How Do I Identify A Bed Bug Bite
What Bit Me? Spot These 11 Bug Bites
Bug bites are irritating, and some can be harmful. Learn to identify the type of bug bite and when to seek emergency medical care.
Getting a bug bite can be a creepy experience, especially if you don’t know what tiny creature left you with that red, throbbing welt on your skin. Don’t panic. Most bug bites and stings from common insects are harmless and heal quickly. But some bug bites and stings, like those from fire ants, wasps, hornets, and bees, may cause intense pain or even a serious allergic reaction. Others, like poisonous spider bites, require immediate emergency medical care.
Symptoms of bug bites provide clues to the cause and severity. For example, most bug bites cause red bumps with pain, itching, or burning. Some bug bites also feature blisters or welts. Here are some common bug bite clues:
- Bedbugs leave a small bite mark on the skin that is red and itchy or causes a serious allergic reaction.
- Bee stings cause a red skin bump with white around it.
- Flea bites leave an itchy welt on the skin, often on the ankles and legs.
- Mosquitoes leave a raised, itchy pink skin bump or in rare cases a severe allergic reaction.
- Spider bites cause minor symptoms like red skin, swelling, and pain at the site or very serious symptoms that need emergency care.
- Ticks can carry Lyme disease and their bite leaves a rash that looks like an expanding bull’s-eye.
Most bug bites are transmitted directly from the insect and occur outdoors. Two exceptions are bedbugs (tiny mites that live in and near beds) and lice, which spread through contact with an infected person, a comb, or clothing.
Certain bug bites can also spread illnesses, such as the Zika virus and West Nile virus (both transmitted by mosquitoes), Lyme disease (from a black-legged tick), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (from a dog or wood tick), or Chagas disease (from kissing bugs).
In fact, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautioned Americans that diseases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have soared in recent years.
How can you prevent bug bites? Here are some tips:
- Avoid insects.
- Don’t eat foods or wear fragrances that attract bugs.
- Know your own personal risk for having an allergic reaction to a bug bite.
- Use pesticide.
- Wear protective clothing.
No matter what type of bug bite you have, it is good to know what bit you. Learning to identify a bug bite by how it looks and feels will help you know whether to treat the bug bite at home or seek immediate medical care.
If you have known allergies to bug bites, talk with your physician about emergency care. Some people with severe allergies to bug bites need to have allergy medicine, including an EpiPen, with them always.
Mosquito Bites Can Cause a Serious Illness
A mosquito bite appears as an itchy, round red or pink skin bump. It’s usually a harmless bug bite but can sometimes cause a serious illness, such as the Zika virus (particularly harmful in pregnant women), the West Nile virus, or malaria. For most people, Zika causes a brief, flulike illness. But newborns of pregnant women infected with Zika have an alarming rate of microcephaly birth defects, a debilitatingly small head and brain size. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a 2016 travel alert advising pregnant women to delay travel to 50 areas where Zika is active, including Latin America and the Caribbean.
About 2,000 cases of the West Nile virus were reported in the United States to the CDC in 2014. Symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after the bite and can include headaches, body aches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and a skin rash. People with a more severe West Nile infection may develop meningitis or encephalitis, and have symptoms including neck stiffness, severe headache, disorientation, high fever, and convulsions.
The bite of a parasite-infected mosquito can cause malaria, a rare occurrence in the United States, with only about 1,500 cases reported by the CDC each year. Symptoms are similar to the flu and can include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting from 10 days to 4 weeks after the bite. Malaria is serious, but it’s good to know it is preventable and treatable, according to the CDC.
What do Bedbug Bites Look Like?
You probably won’t feel pain when a bedbug bites, but you may see three or more clustered red marks, often forming a line. Some people develop a mild or severe allergic reaction to the bug’s saliva between 24 hours and 3 days later. This can result in a raised, red skin bump or welt that’s intensely itchy and inflamed for several days.
How to get rid of bedbug bites? If your bedbug bites cause hives, it may mean a trip to your healthcare provider for treatment, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. Bedbug bites can occur anywhere on your body but typically show up on uncovered areas, such as your neck, face, arms, and hands. It’s good to know that although they’re common, bedbugs do not carry disease, according to the CDC.
