How to Treat Hives From Bed Bugs, Healthfully

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How to Treat Hives From Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small insects with six legs that spend the day in hiding and then come out at night to feed. They get their name from preferring to feed on people while they are sleeping. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic to keep their victims from feeling anything as well as an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing. Bed bug bites commonly cause small hives that cover any area that the bugs have fed upon.

Use topical creams. There are a wide variety of cortisone creams that are available over the counter. Application of these creams to the affected area three or four times a day will help relieve the itching.

Avoid scratching. Scratching the affected area can cause irritation and can also damage the skin, potentially causing infection.

Take antihistamines. Antihistamines (the same ones that can be used to treat allergies) can help reduce some of the itching and inflammation that bed bugs can cause.

Be wary of severe allergic reactions. For some people, the hives from bed bugs can cause itching all over their body and difficulty breathing. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids.

Get rid of the bed bugs 1. The only way to get rid of the hives that bed bug bites can cause is to get rid of the bed bugs. You will need to freeze your pajamas, sheets, and other bedding items for twenty-four hours as well as spray pesticide around your bed. You will most likely need a professional, however, to completely get rid of the infestation.

Bed bugs are small insects with six legs that spend the day in hiding and then come out at night to feed. For some people, the hives from bed bugs can cause itching all over their body and difficulty breathing. You will need to freeze your pajamas, sheets, and other bedding items for twenty-four hours as well as spray pesticide around your bed.

What Are Bedbugs?

Casey Gallagher, MD, is board-certified in dermatology and works as a practicing dermatologist and clinical professor.

Bedbugs have resurged worldwide and these blood-sucking insects (both the Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus) are a problem in many homes and hotels. Fortunately, bedbugs aren’t known to spread contagious diseases. However, it is difficult to eradicate an infestation and you will want to take steps to prevent bringing bedbugs home. Learn how to identify and treat these pests.

Bedbug Symptoms

Bedbug bites often appear as small, itchy, raised red areas on exposed skin, usually a few days after the actual bite. However, some children and adults don’t develop a reaction to the bites at all, even after repeated exposure.

The bites appear much as other insect bites and can be seen in these patterns:

  • A rash
  • A line of bites
  • A cluster of bites

You can develop a skin infection if you scratch the bites. Rarely, a more severe allergic reaction to the bites could produce larger welts, blisters, or anaphylaxis. Bedbugs may also trigger asthma attacks and getting too many repeated bites could lead to anemia. Anxiety, insomnia, and sleep disturbances are common due to the stress of discovering bedbugs.  

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Bedbugs are tiny flightless insects that feed only on blood. They prefer humans but can feed on pets and farm animals. They feed at night and hide from light, especially in seams and crevices around the bed.

There is no direct link between poor sanitation and bedbug infestations. A pristinely clean living space is as vulnerable as a messy one.

Usually, sleeping in a place where multiple people have slept increases your risk. You might especially suspect bedbugs if you or your child:

  • Traveled recently
  • Slept on a used mattress or sat on a used piece of furniture
  • Lives in an apartment building where bedbugs could have infested another apartment and have moved into yours
  • Lives in or recently spent time in a college dorm room
  • Are getting new unexplained bites each night
  • Actually see bedbugs hiding in the seams or crevices of a mattress or box spring, along the edge of carpeting, behind picture frames, and hiding inside recesses of furniture


A diagnosis of bedbugs is made by the appearance of the bites and finding bedbugs in your home environment. The bites are often not distinguishable from other insect bites. A doctor will consider conditions including scabies, allergic rashes, staph infection, eczema, antibiotic reactions, and chickenpox.

You can identify a bedbug infestation by checking bedding, mattress seams, furniture, and wall fixtures for the bugs or their traces.   Each bedbug is about the size of an apple seed, about 1/4 inch long.

You will often see their droppings instead, which are tiny brown or red specks. You may also see small blood stains on sheets or mattresses when a bedbug has been crushed after feeding.

Eggs about the same size as the adults might be seen in seams or cracks and you will also see their molted exoskeletons.


Treating bedbugs includes caring for the bites and eliminating the infestation. The bites will heal naturally and nothing will speed that up. You can use over-the-counter products to relieve the itching but you may need a prescription if you develop a skin infection from scratching. Common treatments include:  

  • Topical anti-itch and anti-inflammatory medications such as calamine lotion, Cortaid (cortisone) cream, and diphenhydramine cream
  • Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride) or Atarax (hydroxyzine), a prescription strength antihistamine
  • Topical antiseptic or antibiotic lotion for bacterial infection or oral antibiotics

Although treating bedbug bites isn’t difficult, actually getting rid of the bedbugs is another story. A professional exterminator can help.

