Bed bug bites: what are your anti-itch remedies?

by nobugsonme on July 8, 2013 · 15 comments

in bed bug bites

Our trusty six-year-old FAQ on anti-itch remedies for discomfort caused by bed bug bites (“Bed bug bites make you itchy and scratchy? This may help…”) has just been updated to include David Cain’s recommendation of the following product for bed bug bite relief:

David, of Bed Bugs Ltd. (UK) and our forums, now recommends Caribbean Breeze Aloe Burn Relief with Lidocaine for bed bug bite relief (assuming, of course, that you are not sensitive to the ingredients).

Similar products from other brands which are also based on aloe and lidocaine may be equally helpful– we haven’t tried these, so please be sure and let us know about your experiences if you try them:

I’ve now updated the 2007 FAQ with this information.

But it seems like a good time to ask other pros and those currently suffering from bed bugs for your favorite anti-itch remedies– what gives you relief from bed bug bites? Do you just leave them be and try not to itch? Do you use an antihistamine or apply anything topically which helps the itch? Have you seen a doctor and gotten any good suggestions?

I’d be happy to add further updates to the FAQ on bed bug bite relief to reflect more readers’ and experts’ experiences and additional recent recommendations.

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions below.

Thanks for your input!

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1 Ken Hando & Sheree Swindle July 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

We’ll be sure to look for the Caribbean Breeze product on our local store shelves. As we feed our colony ourselves, we have had lots of practice to find what works for us:
– gently wash the area immediately with soap and a soft-bristle brush
– pat dry
– generously apply Sudocrem ( and rub (do not scratch) in
– reapply whenever itching re-ignites and
– never, ever scratch
Ken Hando & Sheree Swindle
PS – we must maintain a live colony for canine training purposes

2 IBBRA July 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

Tee Tree Oil worked well for me. I am highly allergic to the saliva of the bed bug.

3 nobugsonme July 10, 2013 at 2:24 am

Thanks, Ken and Sheree! I will do an update to the FAQ when all the comments are in and add your suggestion.

4 nobugsonme July 10, 2013 at 2:25 am

Thanks, IBBRA! That’s interesting. Others have reported tea tree to have a drying effect on skin (which can cause or exacerbate itching.)

5 Marge July 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The only relief, but short term relief, that I used was taking my thumb nail and making a cross through the welt and then rubbing alcohol and then Caladryl and take ibuprofin every three hrs

6 nobugsonme July 14, 2013 at 12:28 am

That’s interesting, though I fear the cross may in the end make things worse.

7 Bed Bug Finders July 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I always tell people that it is best to try and fight back against the itching by doing everything in your power not to scratch. For people that are sensitive to the bites, touching the impacted area can trigger more itching. Hold out for as long as you can on lotions for Marge is right, it can definitely make itching worse as it causes dryness. Instead of a pain reliever, how about working from the inside and taking something with an antihistamine like Benadryl. Hope this helps!

8 nobugsonme July 18, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Hi Bed Bug Finders,
If you click to read the full FAQ on bed bug bite relief (“Bed bug bites make you itchy and scratchy? This may help…”), you’ll see I too recommend not itching.

That said, it isn’t always possible (many itch in their sleep) and it does seem others have found relief from some of these methods.

9 barfa July 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I have not had bed bug bites since my infestation in 08, but I know this trick works on mosquito bites and some other insect bites and it may well work on bed bugs too. Heat, high heat, applied to the bitten area. The theory is that most of the stuff that causes the allergic reaction are susceptible to breaking down when exposed to high heat. I tried this the other day witha one-day old ver very itchy mosquito bite, I warmed water to over 80 celcius and put the ‘scoop’ part of a metal spoon in it for a while. Removed the spoon and pressed the hot part on the bite. When I couldn’t stand the pain I removed the spoon a short while and then pressed again. I did this over and over for well over a minute. And the itching stopped completelty. Usually I scratch my itches until they bleed and then keep on scratching, I have almost zero self control.
When I had bed bugs, I didn’t know about this trick. I then used mostly antihistamine pills and hydrocortisone cream which helped a bit at least. Local applies acetylsalicyl acid worked too, and lidocaine.

