Although cool conditions may allow bed bugs to survive up to one year without eating, you’re likely to know when they’re ready to feast. They’ll probably be feasting on you. Blood is the bed bug’s sole source of food, according to Orkin.com, and bites from the hungry little buggers can leave your skin peppered with small red welts. Thanks to the anesthetic and anticoagulant bed bugs inject while biting, your itching may not start right away. But once it does, the most important thing to remember is not to scratch.
Why You Shouldn’t Scratch
Unless you have an allergic reaction to the bed bug bites, MayoClinic.com and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note the bites themselves typically pose no health threat. Incessantly scratching at the bites, however, can result in an infection that will require antibiotics to fight.
How to Beat the Itch
Mind power alone can be a potent tool, but you may want a few other remedies in your arsenal for combating the itch of bed bug bites. Choices include a lineup of over-the-counter remedies available at most drug stores as well as several natural options.
Going with Over-the-Counter Remedies
- Topical skin lotions or creams containing hydrocortisone can kick the itch by reducing the swelling.
- Lotions or creams containing menthol help soothe the skin, especially if you keep the lotion or cream in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
- Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can also help decrease the itchy discomfort.
Going au Natural
- Baking soda: As long as your bed bug bite is not an open wound, you can treat it with a paste made by mixing baking soda and water. Dab the paste on the affected areas for relief, or go for all-over relief with baking soda added to a warm bath.
- Ice: An ice cube or ice pack can quickly reduce inflammation, which in turn helps to reduce the itching.
- Natural oils: A trio of natural oils can help with bed bug bites, either singly or in combination. Peppermint oil cools the skin while it speeds up healing by increasing circulation to the area. Lavender oil works to reduce inflammation. Tea Tree oil is hailed for its ability to disinfect. Use natural oils sparingly; a drop or two applied with a cotton swab is typically enough to be effective.
Going with Stuff Already in the House
Certain household products can also bring relief to itchy bug bites if you happen to be out of baking soda or ice.
- Mouthwash or toothpaste: A cotton ball soaked in mouthwash can provide relief, as can a small dab of toothpaste.
- Deodorant: Some underarm deodorants contain ingredients that help to reduce skin irritation. Give yours a whirl to see if it’s one of them.
- Banana peels: Banana peels and plantain peels have been credited with reducing bug bite itch. Parentables says to place the inner side of the peel on the bite for 90 minutes then wash the area and top off with a dab of hand sanitizer.