Bed Bug Rash: Symptoms and Natural Treatments for a Quick Relief

Bed Bug Rash: Symptoms and Natural Treatments for a Quick Relief
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Bed bug bites can cause a very itchy rash and an irresistible urge to scratch the clusters of red bumps. Many people develop a bed bug rash after being bitten multiple times by these parasitic insects. The bed bug rash may be just a patch of itchy red skin around the bite mark or it could be a large number of welts that itch and may even blister.

Getting rid of the rash that develops after bed bug bites can be a challenge. Very often, scratching the red itchy rash just makes the itching even worse. Also, you may suffer from some embarrassment if the bed bug rash is on your face, arms, or legs. The good news is that there are many effective home remedies for bed bug rashes that will stop the itching and help your skin heal faster.

To naturally treat a rash that has been caused by bed bug bites, it’s important to reduce inflammation, swelling, and itching on your skin. However, natural remedies need to include antimicrobial properties to prevent skin infections getting worse. That is why ingredients like tea tree oil, witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, and aloe vera are excellent home remedies for bed bug rashes.

In this article, you will learn how to effectively treat the symptoms and visible signs of a bed bug rash. You will also find out how to identify bed bug bites and what you should do if you have an infestation of bed bugs.

Identifying Features of a Bed Bug Rash

Bed bug rashes on your face, arms, hands, and legs are an allergic reaction to being bitten by bed bugs. These are tiny insects that grow to about 5-7 mm and feed on the blood of humans and animals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that it can take up to several days for bed bug bite marks or a rash to appear. It can also be difficult to tell the difference between clusters of bed bug bites and other insect bites. For example, bed bug rashes can look similar to flea bites or mosquito bites.1

According to doctors from the National Health Service, bed bug bites are painless at first. As the body reacts to the bed bug bite, red itchy bumps will appear. Sometimes, you may notice a rash around the bed bug bites or the clusters of red itchy welts could appear to be a rash-like patch of skin.2

However, Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the only way to really tell if the rash is due to bed bug bites is to look for signs of an infestation of bed bugs.3

For more information, read the article on what do bed bug bites look like.

How Long Does a Bed Bug Rash Last?

The length of time a bed bug rash lasts depends on the severity of your body’s reaction. Dr. Steven Doerr on eMedicineHealth states that a rash can appear anywhere from a few minutes after the bite to a few days. If the bite turns into a red swollen bump then the rash can last up to two weeks.

However, if you scratch the itchy rash a lot and an infection gets into the wound, then the healing time for a bed bug rash will be longer than two weeks.4

How to Spot Signs of Bed Bugs

If you notice signs of a bed bug rash, you should immediately inspect your bed and bedding for the little critters.

Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that bed bugs live in tiny crevices in furniture, in the seams of mattresses, in box springs, and along baseboards. Some of the tell-tale signs that your rash has been caused by a bed bug infestation are:

  • Brown or dark specks on bed linen that are from dried blood or bed bug feces.
  • Shed skins that are yellowish.
  • Small tiny eggs about the size of a pinhead.
  • A distinctive musty odor from the bed bugs.

If you notice signs of bed bug activity or even see live bed bugs crawling around your bed frame, you need to take immediate action to get rid of the bugs for good. To find out how to exterminate bed bugs completely using homemade sprays and bed bug powders, please read my article on the top 10 home remedies for bed bugs.

The Best Home Remedies for Bed Bug Rash

There are many wonderful home remedies to soothe itching and prevent infection of bed bug rashes and blisters. Applying these natural treatments regularly will help you to resist the urge to scratch which can cause the itching to become even more intense.

Cold compress

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to take the itch out of a bed bug allergy rash fast is to apply a cold compress. The coldness helps to soothe irritated nerve endings and reduce itching.

Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth recommends an ice pack placed on itchy insect bite rashes to calm inflammation and get rid of itching.5

How to use it:

To quickly calm the symptoms of a bed bug skin rash using a cold compress, this is what you should do:

  1. Put some ice in a sealed plastic bag and wrap in a thin towel.
  2. Hold on the rash for 10 minutes at a time.
  3. Repeat for a few times to help calm your itchy skin.
  4. Use the cold compress any time that your bed bug rash starts getting itchy.

Alternatively, you could use a cooled tea bag for the cold compress. Just place a black tea bags, green tea bag, or chamomile tea bag in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes. Remove, and cool in the refrigerator and use in place of the ice pack to treat your bed bug skin rashes.

Apple cider vinegar

Another easy remedy for bed bug rashes that you can make at home is an apple cider vinegar solution. The anti-itch properties of apple cider vinegar are due to the acetic acid in the vinegar. This acidic property of apple cider vinegar also acts as an antiseptic to kill germs and prevent secondary bacterial infections.

