How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last and How to Heal them Faster

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How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last and How to Heal them Faster
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Bed bugs can leave a nasty cluster of bites on your skin that can last for a few days. For some people, however, bed bug bites can cause allergic reaction and symptoms that last much longer. Bed bug bites can cause a red bump to appear on the skin that becomes very itchy and irritating. Although scratching the itchy bump may give some temporary relief, it can cause the bed bug bites to last even longer.

Thankfully, there are many home remedies that can help to recover faster from bed bug bites. Ingredients like tea tree oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and witch hazel help to reduce the time bed bug bites last. Even just a cold compress is sometimes enough to quickly stop the itching and reduce the swelling that is left after a bed bug bite.

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Of course, bed bug bites will last as long as you have a bug infestation in your bedroom. Therefore, as well as treating bed bug bites, you should take steps to get rid of bed bugs from your home. The faster you can remove a population of bed bugs, the quicker you can stop the pesky bugs biting you during the night.

In this article, you will learn how long bed bug bites last and what you can do to speed up the healing process. You will also find how to treat bed bug bites with natural remedies to ensure that the bed bug bite symptoms don’t last long.

How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?

If you notice red bite marks on your legs, face, arms, or back, your first thought will be to know how long the bed bug bites will last. Having bites on your face or arms is not only irritating but can also be very embarrassing. Bed bug bites can cause large bumps or welts that look unsightly and may even become infected.

According to doctors at the National Health Service (NHS), bed bug bites generally last for a few days. The bites are painless, but irritating symptoms can quickly appear. For some people, they wake up in the morning with bite marks from being bitten that night.1

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the symptoms of bug bites may appear up to 2 weeks after the actual bite. Therefore, it’s important to distinguish if the bites are from bed bugs or from another pest like a flea.2

If you suffer from an allergic reaction to the bed bug bite, the red itchy bumps may last longer than on other people. The NHS says that, in some severe cases, bed bug bites can cause an itchy rash that blisters and fills with fluid.1 According to Dr. Steven Doerr on eMedicineHealth, these kinds of bed bug bites will usually last for up to 2 weeks.3

Unfortunately, bed bug bites will last longer if they become infected. The CDC says that excessive scratching of the bite marks can lead to bacteria getting into the red bump and so the bump becomes infected.2

How to identify bed bug bites

If you notice that red marks have developed on your skin and they become itchy and swollen, it’s important to know if the red lumps are from a bed bug or another parasite.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the symptoms of bed bug bites are a red mark or lump with a darker spot in the middle, itching around the infected area, and bite marks that are in a line or cluster. If you notice these kinds of bite marks on your skin, then you should check your sleeping area for signs of bed bugs.4

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To help identify if the bite marks have been left by bed bugs, you should now check all joints and crevices on your bed frame, box springs, furniture, and mattress seams for tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that physical signs of bed bugs are dark spots on bed linen that can be blood spots or bed bug feces, pale yellow shed skins, and tiny bed bug eggs. You may even notice the tiny biting pests crawling around corners of mattresses and bed frames. You can spot them because they are about the size of an apple seed and will generally hide in dark places.5

If you find evidence of bed bugs living in your home, then it’s time to take action to remove the critters completely. For this, you may need to use a combination of the best bed bug powders along with effective bed bug sprays.

If you can’t find signs of a bed bug infestation, then your bite marks could have been caused by a flea.

Bed bug bites vs flea bites

Flea bites also cause itchy red bumps to appear on the skin and can last as long as bed bug bites. However, fleas will bite at any time of the day, whereas bed bugs tend to only come out at night to feed on blood. Because bed bug bites can appear up to 2 weeks after the initial bite, they can be difficult to tell apart.

One way to tell the difference between a flea bite and bed bug bite is their location on your body. According to dermatologists on DermNetNZ, flea bites tend to be on the ankles or around your waist.6 However, bed bugs will bite any part of the body, and bite marks are common on the face, arms and upper legs, whereas flea bites are not.