You will need to discard infested mattresses, box springs, and pillows. You can heat treat or cold treat items such as clothing by laundering or freezing.   However, the room itself will need to be treated to eliminate bedbugs that can live in cracks in walls, floors, and furniture.

In order to minimize your risk, you can:

  • Buy new furniture instead of used furniture
  • Seal the cracks and crevices in sleeping areas
  • Put your mattresses inside a bug-proof cover

A Word From Verywell

It is stressful and frustrating to deal with bedbugs, however, you are far from alone in managing this problem. Keep in mind that it is no reflection on how much care you take in cleaning your home or taking precautions when traveling. Be sure to care for yourself due to the stress that can result so you don’t lose too much sleep.

See also:  Katsaridaphobia (Phobia of Cockroaches): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Bed Bugs Increase Your Risk of Asthma and Other Allergic Reactions

It’s long been believed that bed bugs pose no significant physical danger to humans. They don’t carry any diseases or pathogens that could be passed on to people. However a new study from North Carolina State University suggests we may need to reassess the risks.

Researchers have discovered that bed bugs can actually increase the risk of deadly asthma and other allergic reactions, even after the pesky parasites have been eradicated from our homes.

That’s because the insects leave behind a chemical called histamine in their feces, which triggers allergy symptoms in many individuals. So not only do these unwelcome visitors suck our blood while we sleep, they also leave behind hazardous droppings on our mattresses, bedframes, baseboards and furniture.

These droppings, which are loaded with histamine, often linger long after pest controllers have removed the bed bugs. The histamine causes ongoing illness and allergic reactions, including runny nose, sneezing, itching eyes and difficulty breathing. It can also cause skin rashes and inflammation of the airways, which is particularly dangerous for individuals with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, involved testing 30 North Carolina apartments. Of these apartments, some were infested, some had recently been treated, and some had never been infested. The researchers found that bug-infested homes had histamine levels 20 times greater than homes with no bed bugs, and the histamine levels remained elevated for months after the insects had been removed.

“Infestations can reach exceedingly high levels, especially among the elderly and in disadvantaged communities, where interventions may be unaffordable,” said the report’s lead author, Zachary DeVries. “While bed bug bites have been recognized as a dermatological concern that can be exacerbated and lead to secondary infections, bed bugs have not been implicated as disease vectors or allergen producers. The results of this study demonstrate that the presence of bed bugs strongly correlates with histamine levels in homes, and thus may adversely affect the health of residents through exposure to exogenous histamine.”

DeVries believes the danger associated with bed bug histamine could rival that caused by allergy to dust mites and cockroaches. But unlike those insects, bed bugs like to remain close to humans, magnifying their impact.

DeVries warns that the bugs use histamine to mark good places to aggregate, such as bedrooms, thereby bringing the chemical in close proximity to humans. DeVries also notes that low-income households may be hardest hit, since they are less able to afford the treatments necessary to deal with the pests.

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The information contained on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a professional health care provider. Please check with the appropriate physician regarding health questions and concerns. Although we strive to deliver accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee to that effect is made.

Allergic Reactions From Pet Dander

Not everyone is allergic to pet dander, but among those who are, symptoms range from mild to severe. Avoiding animals is often the most effective way to prevent an allergic reaction. When animals are unavoidable, however, treatments are available. Pet dander allergy symptoms are similar to those of other airborne allergies, such as hay fever.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Mild pet dander reactions include sneezing; itchy, watery or red eyes; tickling in the back of the throat or roof of the mouth; or an itchy nose. It is not unusual for symptoms to begin as mild, then become more severe, the longer a person is exposed to pet dander.

In addition to these respiratory symptoms, an allergic reaction of the skin, called allergic dermatitis, can occur. Sometimes the rash will be made of hives, or raised, red patches of skin. The skin will likely itch.


Pet dander isn’t really a harmful agent to the human body. An allergic reaction, however, represents the body’s immune system reacting to the dander as if it is a harmful, potentially infectious agent. The immune system sends messages to different parts of the body, which produce histamine to fight off the dander. Histamine causes all of the symptoms of an allergic reaction.


Dander is found in animal skin cells, saliva or urine. Both cats and dogs can shed hair and skin cells wherever they go. Allergic reactions can be caused by these animals, and less commonly by other animals such as horses. The American Lung Association points out that about twice as many people report allergies to cats than dogs 3. Licking is a common practice in animals when they are cleaning themselves. The saliva from the tongue can leave dander on the fur that is shed. Many pets lick as a sign of affection, which can also provoke an allergic response, especially allergic dermatitis.


