Bed Bug Bites How To Tell

Bedbugs

Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.

Check if it’s bedbugs

Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo

Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

Signs of bedbugs include:

  • bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
  • spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
  • small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)

Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.

Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo

Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.

How you can treat bedbug bites

Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.

Things you can do include:

  • putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
  • keeping the affected area clean
  • not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
  • antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
  • the redness around the bites is spreading

You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

How to get rid of bedbugs

contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides

wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes

put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)

clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early

do not keep clutter around your bed

do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first

do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs

Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
Next review due: 21 January 2022

How to Identify Bed Bug Bites—and How to Treat Them

Wake up with reddish welts or itchy skin? The culprit may be a bed bug hiding under your bed. These are the signs a dermatologist and entomologist look for.

Changlu Wang/Courtesy Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station

Unfortunately, a bed bug bite has no telltale sign, according to a review published in theAmerican Society for Microbiology. The reaction to bites varies tremendously from one person to the next. Some people will have no reaction or just minor itching and mosquito-like bumps in one area; others will get dramatic red raised welts all over. “It depends on the number of feeding bugs on the body, how long the person has been suffering bites, and also where the bites are located,” says Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Five stages of post-bed bug bites

If you have evidence of bed bug bites on your skin, it’s due to your body’s allergic response, according to the U.S. Armed Forces’ 2019 Pest Management Board: Technical Guide #44. That response can take a few different forms: little to no reaction; an immediate reaction—often a red spot with minor discomfort; a delayed reaction in which red weals turn up within 14 days that trigger intense itching that can last two to five days; or, unfairly, a combination of immediate and delayed reactions. This makes it tough to know what’s gnawing on you without the help of an entomologist or dermatologist. Although this guide to bug bites may help.

Familiar signs of bed bug bites

While there is no exact way to tell what bug bit you, dermatologist A. Yasmine Kirkorian, MD, an assistant professor of Dermatology & Pediatrics, Children’s National Health System, says there are some patterns doctors look for: “Bed bugs typically bite several times in a row so people may notice several red itchy bumps grouped closely together, a pattern sometimes called ‘breakfast, lunch, and dinner,’” she explains. “They can occur anywhere on the body; bed bug bites on the face may cause intense swelling including of the eyelid.” A small study found that 72 percent of people who were bitten by bed bugs had itchy red welts, 50 percent had redness or discoloration, and 28 percent had itching with no welts. Call your doc or dermatologist and look for these signs of bed bugs in your house.

It can’t be bed bug bites

Let’s say you are sleeping in the same bed as your partner and your partner wakes up with bites but you don’t. Must not be bed bugs, right? Sadly, it still could be. “The most challenging thing about bed bug bites is that there is are people who do not react to bed bug bites, so they have no adverse skin responses and have no idea that they are being fed upon while they are sleeping,” says Green. One survey found that nearly one in three people had no reaction to bed bug bites. When the researchers broke out reactions by age, they found that 42 percent of people over 65 had no reaction. Bites or no bites, this is how bed bugs could get in your bedroom.

Bed bug bite treatment

People who do react to bed bugs often have intense itching. “Once a patient has been bitten, it is difficult to eradicate the itching. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams that contain one percent pramoxine can help,” says Dr. Kirkorian. Try Aveeno with pramoxine and calamine. Oral antihistamines such as Zyrtec and Benadryl may be effective too, says Dr. Kirkorian. But if your itching persists, your dermatologist or doctor might prescribe topical steroids such as triamcinolone and fluocinonide.

Just thinking about bed bugs can wreck your sleep, as well. Talk to your doctor if you start suffering from insomnia. “A sedating antihistamine such as Benadryl could be safe to use,” says Dr. Kirkorian.

Home remedies for bed bug bites

Before you commit to natural bed bug treatment, remember to practice good hygiene and caution, advises Larry Bishop, MD, a dermatologist with Health First Medical Group: Be sure to wash the area with soap and water first to reduce the risk of infection; if the area appears irritated or develops a rash, stop using the treatment and see a doctor. For remedies, Dr. Bishop suggests trying peppermint oil: “It works by two mechanisms—the peppermint oil is a vasoconstrictor (blood vessel constrictor), which lessens the pain and irritation from bed bug bites. Additionally, the peppermint works as a soothing agent by gently stimulating the nerves around the bite.” Try adding a few drops to a warm bath; if you want to apply it to the bites, dilute it first with an oil such as coconut, jojoba or olive.