10 nobugsonme July 20, 2013 at 1:48 am

Interesting, barfa!

I know that many people find heat makes bed bug bite reactions seem to “appear” or worsen, for example, many people notice them after a shower, or while jogging.

That said, I haven’t tried your method and given the above information, I’d be hesitant to if I had bed bug bites again. Perhaps others will have tried it and will have input.

11 VeryHotH2OWorks! July 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

The key to the hot water treatment for bed bug and many other insect bite itching is that the WATER has to be very hot (uncomfortably hot but not scalding). I have not tried a hot spoon, but I have tried a hot washcloth, which didn’t work anywhere near as well as very hot water directly on bite.

Here’s an explanation and more from People’s Pharmacy:

“More than 30 years ago we stumbled across this bizarre tip in a dermatology text book (Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment, 1961, P. 94) edited by a giant in the field, Dr. Marion Sulzberger. The water has to be hot, roughly 120 to 130 degrees F. That means it is uncomfortable, but no so hot as to burn sensitive skin. The application is VERY short…a couple of seconds at most. Either expose the skin very briefly to hot running water or use a hot washcloth for a second or two.

According to the dermatology experts from the 1960s, the hot water “short circuits” the itch reflex. In other words, the nerve network in the skin gets so overloaded by the heat stimulus, the urge to scratch is abolished for up to three hours. You will be amazed at how fast the relief occurs.

A word of caution, however. This approach is probably not a good idea for poison ivy where there are open sores or big blisters. Serious skin irritation or itching requires medical diagnosis and treatment. Be VERY careful NOT to burn yourself with water that is too hot. Only a second or two exposure is necessary.” [End of excerpt from People’s Pharmacy].

I have found that the hot water technique gets rid of the wild itching for at least several hours, but I try to keep the hot water running on bite for more than 1 or 2 seconds. If I am in shower, I use the removable shower head and run very hot water directly on bite for as long as I can stand it (usually 2 to 5 seconds)…Then, I’ll apply 100-percent aloe vera to bite and take benadryl (generic works just as well), when I have a bunch of bites.

After everything else (hydrocortisone, triamcinolone, tea tree oil, olive oil, baking soda paste, red cider vinegar, triple antibiotic and aloe vera without hot water first) did not work or did not work that well, I found the hot water technique, which has helped keep me semi-sane as I deal with bed bugs in my public housing apartment (most of the whole multi-unit building has been infested for years). I’ve noticed that a normal hot shower can indeed make the itching worse, but very hot water run directly on bite is the key to relief.

I’d be interested to hear if this works for others.

12 Larry @ Bed Bug Treatment Site September 13, 2013 at 11:09 am

I have a good friend that is into herbs and more natural treatments. She recommends using Plaintain, a common weed, that is good for soothing skin irritations. If you can either gather it around your home or purchase it online from a dried herbs provider. She also recommends using white cosmetic clay. You mix it into a paste and place it on the bites. The clay protects the skin and soothes he bites to reduce or remove itching.

Something that everyone has around the house is vinegar, which also works really well for treating bed bug bites – assuming you can deal with the smell of course 😉 For kids, you’ll want to dilute it 50/50 with water.

13 oozingpain October 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm

spent 2 nights in a TN hotel, noticed a few bites on my arms while checking out. during the 5 hour ride home more bites started to show up on my arms and fingers, they were red hot, itchy and oozing. i researched the web and tried most remedies mentioned but nothing gave me much relief. i was so tearful and in misery, totally lit up!!!!!!!! i went to the dermatologist and she gave me a steroid shot in the behind and prescribed cephalexin antibiotics and a clobetasol cream. she also took a biopsy, i wont know the results for 2 more weeks. 9 hrs after seeing the doctor… i’m finally feeling some relief! thank you doctor!!!!!!

14 nobugsonme November 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

HI oozingpain,

We don’t know if it was bed bugs that caused your skin reaction, and if it was, we don’t know if you were bitten in a hotel room. I hope you’re feeling better soon!

That said, you might want to take some of the steps noted in our travel FAQs on how to avoid bringing bed bugs home. And for next time, tips for avoiding the problem entirely.

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