Vacuuming often can reduce pet dander, but it isn’t likely to completely rid the home of the allergen. It can take several weeks for the allergens to die down in the home. Most allergic individuals must choose to live without pets or take an antihistamine daily. Antihistamines work by blocking the production of histamine triggered by dander. Without histamine, the body does not produce the annoying symptoms associated with the allergic reaction. Individuals with only a topical allergy can wash the saliva off immediately and apply an antihistamine cream. Other common treatments include corticosteroids to fight inflammation, decongestants to relieve sinus congestion, and nasal irrigation with saline solution.


Individuals with both asthma and pet dander allergies are at an increased risk of asthma attack when exposed to pet dander. Dander exposure can cause:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest tightness
  • pain in the chest
  • wheezing or other noises with exhalation,
  • waking due to shortness of breath or coughing

Not everyone is allergic to pet dander, but among those who are, symptoms range from mild to severe. Avoiding animals is often the most effective way to prevent an allergic reaction. Pet dander allergy symptoms are similar to those of other airborne allergies, such as hay fever. It is not unusual for symptoms to begin as mild, then become more severe, the longer a person is exposed to pet dander. Most allergic individuals must choose to live without pets or take an antihistamine daily. Dander exposure can cause: difficulty breathing, chest tightness, pain in the chest, wheezing or other noises with exhalation,, waking due to shortness of breath or coughing.

See also:  How to Get Rid of Fleas in the Carpet: Say Goodbye to Fleas

Pets in Bed: More Dangerous Than Bedbugs?

Latest Infectious Disease News

Sleeping With Dogs, Cats Linked to Disease, Infections, Parasites

Jan. 14, 2011 — We’re all having nightmares about bedbugs, but your bed pets may be the real danger.

In the U.S, surveys indicate that up to 56% of dog owners and 62% of cat fanciers regularly fall asleep with their pets in their bed. Reports from the U.K., Netherlands, France, and Japan suggest that this isn’t a peculiarly American quirk.

But those cuddly pets harbor some icky germs, worms, and cooties, note Bruno B. Chomel, DVM, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, and Ben Sun, DVM, of the California Department of Health.

«Sharing our resting hours with our pets may be a source of psychological comfort, but . sharing is also associated with risks,» they write in the current issue of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

It’s not just small animals. Chomel and Sun note that a survey recently reported by WebMD showed that 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs, and 32% of large dogs sleep in their humans’ beds.

So what do these bed pets bring to our beds?

Bubonic Plague

Humans get bubonic plague from fleas. Chomel and Sun recount various cases of plague linked to sleeping with cats. These include a 9-year-old boy from Arizona who slept with his sick cat.

And a 2008 study of plague survivors found that 44% of them slept with their pet dog, while only 10% of matched comparison subjects slept with their pets. This dog-in-bed plague risk remained significant even after the study authors took into account a large number of other factors.

This last factoid is troubling because dogs — unlike cats — can carry plague fleas without showing symptoms of the disease.

Chagas Disease

Chagas disease is a potentially fatal illness caused by a protozoan parasite. It’s usually spread by the «kissing bugs» and other blood-sucking bugs.

But one study from Argentina suggests that people who own dogs and cats are at increased risk of the dread disease — and that infection rates are significantly higher for those who sleep with their pets.

While Chagas disease is uncommon in the U.S., some experts worry that it is working its way northward through Mexico.

Cat-Scratch Disease

As the name implies, cat scratch disease is transmitted by being scratched by cats that harbor fleas infected with disease-causing bacteria. But being licked by a cat can also spread the disease.

In a Connecticut study of risk factors for cat scratch disease, patients were more likely than matched comparison subjects to have been scratched or licked by a kitten — or to have slept with one.

The multidrug-resistant strain of strep known as MRSA rapidly is becoming widespread in the U.S. Humans can carry the bug in their noses — and so can dogs.

Chomel and Sun recount the case of a couple that kept getting MRSA infections over and over again. Finally, doctors learned that their dog slept in their bed and licked their faces. Tests of the dog were positive for MRSA. And once the dog was rid of the germ, the couple stopped getting MRSA infections.

Other Bacterial Infections

Contrary to popular belief, the mouths of dogs and cats are not sterile. There are several bacteria that live in the mouths of carnivorous animals. Humans, particularly those with impaired or immature immune systems, can become infected.

Chomel and Sun describe one case of meningitis linked to a pet dog that often licked a baby’s face.