Lemon balm is another favorite for bug bites. Crush or roll the leaves with your fingers to release the juice, apply it to the bites, and wrap with a bandage. “It works by having soothing properties and antibacterial properties,” Dr. Bishop says. Finally, there’s household ammonia—research suggests that it can help with itchy bites. It may not smell great, says Dr. Bishop, but if you put a little on a cotton ball and dab it on the area right away, it can help. “It works by neutralizing the proteins that are in the saliva of the bed bugs.” The saliva is what produces the allergic reaction in some people, and the quicker you neutralize it, the better.

When to see the doctor

Your bed bug bites will generally clear up on their own, but if you itch them the scratching can lead to secondary infections. “The initial bite may be a portal for bacteria to enter the skin. If a patient develops a worsening red bump, pus drainage, a fever, or other signs of systemic illness, they should seek urgent medical attention,” advises Dr. Kirkorian. Then, find out how to get rid of bed bugs.

US EPA

Bed Bugs

How to Find Bed Bugs

If you have a bed bug infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.

However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.

Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs

A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.

If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.

Chigger bites vs bed bug bites: Identify bug bite differences

How can you identify Chigger bites vs Bed bug bites?

Chiggers, (also called berry bugs) aren’t actually insects. Instead, they belong to the mite family, and they are closely related to spiders and ticks. However, their bites look similar to bed bugs.

How can you identify chiggers?

Although they aren’t ticks, these larval mites are quite small and measure around 0.15mm to 0.25mm in length. They are reddish-orange to red in color and have six legs. The preferred habitat for chiggers is grassy areas and thick, scrub-type vegetation where there is undisturbed soil so that chiggers can easily latch onto the hosts that pass by.
However,generally, chiggers are found in rural areas that are less disturbed, and they can persist for many years.

What do chiggers feed on?
Similar to dust mites, chiggers feed on animals’ skin cells. The parasitic larva feeds on various creatures which also includes quail, box turtles, toads, rabbits, humans, along with a few insects too.
Once they crawl on the hosts, they release digestive enzymes into the host’s skin which breaks down the skin cells. Instead of a bite, chiggers make a hole in the skin which is called a stylostome. Then, they chew small parts of the inner skin which leads to swelling and irritation.

How do chiggers reproduce?
Adult male chiggers move around their habitat and leave behind tiny capsules of sperm which are called spermatophores. The adult female chiggers find the capsules and insert them into the genital pore.
After around fourteen days of the egg fertilizing, the female then leaves the fertilized egg on the surface of the soil.

Identifying bed bugs

On the other hand, bed bugs are reddish brown in color, and they have a flat, oval shape. They measure around 4mm to 5mm in length and are around the size of an apple seed. Once they have a blood meal, bed bugs become reddish and swollen.

How does infestation take place?
They are generally found in small crevices and cracks. They can also be found in furniture, sheets, and mattress seams. Other common hiding places also include behind picture frames, electrical outlet plates, and baseboards.
The most common place that bed bugs can be found in is hotels as they can travel from one room to the other in the visitors’ luggage or personal belongings like briefcases and purses.

Where do bed bugs hide?
As mentioned earlier, bed bugs can enter your house without being detected via used couches and beds, clothing, and luggage, among other items. Since they have a flat body, fitting into small places is possible for them.Bed bugs can even hide in places as thin as the width of a regular credit card.
While bed bugs don’t have nests like bees and ants do, they still tend to live in groups.

Initially,bed bugs hide in places like headboards, bed frames, box springs, mattresses, and other similar places from where they can have easy access for biting people in the night.However, with time, the bed bugs can scatter throughout the room and can move into other locations.
They can also spread to nearby rooms and apartments. Since bed bugs survive only on blood, having bed bugs in your house doesn’t mean say anything about your hygiene. The possibility of having bed bugs in clean, immaculate homes is the same as in dirty ones.

Bed bug’s reproduction cycle

Female bed bugs can deposit one to five eggs in a single day. In their lifetime, females might lay, on average, around 200 to 500 eggs. With sufficient food supply and a regular room temperature, then they can survive for more than 300 days.

Preferred habitat for bed bugs
As apparent by the name, bed bugs prefer to live in warm beds. However, their habitats can also include car and bus seats, backpacks, couches, and clothes.

Chigger Bugs

Bed Bugs

Bite DurationA week (severe bits can last up to 15 days)A week (up to three weeks in overly sensitive skin)RemedyAnti-itch cream, cold compress, antihistamineAnti-itch cream, cold compress, antihistamineSymptomsItchinessItchinessBitesRed welts (typically over legs). Can also resemble a pimple or blister.Small raised bumps, in a zigzag pattern, surrounded by hives or blisters (typically over all extremities)

Chigger bites vs bed bug bites – The Difference

Distinguishing between bed bug bites and chigger bites can be a little tricky; however, there are some clues you can look for to figure out which of the two bit you.
Often, bed bug bites and chigger bites look almost the same. Both of them produce small, reddened areas that are usually swollen. The area might also be raised slightly because of inflammation.

