image of bedbug bites

Overview

A client and her husband were staying at an Air BnB in a tropical location.  My client started noticing welts on her arm the very next day and attributed it to her body acclimating to the much warmer and humid climate.  Her son has a history of cholinergic urticaria, also known as heat hives, so she attributed these welts to the same condition (Lou, 2019).  She states that she noticed more and more each day and became concerned that she was not acclimating well.  On the ninth night of residency, she made note of the amount of welts on her skin and when she awoke in the morning, there were exponentially more spots.

Bedbug bites on face
                    The first day 

Nope….not Heat Hives!

When she was brushing her teeth, she saw a red dot on her neck, took a picture and identified it as a bedbug by comparing it to an image on an extermination company website (2020).

Bedbug
     Bedbug she found on her neck

Bedbug Bite Healing Plan

After taking a detailed medical history to include exercise regimen, water intake, elimination habits, diet, and medication; hearing that she wants the bites to heal quickly and looking to relieve pain and itching associated with the bites healing I created a spray for her.

I used the following essential oils (ratios intentionally not shared):

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Tea Tree Australia (Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • Immortelle (Helicrysum angustifolium)

Each of these oils were chosen because they are pain fighting, antibacterial, antiseptic, help to heal the skin.  They were added to a spray bottle containing two teaspoons of 80% alcohol and then topped off with filtered water. Because she will be applying the spray multiple times each day, and the alcohol in the formula will eventually dry out her skin, I also created a body scrub containing:

  • white sugar
  • Organic Sweet Almond Oil
  • L. angustifolia
  • M. alternifolia
  • H. italicum.

Safety

Tisserand states that lavender is non-toxic and has no known hazards or contraindications marjoram is non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing (2002).  Lavender is generally recognized as safe (GRAS), its toxic rating is one, and a skin patch test (SPT) is required (Petersen, 2016).  Tea Tree Australia has a low rist of skin sensitization, due to the constituent 1,8 cineole, and it is important to avoid when the oil is old or oxidized (Petersen, 2016;Tisserand and Young, 2002).  The toxic rating is one and an SPT is required.  Tisserand states that Immortelle has no known hazards or contraindications (2002).  Petersen informs us that it has GRAS status, has a toxic rating of one and a SPT is required (2016).

The host of the Air BnB moved my client and her husband to a different apartment immediately upon being informed of the issue.  My client took all of their clothing, that they had in the bedroom, to the local laundromat, washed them on high heat, and dried everything on high heat for 30 minutes to kill any bugs or eggs that may have been present.

After a skin patch test had been conducted of the spray to ensure there was no sensitivity to the constituents, she was instructed to shower thoroughly twice each day and spray the affected areas after showering and up to two more times each day for two weeks.  She was informed to return after the two weeks for evaluation and to determine if she needs to continue using the blend.   She was educated to store the spray in the refrigerator to preserve the blend and also the cool temperature of the spray would add another level of relief from the burning and itching of the bites.  She was instructed to keep the spray out of direct sunlight and to keep it out of reach of children and animals (Petersen, 2016).  She was instructed to cease using the blends if any redness, itching, swelling, or other allergic reaction occurred and to seek medical attention.  She was encouraged to use the body scrub about half-way through her spray protocol to remove dead skin and replenish moisture.

Bedbug bites Upper Arm: Day 3 of protocol

Bedbug Bites-Healing
Hand- Day 3 of protocol
Bedbug Bites-Healing
Face- Day 3 of protocol

Outcome

During the healing process she noticed more and more bites surfacing, which was to be expected as her body fought the inflammation.  After one week of using the spray, she made contact with me to inform me that the bites on her arms, face, and chest were almost completely healed.

Face-Day 10 of protocol
Upper Arm-Day 10 of Protocol
Upper Back- Day 10 of Protocol

My client used the spray each day, as instructed, for about four days.  By the fifth day, she was feeling so much better that she had to remember to use the spray and ended up using it in the morning and at night.  She used the body scrub on day number seven and was pleased with how moist and smooth her skin felt after the shower.  I told her to cease using the spray, but to continue using the scrub until it was used up as it will help to continue the healing process and add much needed moisture back to her depleted skin.

Conclusion

I have never experienced bedbugs before and according to the Terminix website, Most bites will heal within one to two weeks of appearing and not cause any long-term problems. Those with stronger sensitivities to insect bites may take up to three weeks or longer to heal (2020).  Medical News Today’s website informs us that those with severe reactions to bedbugs may experience difficulty breathing, blisters,fever, feeling nauseous or flu-like, a swollen tongue, or irregular heartbeat (Huizen, 2020).  When I questioned my client she informed me that her asthma had been exacerbated during the time she was initially unsure what was the cause of the raised bumps on her body.

If you experience bedbugs in your home, don’t wait!  Call an exterminator and begin sanitizing all of your clothing and furniture to kill the eggs, nymphs, and adults.  The best cure for bedbug bites is time, but you can relieve your symptoms with natural remedies or over the counter creams and lotions.

As always, please remember to consult with a
Registered Aromatherapist
before using essential oils
on you, your family, or around your pets.
Safety first–Always!

References:

Do bedbugs jump. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.orkin.com/other/bed-bugs/do-bedbugs-jump

Huizen, J. (2020). Bedbug bites: What you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318083#bites

Lou, E. (2019). Can heat cause hives. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/heat-hives

Petersen, D. (2016).  Aromatherapy Materia Medica: Essential Oil Monographs: Part 1. Portland, Oregon

How long do bed bug bites last. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/how-long-do-bed-bug-bites-last/

Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2002). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Healthcare professionals (2nd ed.). London, UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

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