Dogs often carry hookworms and roundworms. They can also carry protozoan parasites. These parasites, or their eggs, can sometimes be found on a pet’s fur.

What You Should Do

It’s relatively rare to get any of these infections from sleeping with a pet. But as Chomel and Sun show, it does happen.

They recommend that pets get regular veterinary examinations and vaccinations.

Because young children are at higher risk than adults, they recommend that small kids and adults with compromised immune systems avoid sleeping with, kissing, or even being licked by pets.

And they recommend that any area licked by a pet should immediately be washed with soap and water, especially if the pet licks an open wound.

«Our review suggests that persons, especially young children or immunocompromised persons, should be discouraged from sharing their bed with their pets or regularly kissing their pets,» Chomel and Sun suggest.


Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

SOURCES: Chomel, B.B. and Sun, B. Emerging Infectious Diseases, February 2011; published online ahead of print.

©2011 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Read more: When Animal (Allergies) Attack: Pet Allergy Symptoms, Treatment

Systemic Mastocytosis

Your Guide To

Systemic Mastocytosis

Systemic Mastocytosis

Systemic Mastocytosis

What Is Systemic Mastocytosis?

If your doctor says you have systemic mastocytosis, it means you have a disease where too many abnormal mast cells — a type of white blood cell — build up in your skin and organs. You might get a variety of symptoms, including things like itchy skin, a bellyache, a rapid heartbeat, feeling light-headed, and other problems. There’s no cure, but treatments can help you manage the condition.

Mast cells are part of your immune system. They help fight off illness and heal wounds. With systemic mastocytosis, extra mast cells can gather in different parts of the body, including your skin, bone marrow, bones, and digestive tract.

Certain triggers set off these mast cells and lead them to release chemicals, such as histamines, which cause flushing of the face, neck, and chest, along with itching, hives, and other symptoms.

If you have a serious episode, systemic mastocytosis can get in the way of how your organs work. In some cases, the mast cells may cause an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis that is sometimes life-threatening. If that happens to you, you’ll need to get medical help right away and use an epinephrine auto-injector.

It may be helpful to reach out to family and friends as you manage this disease. They can give you the support you need for the emotions and stress that can go along with meeting the challenges of a long-term condition like systemic mastocytosis.


Most of the time, systemic mastocytosis doesn’t run in families. A random change (mutation) in the KIT gene shows up in mast cells in people with mastocytosis. This gene helps program a protein that’s in charge of how cells grow. It also plays a role in the way mast cells develop.

Signs of systemic mastocytosis can show up at any age, but it usually happens when you’re an adult. You’re most likely to get a diagnosis when you’re in your 40s or 50s.

If you have systemic mastocytosis, certain triggers cause mast cells to release chemicals and cause symptoms. They aren’t the same for everyone, but common triggers include:

  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Changes in temperature
  • Insect stings
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Surgery
  • Vaccines
  • Certain medicines, such as aspirin, opioids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

It’s also possible to get symptoms without any triggers.



How you feel has something to do with the type of systemic mastocytosis you have. Your doctor will let you know which of four main types you have:

Indolent systemic mastocytosis (ISM). ISM worsens slowly over time. It’s the most common type of systemic mastocytosis.

Systemic mastocytosis with an associated hematologic nonmast cell lineage disorder (SH-AHNMD). You have another blood disorder along with systemic mastocytosis.

Aggressive systemic mastocytosis (ASM). This type of systemic mastocytosis develops quickly and can damage your organs.

Mast cell leukemia (MCL). In this fast-growing disease, there’s a large number of mast cells in your blood or your bone marrow — the spongy center of your bones where blood cells are made.

Your symptoms also depend on where in the body you have extra abnormal mast cells. For example, you may have a rash, itching, or get a flush if you have too many abnormal mast cells in your skin.

Your symptoms may show up after a trigger and then go away, or they can last a long time. Some problems you might get include:

You may also have some mental health concerns. For instance, you could have attention problems, anxiety, or depression. Experts aren’t sure if these problems are because of a buildup of abnormal mast cells in the brain or the stress of living with systemic mastocytosis.

Getting a Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your health history and do a physical exam. Based on your symptoms, you may need tests such as:

Skin biopsy. Your doctor removes a sample of your skin tissue and sends it to a lab. Technicians look at it under a microscope to check for a buildup of mast cells.

Bone marrow biopsy. Your doctor uses a needle to remove a sample of your bone marrow. A doctor called a hematologist, or another specialist, examines it for mast cells and looks for signs of other blood conditions.