Both bites are also quite itchy which means that you can’t judge the bite based on the itchiness level.You must make sure, however, that you don’t pick at the bite; otherwise, it will get much worse.

One way you can identify the bite is to look for the bug. You will be able to see the bed bugs under the mattress and on your body. Chiggers are extremely small and you might not even be able to see them.

Since, more often than not, chiggers are brought in from the outside via legs there is a high chance that the bites on your legs are chigger bites. Chigger bites can also be on the groin, ankles, and feet.

On the other hand, bed bugs bite all of the extremities. Thus, it is better to note when the bites appeared first and where so that you have a better idea of the bug you are dealing with.
The best way of identifying the bug is to look at the biting pattern. While bed bugs tend to bite in a straight line, chiggers bite randomly.

Symptoms: chigger bites vs bed bug bites
Both chigger and bed bug bites bring along different symptoms and side effects.

Symptoms of chigger bites

The symptoms of chigger bites appear right after the enzyme is injected into the skin. Remember that a chigger bite itself is hardly noticeable. The most common symptoms include a flat or raised red colored bump on the skin or a skin bump that resembles a pimple or blister accompanied with itching that can be quite intense.

The primary symptom is itching, this is most intense after two days of being bitten. The itchiness can last for a number of days and the bitten area can take up to even 15 days to return to its normal appearance.

In the majority of the cases, the symptoms occur almost immediately after the chigger bites; however, they can start to progress or develop in the days following the bite. If there is no further irritation, then the symptoms usually go away after just a week.

There are also many cases where people don’t feel the bite, or they don’t experience any symptoms apart from the minuscule dots where the bug bit along with some minor irritation and inflammation.
Meanwhile, a few people are hypersensitive to bites and can develop severe symptoms as well.
Since a condition which is characterized by itching can cause extreme scratching, the person can experience disruption of the skin. As a result, there is a possibility of a secondary bacterial skin infection.

Symptoms of a bed bug bite

Almost all bed bug bites cause a degree of discomfort along with inflammation and itchiness. Other symptoms that bed bug bites lead to include a painful, burning sensation, an itchy, raised bump that has a clear center, or an itchy bump with a dark center but light surrounding areas that are often swollen.

Symptoms can also be small red welts or bumps in a line or a zigzag pattern, and small bumps surrounded by hives or blisters.

In some rare cases, some people experience severe symptoms or reactions after being bitten by a bed bug. These symptoms can include difficulty in breathing, an irregular heartbeat, swollen tongue, blisters, and nausea. Such individuals require immediate medical attention.

Remedies

Both of the bites being discussed are to be treated differently and here is what you can do to reduce the swelling.

There are only a handful of options when it comes to treating bed bug bites. However, the first step is to clean the bite, preferably using water and soap. If the bite is too itchy, then you must refer to antihistamines, anti-itch creams, and over-the-counter hydrocortisone.
The affected area tends to heal on their own in just a week. However, if severe itchiness, inflammation, or swelling continues, then medical attention is definitely needed.

The main way of preventing a bed bug bite is to stop the insect from entering, breeding, and feeding in the human environment. During the day, the bugs stay in the cracks in the mattresses, walls, flooring, and furniture. They can also be in vacuum canisters.
Areas where infestations most commonly occur include condominium buildings, hotels, large offices, daycares, cruise ships, hospitals, vacation rentals, public transportation, shopping malls, second-hand stores, and college dorms.

Items that bring bed bugs into your house include used furniture, luggage, bedding, storage boxes, loungers placed in common areas, and shipped items.
To prevent bed bug bites, you must reduce the number of hiding places and try out integrated pest management techniques. Wash and heat-dry the bedspreads, bed sheets, blankets, as well as other clothes that come in contact with the floor. Using a mattress encasement cover isolates bed bugs from you.
Another great idea is to hire professional services and get an efficient pesticide sprayed in your house once a year. If this sound like an expensive option, this can be done by yourself using a bed bug spray.

Preventions

Similar to spider bites, first, take a shower and thoroughly scrub the skin with water and soap. This way, any chiggers that are still stuck to your body will be washed off. Then, with hot water, wash your clothes along with any towel or blankets that were in contact with the ground so that all the bugs hanging on are killed.

Next, treat the bites using an over-the-counter anti-itch ointment or cream such as hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, and menthol. For quick relief, you can also use a cold compress or antihistamine pills.
Chigger bites can get better with time; however, if the bite still bothers you after some days, then you must see the doctor.

In some cases, you might need steroid shots to calm the swelling and itching. In case the bites become infected, then you might have to take antibiotics as well.

