Are Bed Bug Bites an Effective Early Warning Sign?

One of the first signs of a bed bug infestation is the appearance of bites on one or more members of your family. But that doesn’t necessarily make them a viable early warning system. It takes some time for a bed bug population to grow and an infestation may be well under way before any of the hungry pests begin to venture out to feed. More importantly, bed bug bites often take time to appear. If you’re beginning to notice bite-marks on members of your family there’s a good chance you’ve been sharing your space with bed bugs for some time.

Can You Feel Bed Bugs Biting You?

Most people don’t feel bed bugs crawling on them when they feed. This is because bed bugs generally feed when their hosts are asleep. It’s possible to feel a bed bug crawling on you if you’re awake, but even then these pests are so small and light that it’s unlikely.

As to the bite itself, you’re unlikely to feel the beg but biting you because their saliva contains a mild anesthetic. This allows the bed bug to feed without being disturbed by its host. The bites themselves are small. As the anesthetic wears off it’s doubtful you’d feel any pain from the bite itself. You’ll only begin to feel the affects of the bite later as your skin begins to react.

How Long Does it Take for Bites to Appear?

Technically, bed bug bites are visible as soon as the bug has finished feeding. However, the wounds are so small as to be nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. The red welts and itchiness that typically accompany the bites are the result of a common allergic reaction.

Most people have a relatively mild reaction to bed bug bites and it may take some time for we realize we’ve been bitten. However, people with a greater sensitivity to the allergen may experience a more severe reaction. In most cases the welts will appear between two days and two weeks after the actual bite. So, if you wake up with bed bug bites the attack itself likely happened several days before.

What Impacts Reaction Time?

The time it takes for a bed bug rash to appear varies depending upon the victim’s immune system. The allergens in bed bug saliva will prompt a reaction in the majority of people. However, because everyone’s immune system is different some people will react more quickly and more severely than others.

Roughly 30% of people will experience no significant skin reaction at all. But for the rest of us a variety of factors will impact the time and severity of the reaction:

  • Age – The elderly typically have a mild reaction to bed bug bites. The same is true for younger children aged 10 and below.

  • Medication – Some medications, particularly corticosteroids, suppress the body’s immune system. This can also slow or prevent a reaction to bed bug bites.

  • Skin Sensitivity – Skin sensitivity plays a large factor in reaction time. People that react badly to mosquito bites for example are more likely to experience a more severe reaction to a bed bug bite. The reaction may happen more quickly and may be much more intense.

For most people bed bug bites will heal within a couple of weeks. However, the more severe the reaction the longer it will take for the bites to fade completely.

In most cases bed bug bites don’t leave a scar. The danger comes with how we react to the bites themselves. Scratching may temporarily alleviate the itch but it also raises the risk of breaking the skin and leading to infection or scarring.

Treating Bed Bug Bites

If you leave your bed bug bites alone they’ll slowly fade away. However, that’s a tall order and finding relief from the itchiness is important. A few over the counter treatments will help to alleviate the itching and irritation:

  • Oral Antihistamines – Over the counter antihistamines can be effective in treating the irritation of bed bug bits. They are most effective when taken at the first sign of an attack.

  • Calamine Lotion – Calamine lotion is the go-to for soothing irritated bed bug bites. It relieves the itch and helps to reduce swelling.

  • Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera is an all natural treatment that can help to reduce itchiness and sooth irritated skin.

Bed Bug Bite as Early Warning System

For many people the appearance of bed bug bites is the first indication that they’re experiencing an infestation. But as we have seen it can take some time for those bites to appear, making them somewhat ineffective as an early warning system.

Diligence is the key. Learn to spot the early signs of bed bug activity before the pests begin to feed on your family. If you’ve experienced an infestation in the past (and even if you haven’t) it can be a good idea to schedule regular bed bug inspections to help protect yourself and your family from these blood thirsty pests.

Published by Scott Palatnik

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