Bed bug bites can be frustratingly itchy. It can be hard to resist the itch and if you do scratch, you could damage your skin. But what kind of damage? Do bed bug bites spread when scratched?
Bed bugs often leave straight rows of itchy, red, bite marks. The bites are not contagious and won’t spread to other people. If you scratch the bed bug bites, they won’t spread to other parts of your body. Only if you scratch really hard, you could damage your skin and possibly cause an infection.
Some people only get mildly itchy bite marks while others get a really bad allergic reaction to them. It can be easy to scratch them but must be avoided. Read on to learn more about bed bug bites and whether they spread when scratched.
Do Bed Bug Bites Spread When Scratched?
Most insects that rely on human blood as their main food source have anticoagulant saliva. This helps the insects to suck blood and keep it flowing. It has an anesthetic property to numb the area of the target flesh. Therefore, it takes hours for the individual to notice the bitten parts. Once the anesthetic effect wears off, it allows your skin to react with saliva. This causes the itchy sensation on the host’s skin.
Bed bugs are one of these insects. Unlike mosquitoes, bed bugs are almost unnoticeable due to their size. They might be small but they are many in numbers. One bed bug can lay eggs up to its third generation per year. Aside from that, bed bugs are also most active at night. They attack humans while sleeping, making them even more imperceptible. They can even trace you through your warm skin and the carbon dioxide you exhale.
These small crawlers can feed multiple times at one location. This makes the bitten parts appear swollen in rows. These will appear as rashes which can have an extremely irritating itching sensation. To make the itch subside; we tend to scratch the affected part. This might ease the itchy feeling but it can further aggravate the rashes.
Bed bug bites seem to spread on your skin when scratched because it makes the skin inflamed due to severe infection. When you scratched the bites, the feeling of itch subsides. We do not notice the pain until we are satisfied enough that the itchy sensation is gone. So it is too late for us to become aware that our skin is already peeling off.
Once the top skin layer is gone, bacteria can now enter and thrive in our system making us prone to infection. The swollen part that started as a rash then now becomes a more complicated lesion on skin.
But bed bug bites do not spread on your body when scratched. If you notice itchy red bumps that are spreading on your body, it is more likely you have hives. If you scratch bed bug bites, you could cause an infection if you scratch too hard. A skin infection can spread but this would only occur if you scratch the bed bug bites really hard.
Dr. Mark Evans, a pediatrician at the Brecksville (OH) office of Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, said: “bed bug bites do not spread when scratched”. He suggested using calamine lotion to calm the itch.
Complications That May Arise from Scratching Bed Bug Bites?
Bed bug bites can cause various complications if a person is extremely allergic to them. To some, treatment is unnecessary. The amounts of suffering you can experience from these bites depend on your body’s reaction.
Bed bug bites do not spread when scratched but scratching can lead to skin infections. Bacteria thrive in our environment waiting for their turn to enter our system. Repeated scratching of bed bug bites can lead to skin breakage. This tiny opening will allow bacteria or virus to go into your bloodstream.
If left untreated, pus may develop at the site of infection. If the scratching continues, the discharge from the affected area can spread the infection to other parts of your skin. Thus your simple bed bug bites can be life-threatening if the infection is left untreated. Some of these infections caused by bacteria are ecthyma, cellulitis, and lymphangitis.
Some people can have an extreme allergy to bed bug bites. Therefore, they may show extreme symptoms from the bites on their skin. It can trigger a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. The victim will start to feel like they have a lump in their throat and may feel difficulty in swallowing.
They can also experience a runny nose, diarrhea, and nausea. This is because of the introduction of the chemicals that they are allergic. It will make their immune system to release chemicals that can cause them to go into shock. To combat this allergic reaction, they need to have an injection of epinephrine and follow-up check-up.
To avoid further complications from bed bug bites, it is best not to take these bites for granted. It may look small and less dangerous but they can still develop into more complicated skin problems.
How to Avoid Scratching Bed Bug Bites?