While spending time in grassy areas, you must either use an insect repellent with DEET or wear such clothing that has been treated with insecticides like permethrin. While spraying the insecticide, focus more on those areas where the chiggers may travel from the clothing to the skin such as necklines and cuffs.
Natural sprays can also help to keep chiggers away. Try out those that include oils made from lemongrass, geranium, jojoba, tea tree, and citronella. Wear long pants and long sleeves with the pant legs safely tucked in the long socks so that you are not an easy target.

Chigger bites vs bed bug bites – Conclusion

While it’s difficult to distinguish a chigger bite from a bed bug bite, there are some signs (mentioned above) that can help you figure it out, if inspected closely.

While both bites appear the same, the differences lie in the biting pattern and the symptoms one experiences after the bite.
Make sure you take all the necessary measures to stay protected from both Bed bugs and Chiggers!

Bedbugs and spider bites can both make you itch — here’s how to tell which one you have

  • Bedbug bites and spider bites share some common symptoms.
  • Both types of bites can cause redness, itching, and swelling.
  • However, there are differences in where each type of bite usually occurs.

Insect bites can be unpleasant and painful no matter what critter caused them. However, suspecting that you have been bitten by bedbugs might be cause for extra alarm, as it could signal a possible infestation in your home.

Spider bites are rare, as only a few species have fangs long enough to pierce human skin, but they can cause symptoms similar to bedbug bites.

Here’s how to tell if you’ve been bitten by a spider or bedbugs.

Your bites might be caused by bedbugs if you woke up with them.

Bed bugs generally feed on human blood during the night while their host sleeps. In fact, they’re attracted to their human hosts by the carbon dioxide and body heat we emit in our sleep. Peak feeding time for bed bugs occurs between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

If you’re waking up with bites that you didn’t have the night before, you may be dealing with a bed bug problem.

Bedbug bites often appear in a line, while spider bites are usually singular.

If you notice that your skin is sporting a line of red, itchy bites, bedbugs are the likely culprits.

According to Verywell Health, bedbugs frequently appear in a line or group. This is because a single bedbug often bites its host more than once during a feeding session. bedbugs do not jump or fly, but walk across the skin.

Spiders, on the other hand, normally only bite once . Their bites are usually unintentional and in response to a perceived threat.

Additionally, the NHS advised that bedbug bites are most frequently found on the neck, hands, face, and arms. Spider bites may occur anywhere on the body.

Spider bites frequently leave distinct puncture marks.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), spider bites usually leave tiny puncture marks on the skin which can often be seen with the naked eye. These puncture marks may appear side by side.

In contrast, bedbug bites normally appear as small red dots that may swell or itch, especially if you have been bitten by bedbugs before. The bites may also have dark red centers, but puncture marks are usually not evident.

Bedbug bites may be an ongoing problem, while spider bites are usually a one-time occurrence.

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of a typical spider might may include red or inflamed skin around the bite site. The bite may also be itchy. In most cases, common spider bites tend to heal within a few days and do not cause any further symptoms.

In the case of bed bugs, you may notice new bites each day or every few days as the bedbugs continue to multiply and feed.

Bedbugs aren’t dangerous, but some spider bites can cause serious symptoms.

Though they’re commonly associated with dirty surroundings, bedbugs do not transmit diseases to humans and are just as likely to take up residence in a clean home as a filthy one.

In contrast, a very small proportion of spiders can inflict venomous bites. According to Mayo Clinic, of the thousands of spider species on Earth, only a few have fangs long enough and venom strong enough to inflict a dangerous bite on a human.

In the US, venomous spiders include the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Venomous spiders in the UK include the cellar spider, the woodlouse spider, and the false widow spider.

However, the bite of certain venom spiders such as the black widow or brown recluse can cause severe abdominal, back, or chest pain. You might also experience fever, chills, cramping, and excessive sweating.

In very rare cases , the skin around the bite site may die within a few hours or the bite site may develop into an open ulcer. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to a spider bite that could compromise their ability to breathe. You should seek immediate medical care if you notice any of these serious symptoms.

Though bedbug bites themselves are not dangerous, an infestation can cause significant psychological stress and even lead to insomnia.

If you suspect you have been bitten by bedbugs, take steps to check your home for signs of an infestation.

A bedbug infestation can progress rapidly, so it’s important to take aggressive steps to stop the problem early on.

If your doctor agrees that your bites are probably related to bedbugs, contact a pest control group and check your home for signs of bedbugs. These can include brown spots or insect parts on mattresses, sofas, carpets, or curtains. If you find signs of an infestation, your best bet is to employ professional help rather than trying to deal with the problem alone.

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