Changlu Wang/Courtesy Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
While bedbug bites aren’t life-threatening, it’s imperative to diagnose them when they arise. When you’re bitten by a bedbug, the bug injects an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that makes it hard for a person to realize they’ve been bitten. In fact, most people don’t realize they’ve been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial contact, shares Dheeraj Taranath, DO, regional medical director for MedExpress. They will commonly appear as a slightly swollen and red area that may itch—similar to that of a mosquito or flea. However, these will often run in a straight line (often three dots together) and cluster in a concentrated area that was exposed when you sleep (such as the back, stomach, or legs). Even though they don’t transfer disease, an infestation in your mattress means that they need to be exterminated right away if you don’t want the problem spreading and causing you to cut down on valuable sleep.
Once you tackle the critters’ breeding ground, the best way to treat yourself is to avoid scratching; severe scratching can lead to secondary skin infections. “You can also help prevent infection with antiseptic creams or lotions and take an oral antihistamine or use an over-the-counter steroid cream such as Hydrocortisone 1% to help relieve the itching,” says Dr. Taranath. Here’s how to get rid of bedbugs for good.
Chiggers come from the larvae of a type of mite and feed on vertebrates such as humans. Their bites produce a red welt with bright red dots in the center, accompanied by an intense and unrelenting itch. Chiggers themselves are so minuscule that spotting them with the naked eye might be difficult, but they can be visible on the skin when they are gathered in a group due to their red color. “While chigger bites can happen anywhere on the body, they most frequently appear in clusters around the waist or lower legs,” says Dr. Taranath. “And within a few hours, you’ll start to itch. You’ll also likely notice reddish bumps that can look like pimples, welts, or hives.”
Interestingly, these critters have delicate mouthparts that can generally only enter patches of the skin that have folds or wrinkles, so watch out for those areas. The bite will inject a digestive enzyme into the host skin that destroys tissue. Chiggers are unique in that they feed off human tissue as opposed to blood, so the affected area can take a couple of weeks to heal. Take over-the-counter antihistamines and use cold compresses to assuage the itch. Here’s a guide on identifying bug bites to help you figure out what may have bitten or stung you.