According to doctors from WebMD, the best way to tell bed bug bites apart from flea bite is to look for physical signs of bed bug activity.7  

Lasting effects of bed bug bites

Bed bug bites have no lasting effect on humans. According to the CDC, bed bugs don’t spread disease and their bite marks will only last about 2 weeks or so.2

One of the reasons, however, to treat bed bug bites as fast as possible is to reduce the itching and irritation that they cause. Doctors from the NHS warn that excessive scratching of a bed bug bite can cause skin infections, and if this leads to scarring, the bed bug bite scars will last for a long time.1

How to Recover Faster from Bed Bug Bites

Recovering quickly from bed bug bites is important to reduce the irresistible urge to scratch the bite marks. Usually, doctors recommend hydrocortisone ointments to reduce swelling, inflammation, and itching. Here are some great ways you can make your own bed bug bite ointments. By applying these natural remedies, you can shorten the duration that bed bug bites last.

Cold tea bag compress for bed bug bites

A very simple way to relieve swelling and irritation caused by a bed bug biting is to apply a cold tea bag to the affected skin area. This has a two-fold effect on relieving itching. First, the cold helps to calm nerve endings that are irritated. Secondly, tea contains astringents that help to reduce swelling and itching.

For example, Dr. Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth says that applying a cold compress to insect bites can help to reduce swelling and calm the affected area.8

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You can use either black tea bag, green tea bags, or chamomile tea for your compress. The Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry says that black and green teas contain tannins which act as astringents.9 Astringents help to reduce inflammation and itching. Also, studies into the healing effect of chamomile have shown that it has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin similar to hydrocortisone creams.10

How to use:

To use a cold compress to shorten the duration a bed bug bite lasts, you should do the following:

  1. Place a tea bag in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes, remove and allow to cool.
  2. Hold the tea bag to the itchy bed bug bite for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Repeat 2-3 times a day to relieve the symptoms of a bed bug bite and help it heal faster.

If you have many bites, you can prepare a few tea bags and keep them in the refrigerator. This way you can get instant relief from an itchy bite whenever you need to.

Witch hazel

Another natural astringent that you can use to quickly take the itch out of a bed bug bite lump is witch hazel. Also rich in tannins, witch hazel helps to relieve itchiness and inflammation fast from any kind of insect bite.

Witch hazel will also help to prevent any secondary bacterial infection that could hinder recovery from the bed bug bite. The Journal of Inflammation reports that witch hazel has antiseptic and antioxidant properties. Witch hazel is also frequently used to reduce inflammation from irritated skin.11

How to use:

It couldn’t be easier to use pure witch hazel to reduce the length of time a bed bug bite lasts. This is what you should do:

  1. Dip a cotton pad in pure witch hazel and hold to the affected skin area to reduce irritation.
  2. Hold for around 10 minutes to allow the astringents to go to work and bring down inflammation.
  3. Use the witch hazel remedy 2-3 times a day to speed up the healing process of bed bug bites and kill the urge to scratch.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV)

To help bed bug bites to heal quicker, you can apply diluted raw apple cider vinegar to the cluster of bites. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which helps to kill off germs and bacteria from the skin as well as being a great anti-itch remedy. In fact, apple cider vinegar makes a great facial wash to keep your skin healthy and vibrant.

For example, the journal Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy published information on how to relieve pruritus (itching) naturally. It was found that skin applications that are acidic help to lower pH levels and thus help stop itching.12

How to use:

To help treat the symptoms of bed bug bites and prevent secondary bacterial skin infections, you should use raw apple cider vinegar that is unprocessed. This is what you should do:

  1. Dilute equal parts of apple cider vinegar with water.
  2. Apply the solution to the itchy patches of skin where you have been bitten.
  3. Leave to dry and then rinse off with warm water.
  4. Use the apple cider vinegar remedy 2-3 times a day for instant relief for itching caused by bed bug bites.