According to a report from 2010, topical treatments that lower the skin’s pH levels help to soothe itching.6 Diluted apple cider vinegar is gentle enough for most people’s skin to balance pH levels and reduce inflammation. Also, the journal PLoS One reported that acetic acid acts as a natural antibacterial treatment and can treat infections in skin wounds.7

How to use it:

To calm an itchy rash caused by an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, you can use an apple cider vinegar solution this way:

  1. Dilute raw apple cider vinegar with equal parts of water.
  2. Dip a cotton ball in the solution and apply to the red bed bug rash to soothe itching and kill off germs.
  3. Leave to dry then rinse off with warm water.
  4. Apply the apple cider vinegar solution 2-3 times a day to your rash to help speed up the healing process.

Apple cider is also great for washing your face and will help to reduce an itchy rash on your cheeks or neck caused by bed bugs.

Aloe vera

The skin-soothing properties of aloe vera have been well researched and you can apply the gel directly to itchy bed bug bite rashes. You can buy aloe vera gel that has very few added ingredients or you can squeeze the gel straight from the plant leaf.

Many doctors recommend using a hydrocortisone ointment to reduce itching in insect bites. However, you can use aloe vera gel as a natural anti-itch ointment. The journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology reported that the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera were just as effective as 1% hydrocortisone gel in getting rid of itching.8

How to use it:

It couldn’t be easier to use aloe vera gel to treat bed bug rashes. This is what you should do:

  1. Apply aloe vera gel to your irritated bed bug rash and allow to dry.
  2. Repeat 3 times a day to promote healing and get rid of the itchy rash quickly.
  3. Continue using until all rash-like symptoms of your bed bug bites have gone for good.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is another natural remedy that will take the itch out of bed bug bites or a rash. The reason that witch hazel is so effective in soothing itchy skin is that it contains tannins which are a natural astringent.

According to many doctors, witch hazel is a natural remedy for itching and pain. By applying witch hazel to irritated skin and insect bites, you can also help to reduce swelling and inflammation. Its healing properties are also useful if scratching the bed bug rash has caused the skin to break.9

How to use it:

To promote healing of a rash caused by annoying bed bugs, you can use witch hazel this way:

  1. Soak a cotton pad or ball in pure witch hazel.
  2. Hold the cotton ball on the itchy bed bug rash for about 10 minutes to relieve itching and kill off any germs.
  3. Repeat applying the natural witch hazel remedy 3 times a day to treat your allergic skin rash.

Apply witch hazel to a bed bug rash any time you feel discomfort or a strong urge to scratch the cluster of bites. You can also use witch hazel to get rid of clusters of flea bites.

Baking soda

If you need fast relief from a bed bug skin rash that is causing irritation, you can apply a baking soda paste. The anti-inflammatory properties of baking soda along with its antibacterial activity is a quick and cheap way to treat bed bug rashes.

According to Dr. David Derrer on WebMD, baking soda will calm redness, soothe itching, and generally help treat symptoms of an allergic reaction to an insect bite.10

How to use it:

To help cure a bed bug rash using baking soda, you just need to make a paste this way:

  1. Take a tablespoon of baking soda (or a little more if you have a large rash) and mix with water to form a smooth paste.
  2. Apply to the itchy bed bug rash and any red bumps that are causing irritation.
  3. Leave for 15 minutes then rinse off with warm water.
  4. Use 2 times a day and continue using until your bed bug rash is healed.

Baking soda can also be used as a cheap home remedy to reduce blemishes on your skin and keep your skin looking healthy.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a great way to treat large rashes caused by bed bugs that are on your back or in hard-to-reach locations. Oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory properties to reduce inflammation in insect bites that have caused an allergic reaction.

The Journal of Drugs and Dermatology reported that ground oatmeal helps to reduce skin rashes, itching, and other symptoms of irritated skin reactions.11 Oatmeal is so effective for treating insect bites that it is registered with the U.S. FDA to relieve “itching and irritation caused by insect bites.”12

How to use it:

For treating bed bug rashes that cover a large area, you can make a relaxing bath with ground oatmeal. This is what you should do:

  1. Run a bath with warm water and sprinkle 2 cups of ground oatmeal in the water running from the faucet.
  2. Relax in the bath for 20 minutes to relieve itching from all over your body.
  3. You can also take a handful of oatmeal and mix it into a smooth paste and press on itchy bed bug rashes.
  4. Rinse off in the shower and pat yourself dry.
  5. Repeat 2 or 3 times a week to help cure the irritating rash caused by bed bug bites.

If you want to know how to make an oatmeal and yogurt paste to relieve itching from clusters of bed bug bites, then please read my article on how to get rid of bed bug bites naturally.