Blood and urine tests. Doctors check your blood and urine to see if there are chemicals or substances related to mast cells. A test called a «complete blood count» can reveal if you have anemia or another blood disorder.

Genetic test. Lab technicians check a sample of your blood, bone marrow, or tissue to see if there are changes on the KIT gene.

Imaging tests. X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans may show problems like bone loss or an enlarged liver, spleen, or lymph nodes.

Endoscopy or colonoscopy. In an endoscopy or colonoscopy, a doctor puts a thin, flexible tube with a camera into the mouth or rectum. This can show ulcers, bleeding, and mast cell buildup in your digestive tract. Sometimes the doctor removes a sample of tissue and checks it for mast cells.

Questions for Your Doctor

It helps to write down a list of questions and take it with you to your doctor’s appointment. Some questions you might want to ask are:

  • What kind of systemic mastocytosis do I have?
  • What are my treatment options and their goals? What plan do you recommend, and why?
  • What are the possible side effects of my treatment?
  • Could I have a dangerous allergic reaction, and what should I do if I have one?
  • What can I do at home to relieve my symptoms?
  • Are there any medicines or activities that I should avoid?
  • What follow-up tests or visits will I need, and how often will I need them?


Your doctor will tailor your treatment plan to your symptoms, the organ that’s affected, and the kind of systemic mastocytosis you have. The treatments may include:

Antihistamines. These drugs may relieve skin reactions — such as flushing and itching — and digestive system symptoms.

Epinephrine. This hormone treats anaphylaxis.

Proton pump inhibitors. These medicines curb stomach acid, which may ease some of the digestion problems you may get.

Mast cell stabilizers. These drugs, such as cromolyn sodium and ketotifen, block mast cells from releasing histamines.

Steroids. They may help with skin, nasal, and respiratory symptoms and can be part of your treatment if you get anaphylaxis.


Targeted therapy. These drugs target a specific gene, protein, or tissue involved in the disease. For systemic mastocytosis, your doctor may suggest a tyrosine kinase inhibitor to block a specific protein. You may need this kind of treatment if you have serious or life-threatening symptoms.

Chemotherapy. You may need this treatment if your systemic mastocytosis is fast-moving and you have significant damage to your organs. You take these drugs through an IV or by mouth. They kill cancer cells throughout your body.

Stem cell or bone marrow transplant. In rare cases, your doctor may consider this treatment. During this surgery, your bone marrow cells are replaced with healthy bone marrow or stem cells.

Taking Care of Yourself

One of the best ways to manage systemic mastocytosis is to steer clear of triggers. You’ll want to talk to your doctor and keep track of all the things that cause your symptoms, such as stress or spicy food.

Because the disease can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction, you’ll also want to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times.

What to Expect

How your disease develops depends a lot on the type of systemic mastocytosis you have. ISM, for instance, is the mildest kind. Your symptoms will slowly get worse.

The more serious types, such as ASM and MCL, move more rapidly. For ASM, you may need treatment for problems like bone loss. If you have MCL, which is a rare type, you may get blood disorders, including leukemia.

Whatever type you have, after your diagnosis, you’ll go to regular follow-up appointments with your doctor. She’ll want to monitor your disease and check that your treatments are working.

Getting Support

When you’re managing a condition like systemic mastocytosis, you may sometimes find that you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. If that’s the case with you, it’s OK to look beyond your circle of family and friends to get the backing you need.

A support group can be a huge help in this situation. You’ll get to talk to other people who understand what you’re going through. These groups meet in person, on the telephone, or online.

To find a group, you can ask your doctor, social worker, or other people with systemic mastocytosis. Or you can go to the websites of The Mastocytosis Society, RareConnect, and Mast Cell Action.

If you find that the challenges of managing your disease are making you depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor. She can put you in touch with mental health professionals who are experts in treating these problems.


American Academy of Family Physicians: «Mastocytosis.»

American Family Physician: «Mastocytosis: What It Is and How It’s Diagnosed and Treated.»

Cancer.Net: «Mastocytosis: Questions to Ask the Healthcare Team,» «Mastocytosis: Treatment Options.»

Cleveland Clinic: «Mastocytosis.»

Mayo Clinic: «Systemic Mastocytosis.»

Medscape: «Systemic Mastocytosis.»

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences: «Systemic Mastocytosis.»

National Organization for Rare Disorders: «Mastocytosis.»

The Mastocytosis Society: «Overview, Diagnosis, Definitions and Classifications,» «Tests.»

National Institutes of Health: «Systemic mastocytosis.»

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