large red bumps last more than 7 days
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Your child becomes worse
Causes and Background Information
Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites
- Usually cause itchy, red bumps in a group or line
- Often they look like a hive or mosquito bite
- Bite may have a red dot (puncture) in the center. This is where the bed bug bit through the skin.
- Occasionally, a small blister can occur in the center
- Bites are usually on exposed skin (arms, legs and face)
- Bites are usually first noted in the morning
Diagnosis of Bed Bug Bites
- Live bed bugs hide and are not usually seen. Close inspection of the mattress may find some.
- They are ¼ inch (6 mm), flat, oval shaped, reddish-brown bugs.
- Suspect bed bugs if over 3 red bumps in a row are on exposed skin. The bumps or bites are very itchy.
- Bed bug waste is found on bedding or mattress seams. It looks like dark brown flecks or coffee grounds.
- A blood stain on the sheet may sometimes be found. This is from a bug smashed after feeding.
Cause of Bed Bug Bite Reactions
- The skin bumps are the body's reaction to the bug's saliva.
- While the bug is sucking blood, some of its secretions get mixed in.
- Bed bugs are small visible blood-sucking bugs. They are about ¼ inch (6 mm) in length.
- During the day, bed bugs hide in the corners of mattresses. They may also be found in bed crevices, floors, and walls.
- At night, the bed bugs come out of hiding. They feed on humans for about 5 minutes.
Prevention of Getting Bed Bugs
- Over half of bed bug infestations within homes start after recent travel.
- Avoid hotels and hostels where bed bugs have been reported. (see bedbugregistry.com)
- When you check into a hotel room, look for signs of bed bugs. Look for flecks of their waste (like coffee grounds) in the bedding and mattress. If present, ask for another room.
- Keep your luggage and clothing on a luggage rack off the floor.
- When you return from a trip, place all travel clothing into the clothes dryer. Run the dryer for 20 minutes. (Reason: The heat will kill any bed bugs or their eggs that are present). One pregnant bed bug can spread bed bugs to an entire house.
Frequent Questions (FAQs)
- Can bed bugs transmit HIV or hepatitis? This is highly unlikely. It has never been reported.
- Do bed bugs like dirt? Not really. What bed bugs like is the warmth of the human body. Dirty and cluttered spaces just give bed bugs a place to hide.
- Are bed bugs too small to be seen? No. You can see adult bed bugs. They are about the size of an apple seed (4-7 mm; ¼ inch).
- Are bed bugs scared of the light? They do prefer darkness. But keeping the light on will not stop bed bugs from biting you.
Copyright 2000-2018. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.