Alternatively, you can use undiluted lemon juice in place of the ACV bed bug remedy. Lemon juice is also acidic by nature and will help to relieve itchy bumps and patches of red skin. Apply the lemon juice to itchy welts on your skin 2-3 times a day to stop the incessant itching.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a well-researched medicinal plant that has a wonderful effect on healing irritated skin naturally. A little aloe vera on your bed bug bite marks will help to promote healing and nourish your skin at the same time. Aloe vera also has anti-inflammatory properties to stop skin itching.

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Research into aloe vera has found that it can be used to heal itchy bug bites. For example, the Skin Pharmacology and Physiology journal reported that aloe vera was more effective than 1% hydrocortisone gel in alleviating skin irritation.13

How to use:

Aloe vera will help your skin recover faster from bed bug bites and heal any rashes that have developed. You can use gel squeezed from an aloe vera plant or you can buy aloe vera gel that has as few added ingredients as possible. This is how to use aloe vera on bed bug bites:

  1. Gently massage aloe vera gel into the areas of skin where you have bed bug bites to relieve itchiness and irritation.
  2. Allow the gel to dry (you don’t have to rinse it off).
  3. Apply aloe vera gel a few times during the day to help your skin heal and stop itching in the inflamed bumps.

If you have had an unusually acute reaction to bed bug bites, aloe vera will help to reduce the immune response on your skin.

Baking soda

To stop the annoying itching that bed bug bites cause, you can use the soothing power of baking soda. Baking soda helps to reduce the size to bumps and lessen redness where you have been bitten.

According to Dr. David Derrer on WebMD, baking soda is a natural home remedy for bed bug bites. The anti-inflammatory properties of baking soda help to soothe itching, redness, and swelling that bug bites cause.14

How to use:

It is very easy to make a healing baking soda paste to treat a bed bug bite naturally. All you need to make the home remedy is some baking soda and water.

  1. Take a tablespoon of baking soda and mix with some water to create a thick paste.
  2. Apply the healing paste to welts, bumps, and blisters where you have been bitten.
  3. Leave for 15 minutes to reduce itching and inflammation and rinse off with warm water.
  4. Apply the remedy in the morning and evening to help cut the length of time bed bug bites last.

Baking soda can also be combined with other ingredients to help keep your skin looking healthy.

Oatmeal

If you are unfortunate enough to have large areas of bed bug bites on your skin, oatmeal may be the best home remedy for you. Oatmeal contains healing properties that relieve skin itching, irritation, and inflammation fast. Oatmeal can be made into a paste to be used as an anti-inflammatory treatment for your bed bug bites, or you can add it to a bath if you have lots of bed bug bites on your skin.

Scientific research into its healing properties has revealed that colloidal oatmeal (ground oatmeal) is safe to use to provide natural relief from itching and irritation. In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration lists colloidal oatmeal as a remedy for insect bites.15 One study in 2015 found that oatmeal has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. It helps to reduce mild to moderate itching when applied to itchy rashes.16

How to use:

To make a topical application to soothe bed bug bites that are itchy and red, you can add some yogurt to ground oatmeal. Here are the steps to make the bed bug remedy yourself:

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  1. Take a cup of ground oatmeal and mix it with enough plain yogurt to create a paste.
  2. Apply the oatmeal paste to part of your body where you have bed bug bites.
  3. Leave for 20 minutes to soothe the itchy bug bites and bring down inflammation.
  4. Repeat 2 times a day for long-lasting relief from your bed bug bites.

If you have large areas of bed bug bites or they are in hard to reach places, you can add a cup of ground oatmeal to your bath. Bathing in oatmeal is also a great way to stop all-over body itching. A bath with oatmeal will not only stop your itching but the bath will help to relieve the stress from dealing with the bed bug problem.

Honey

You can use honey as a spot treatment to heal bed bug bites quicker and reduce the time they last. Honey is a powerful natural antibiotic that can be used if your bed bug bites show signs of a bacterial skin infection. The soothing effect of raw honey will also assist in calming itchiness and prevent scratching.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic report that there are some studies which suggest that honey can be used as a topical anti-itch treatment.17 Natural honey also adds a protective barrier on the skin which can help prevent the bed bug bites getting worse.