Scratching an itch feels good to most of us, but the relief is short-lived. In fact, too much scratching can make the situation much worse. But no need to panic because there are many ways to keep yourself from scratching the itchy bed bug bites.
1. Press a Warm Metal Spoon
First among our itch relievers is by putting a warm spoon on the affected area. Just heat up the metal spoon under warm water for two minutes. Then, press the metal spoon tightly on the bitten parts for a few minutes.
When you take it off, you will notice that the itch is already subsiding. The science behind this remedy is due to the high temperature the spoon has. Remember, bed bug saliva is responsible for itch but it cannot withstand high temperatures.
2. Apply an Ice Pack
The second remedy is to apply an ice pack. Putting a cold compress can help relieve itching as it makes the affected area numb. Instead of inhibiting the effect of the bed bug’s saliva, it slows down blood circulation making skin feel desensitized. If you have scratched your skin a lot and are worried about an infection spreading, apply an ice pack to calm your skin.
3. Apply Topical Cream
Our third remedy is by applying topical cream such as corticosteroid to relieve the itching and allergic reactions. It mimics the hormone cortisol, a “stress hormone” and it works by decreasing the activity of your immune system.
Thus making the bites less itchy and swollen. Steroid cream is effective for preventing an itch from spreading. The bed bug bites don’t spread, but an itch certainly can spread o use calamine lotion or a steroid cream to calm the itch.
4. Bathe Often with Soapy Water
Lastly, washing bed bug bites with soap and water can also work to relieve itch. In addition, it also lowers the chances of the skin from becoming infected from scratching.
These are proven remedies to resist scratching your affected skin. These remedies are not only effective on bed bug bites but are also applicable on other insect bites. You only have to choose which one works best for you.
How to Detect the Presence of Bed Bugs in Your House?
Of course, bed bug bites will not stop reoccurring without dealing with the bed bugs. So it is important to remove the root cause. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
The good thing about bed bugs is that they do not remain or live inside their host. They immediately crawl back to their hiding spots after a full meal of blood. Since these insects feed by blood, they can be both found in clean or messy houses. They can be carried through clothes, pillows, blankets and used mattresses.
To make sure that the bites really come from bed bugs, aside from self-examination, it is best to see them directly. So here are the ways to find out whether these tiny crawlers are present in your home.
If your bedroom smells like a wet towel stored in a closed cabinet for weeks, chances are you have bed bugs in your home. It is due to the alarm pheromones released by bed bugs when disturbed. If they are in large numbers, the smell will get stronger with time.
Look For Bed Bug Shells
Immature bed bugs called nymphs shed their skin five times before reaching maturity. You can easily find these shells as bed bugs often come in groups. They shed their exoskeletons to grow larger in a process called molting.
If the infestations grow large enough, you can see thousands of molted exoskeletons left behind. These shells look like bed bugs but are translucent. So, the next time you see a brown oval shape, inspect it carefully as it might not be just dust.
Blood Stains on Your Bedsheet
If you see bloodstains on your sheets with no possible causes, it might be due to bed bug infestation. In some cases, these stains look like a rusty or dark spot of excrement. These can also be visible on your clothes, furniture or even walls.
If all or two on the lists are present in your home, consult an exterminator immediately. Also, launder infested garments and sheets in hot water. You can also dismantle your bed to expose their hiding sites. Don’t let these bed bugs bother you every night from their itchy bites.
Conclusion – Do Bed Bug Bites Spread When Scratched?
Do bed bug bites spread when scratched? Bed bug bites do not spread when scratched. If you scratch the bites hard enough, you could tear your skin and cause an infection which could spread. A skin infection only will occur if you scratch very hard.
Bed bugs bites are also not contagious. They won’t spread from person to person. But bed bugs do like to transport on clothing so the bug itself could spread to your friend or family member!
Call an exterminator immediately to ensure that there are no more bed bugs in your home. Wash your bedding and clothing in hot, soapy water. With the root cause gone, you only need to put the tips listed above into play to avoid scratching the bites for them to heal.