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Bed Bug Bites On Kids: Picture, Causes, Treatment And Prevention

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Bed bugs are tiny reddish-brown insects that feed on human or animal blood. Although these parasites are not known to cause severe diseases in humans, they may cause sleep disturbances, secondary bacterial skin infections, and allergic reactions.

Medical treatments for bed bug bites are aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing skin infections (1). You may have to seek help from professional exterminators to remove bug infestation from your house and household items.

Read this post to learn more about the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of bed bug bites in children and tips to prevent bed bug infestation.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Bed Bug Bites On Children?

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The signs and symptoms of bed bug bites may vary in each child. Some children may not have any symptoms, whereas others may develop life-threatening allergic reactions.

The following may help you to distinguish a bed bug bite from other insect bites (2).

  • Red skin rashes due to bug bites
  • Bites are usually in clusters, with three to five bites in a cluster
  • Bites mostly appear in a zig-zag pattern
  • Bites are mostly on uncovered areas of the body, such as hands, face, and neck
  • Mild to severe itching or allergic reactions could be present

In some cases, severe reactions can occur with:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tight chest
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lip or tongue swelling
  • Hoarsenes
  • stridor

Sometimes, children may complain of itching, especially at night, but you may not find any skin rashes since it may take up to 14 days for bite marks to appear in some people (3).

Sources Of Bed Bug Infestation

Human travel is the significant cause of bed bug infestation since bed bugs can latch on school or travel bags, shoes, suitcases, boxes, and other items that allow a spot to hide (4).  Second-hand mattresses and furniture could also be a source of these pests.

Bed bug infestations are common in crowded living areas where more number of people lodge, such as:

  • Dorm rooms
  • Hotels
  • Shelters
  • Refugee camps
  • Trains, buses, and cruise ships

If you visit any of the above places, you may transport bed bugs back to your home on your luggage. After infesting a new place, bed bugs can spread from one item or one room to another. They can hide in mattresses, couches, wallpapers, picture frames, electrical switch plates, baseboards, folded clothes, and even cracks and crevices in the wall.

Bed bug infestation can occur even in clean-looking environments. The bugs may also survive for a long duration on objects without feed.

Tips To Prevent Bed Bugs At Home

Tackling and controlling bed bug infestation requires professional help from an exterminator experienced in bed bug elimination (3). Pesticides and non-chemical treatments are often used. The bugs can survive for long without food, so periodic bug treatments are required for complete removal.

Bug sprays and certain pesticides help kill bugs. You may also try the following non-chemical methods to tackle bed bugs (5).

  • Vacuum cleaning of mattresses, sofa, carpets, etc., could physically remove bugs. You may have to empty the vacuum after each use.
  • Wash and dry the clothes and bed covers at high temperatures to kill bugs.
  • Steam non-washable clothes and items for five to ten minutes with an electric garment steamer.
  • Seal suitcases, bags, or furniture suspected to be infested in a plastic bag for several months.
  • Ensure mattresses and furniture items are bug-free before purchase. If possible, have them treated with anti-bug treatment before bringing them home.
  • You may have to discard heavily infested mattresses, couches, and pieces of furniture to prevent further spread of the bugs.

Risks And Complications Of Bed Bug Bites On Children

Sleep disturbances due to itching caused by bed bug bites could affect your child’s general well-being. Excessive itching could result in skin damage, followed by secondary bacterial skin infections. However, bed bugs are not known to cause any diseases.

Health risks of bed bug bite may vary in each child and can range from no reactions or mild itching to severe allergic reactions (3).

When To See A Doctor

Seek emergency medical care if your kid has a severe allergic reaction after bed bug bites. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include breathing difficulty, fever, skin blisters or skin hives, and a general feeling of sickness. You may also consult a healthcare provider for a prescription to control intense itching and signs of skin infection.

How Are Bed Bug Bites Diagnosed In Children?

The type of rash and other symptoms could help the pediatrician establish the diagnosis. You may also look for the presence of bed bugs on the mattress and furniture. There is a higher chance of finding bugs during night hours since they are most active at night. Look for the following indicators to check for bed bugs (3).

  • Presence of bed bugs in the folds of mattress or crevices of the bed.
  • Molts or shed exoskeleton that appears pale yellow to yellowish-brown.
  • Black, reddish, or rusty spots on furniture or mattress indicate the blood-filled excrement of the bugs.
  • Constant sweet, musty odor in the room due to substances emanated by the bugs.
  • Presence of several tiny white specks that could indicate bed bugs eggs. The eggs are tiny and likely to be visible against a dark background.

A child may experience itching without any rashes. Sharing the above findings with the doctor could be useful for making a diagnosis.

Home Remedies To Treat Bed Bug Bites

The following home remedies can be used to reduce bug bite itching (2).

  • Washing the bite area with soap and water may help reduce itching and also prevent skin infection.
  • Non-prescription lotions or creams that contain pramoxine or other anti-itch therapies (ex: Neutrogena Skin Aid, Sarna, Aveeno Anti-Itch)
  • Applying corticosteroid creams after consulting a doctor may help reduce itching.If your child has severe itching, skin infection, or allergic reactions, you may consult a healthcare provider for stronger corticosteroid medications or antibiotic prescriptions.

If your child has severe itching, skin infection, or allergic reactions, you may consult a healthcare provider for stronger corticosteroid medications or antibiotic prescriptions.

Treatment For Bed Bug Bites On Children

Skin rash due to a bed bug bite may disappear within one or two weeks without any treatment. However, doctors may prescribe hydrocortisone (Cortaid) skin creams or ointments to prevent itching.

Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), are prescribed for children with severe and intense itching. Topical antibiotic creams or oral antibiotics are prescribed if a child has a skin infection or severe skin damage from scratching (6).

These treatments are given to relieve itching and prevent bacterial infection of damaged skin. You may have to take measures to prevent bed bugs at home to avoid future bites.

Although bed bugs do not spread diseases, these pests can be a nuisance since they can cause significant sleep disturbance. Keeping your home free of these pests is the best way to avoid any future problems caused by bed bug bites. You can contact a professional exterminator with experience in bed bug elimination to always keep your home free of bed bugs.

References:

1. Adrien C. Ennis and Anthony L. Pearson-Shaver; Bedbug Bites; StatPearls Publishing (2020).
2. Bed bugs: Diagnosis And Treatment; The American Academy Of Dermatology
3. Parasites; Bed Bugs; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4. Bed Bugs; Cimex lectularius; National Pest Management Association
5. Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them; Department of Health; The New York State
6. Parasites; Bed Bugs; Resources for Health Professionals; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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