How to use:

The best kind of honey to use is Manuka honey for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. However, you can use any honey as long as it is raw and unprocessed.

  1. Take a little honey and dab it onto your itchy bed bug bite marks.
  2. Gently massage the honey to help relieve itching and soothe inflammation.
  3. Use as necessary throughout the day whenever you get the urge to scratch the bed bug bites.

Cucumbers

One great and cheap way to reduce the time itchy bed bug bites last is to apply sliced cucumber. Cucumbers are full of vitamins and minerals that help to keep your skin healthy and gorgeous.

Cucumber has a cooling effect on the skin and will calm and help stop a never-ending bed bug bite itch. For example, the journal Fitoterapia reported that cucumber seeds have a cooling effect on the skin. Cucumbers also have enzymes that help to alleviate skin irritation and reduce swelling.18

How to use:

For instant relief from the irritating effects of bed bug bites, this is how you can use cucumbers:

  1. Take a cucumber from the refrigerator and cut it into slices
  2. Place the sliced cucumber on the bed bug bites to quickly get rid of your itchy symptoms.
  3. Apply every time you get the urge to scratch the itchy swollen bite marks.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an amazing essential oil that can help reduce inflammation and itching from a bed bug bite. Tea tree oil has many uses in skin care and helping to prevent skin infections and scratching itchy patches of skin is just one of them. Tea tree oil can also be added to coconut oil to provide even more relief to itchy skin.

The British Journal of Dermatology reported that tea tree oil can help treat histamine-induce skin inflammation. It was found that tea tree oil successfully soothed and treated skin inflammation and itchiness that is the result of allergic reactions.19

How to use:

To use tea tree oil to help your skin recover faster from bed bug bites, this is what you should do:

  1. Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of coconut oil to create a healing ointment.
  2. Apply a small amount of the tea tree oil remedy to the red rashes and clusters of bed bug bites.
  3. Use the ointment 2-3 times a day to promote healing and help get rid of your bed bug bites quicker.
  4. Repeat until all redness, swelling, and itchiness have gone from the bitten areas.

You can also use tea tree oil on its own as a spot treatment for insect bites. You can dab a drop of tea tree oil onto the red itchy bump to reduce swelling.

Alternatively, you can substitute tea tree oil for lavender oil and apply to your skin. A study in 2015 found that lavender oil contains compounds that are just as effective as some anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs. Lavender essential oil helps to reduce skin inflammation and inflammatory responses.20

When to See a Doctor

In the rare occasions that home remedies don’t help to get rid of itching and swelling in a bed bug bite and they last for too long, you should visit your doctor or dermatologist. Also, doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend visiting your doctor if many bed bug bites induce a severe allergic reaction or you notice anything unusual around the site of the bed bug bites.4

Read my other related articles:

Read my other related articles:
1. The Top 10 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Naturally
2. The Best Bed Bug Sprays to Kill Bed Bugs Fast
3. How to Effectively Kill Bed Bugs Using Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Article Sources

  1. NHS. Bedbugs.
  2. CDC. Bed bugs FAQ.
  3. eMedicineHealth. The symptoms of bed bug bites.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Bedbugs. Symptoms.
  5. EPA. How to find bed bugs.
  6. DermNetNZ. Flea bites.
  7. WebMD. How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?
  8. eMedicineHealth. Insect bites.
  9. Phytojournal. Tannins are astringent.
  10. OWM. 2011;57(5):28-36.
  11. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011; 8: 27.
  12. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010 Jul; 11(10): 1673–1682.
  13. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(2):106-10
  14. WebMD. Baking soda: what can it do for you?
  15. NCBI. Colloidal oatmeal powder.
  16. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Jan;14(1):43-8.
  17. MayoClinic. Honey.
  18. Fitoterapia. 2013 Jan;84:227-36
  19. Br J Dermatol. 2002 Dec;147(6):1212-7.
  20. An Acad Bras Cienc. 2015 Aug;87(2 Suppl):1397-408.
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