Honey

A dab of honey on a bed bug rash can do wonders to heal the irritated skin quickly. Honey is commonly used to treat many types of skin infections, blisters, and wounds and can relieve itchy insect bites. Honey has powerful antibacterial properties; therefore, by applying honey to bed bug bites, you can prevent bacterial infections causing pus to form in the bite marks.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic stated that honey can be used as a topical itch treatment and it forms a protective barrier on the skin.13 The European Journal of Medical Research reported that applying honey to the skin helps reduce itching in some skin infections.14

How to use:

If you want to use honey to get rid of bed bug rash symptoms, it is best to use Manuka honey for its healing power. However, you can use any raw, unprocessed honey on the itchy rash.

  1. Apply a little honey to the irritating bed bug rash and gently massage into the skin to kill off any germs.
  2. Repeat regularly throughout the day to stop the strong urge to scratch.
  3. Continue using daily until all the signs of skin irritation and itching have disappeared.

Cucumbers

One easy way to quickly remove the symptoms of a bed bug rash is to apply slices of cooled cucumber to the red patch of skin.

It is not just the cold from a chilled cucumber that relieves itching from a bed bug rash. According to the journal Fitoterapia, the seeds of cucumber have a cooling effect. Research has also shown that cucumbers relieve irritated skin and reduce dermal swelling.15

How to use it:

Here is the best way to use a chilled cucumber to treat bed bug rashes on your face, arms, or legs:

  1. Take a fresh cucumber straight from the fridge and cut it into thick slices.
  2. Place the cucumber slices on the patches of irritated skin for instant relief from discomfort.
  3. Use anytime your bed bug rash creates a strong urge to scratch the itch.

The anti-inflammatory properties of cucumber are also great for puffy eyes and you can also make your own cucumber gel for soothing tired eyes.

Essential Oils for Bed Bug Rash Treatment

Many essential oils can be used to make a topical ointment for relieving itchy and inflamed bed bug rashes. Two of the best essential oils for insect bites are tea tree oil and lavender oil.

When using these oils to treat a bed bug rash, you should mix them with a carrier oil. For this, the best oil to use is coconut oil because it has antibacterial properties as well as helping to moisturize the skin and promoting skin healing. For the recipe, you should use 2-3 drops of essential oil in 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Apply the natural ointment to your bed bug rash 2-3 times a day until all symptoms of bed bug bites have gone.

Tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory and helps to reduce itching and swelling in irritated patches of skin. A review of the medicinal properties of tea tree oil found that it helps reduce histamine-induced inflammation in the skin. This means that tea tree oil is an important ingredient in treating bed bug allergy rashes.16

Lavender essential oil helps to relieve pain, soothe itching, and relax the skin and mind. One scientific study published in 2015 found that lavender oil helps to lessen itching just as good as some popular pharmaceutical drugs for swelling and allergic reactions.17

Calendula oil can help to treat a skin rash caused by bed bugs. The University of Maryland reports that calendula treats skin inflammation and itchiness.18 You can add a few drops of calendula oil to a tablespoon coconut oil to reduce redness in a bed bug rash.

There are many other essential oils that can help you treat the allergic reaction caused by bed bug bites – read about them in my article about the best essential oils for allergies.

Bed Bug Rashes – When to See a Doctor

In most cases of bed bug rashes, the home remedies are all you need to speedily reduce itching, redness, irritation, and blisters. Natural remedies should help to heal the bed bug rash within one week.

If you have a severe allergic reaction to bed bug bites or you notice signs of a bacterial infection, you should see your doctor. Dr. Steven Doerr on eMedicineHealth says that signs you should seek medical advice for bed bug bites are as follows:19

  • You have shortness of breath
  • You have chest pain
  • You have difficulty swallowing because your throat feels tight
  • An itchy rash appears over all the body
  • Redness spreads from the site of the bed bug bite
  • You have signs of an infection like fever

Read these related articles:

Article Sources

  1. CDC. Bed bugs FAQs.
  2. NHS. Bedbug bites.
  3. WebMD. Bedbugs.
  4. eMedicineHealth. Bedbugs.
  5. eMedicineHealth. Insect bites.
  6. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010 Jul; 11(10): 1673–1682.
  7. PLosOne. The antibacterial activity of acetic acid.
  8. Skin Pharmacol Physiol.2008;21(2):106-10.
  9. WebMD. Witch hazel.
  10. WebMD. Baking soda.
  11. J Drugs Dermatol.2015 Jan;14(1):43-8.
  12. NCBI. Colloidal oatmeal powder.
  13. MayoClinic. Honey.
  14. Eur J Med Res.2001 Jul 30;6(7):306-8.
  15. Phytochemical and therapeutic potential of cucumber
  16. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan; 19(1): 50–62.
  17. An Acad Bras Cienc.2015 Aug;87(2 Suppl):1397-408.
  18. UMM. Dermatitis.
  19. eMedicineHealth. Bedbugs.
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