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.
Bug Bite Identification
Bug bite identification can be tricky, but we’re here to help.
Bug bite identification can be difficult. For example, chigger bites, which are relatively harmless, can be confused with bed bug bites — and those can indicate a possible infestation. Many bites look similar — and people have different reactions to them — further complicating an ID. Check out the infographic below for information on how to identify bug bites.
A quick note before we dive into the various types of bites: “Dust mite bites” are not real. These mites’ bites are reserved for eating sloughed-off skin cells and other debris found near humans.
Bed Bug Bites
Found:Over the entire body; commonly on the face, neck, arms and hands.
Appearance:Small, raised red bumps often appearing in clusters or a straight line; sometimes confused with mosquito, flea or chigger bites. May appear up to 14 days after initial bite.
Reaction:Mild itching to anaphylactic shock. Contact a medical professional for assistance with any symptoms or reactions.
Click for more information aboutbed bugs.
Chigger Bites/Red Bug Bites
Found:Around the waist, wrists, ankles or places where skin folds.
Appearance:Small, red bumps that may look like pimples or a skin rash. Appear within a few hours of being bitten.
Reaction:Mild to severe itching is common. If you need assistance with any symptoms or reactions, contact a medical professional.
Found:Elbows, knees, ankles, armpits or around the waist.
Appearance:Small, raised bumps, sometimes in clusters of three; hives or a rash that can turn white when pressure is applied.
Reaction:Mild to moderate itching; swelling near bite site. Consult a doctor if you are sensitive to insect bites.
Click for more information aboutfleas.
Found:Anywhere on the body; most often on exposed skin.
Appearance:Varies depending on the type of mosquito. Can include: a puffy, white or reddish bump; a hard, reddish-brown bump that itches; small blisters or dark spots that look bruised. All of these may occur a few minutes to a day after initial bite.
Reaction:Mild to moderate itching, swelling near bite site, hives or a low-grade fever. If you are worried about a symptom or reaction to a mosquito bite, contact a medical professional.
Found:Anywhere on the body, often on feet or legs (spiders hide in shoes and clothing).
Appearance:Varies depending on the type of spider. For many types, a red, swollen area will appear hours to days after a bite.
Reaction:Spider bite symptoms vary from mild to moderate itching to severe reactions, depending on the type of spider. If you experience a reaction or suspect you were bitten by a dangerous species, seek medical help for spider bite treatment.
Click for more information aboutspiders.
Now that you know the answer to, “What do flea bites look like?” and other bite identification basics, you can keep an eye out for signs of fleas and other pests in your home. If you suspect you might have bed bugs, fleas or others pests, call Terminix®.
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States National Library of Medicine.
Ticks vs. Bed Bugs: The Big Difference
You never want to see a tick on your body or a bed bug in your home. And especially when it comes to the latter, seeing one usually means there are others around. On the surface, ticks and bed bugs might seem similar: They are both pests that like to bite and feed on blood. But in fact, there’s more than one difference between these two creatures
Cleaning Tips to Help Prevent Pests in Your Home
A messy home can cause stress, health issues and, worst of all, bugs. Pests like to enter homes and cause chaos for the unsuspecting homeowners. The best way to prevent pests inside is to have a strong treatment plan and a spotless home.
Asian Longhorned Beetle
The Asian longhorned beetle is an exotic pest that has threatened a wide variety of hardwood trees in North America. It originated in China and Korea, most likely hitching a ride inside solid wood packing material from China to the United States. The Asian longhorned beetle was first detected in Brooklyn, New York, in 1996 and has since spread to a variety of states, including New Jersey, Ohio and Massachusetts.
Do Mosquitoes Bite Dogs?
Do mosquitoes bite dogs? Both humans and dogs are vulnerable to mosquito bites and disease. Find out how Terminix can help protect you and your pets.
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What Do Ticks Do?
What do ticks do? Ticks serve a beneficial environmental purpose, but that doesn’t mean you want them in your yard. Find out how Terminix can help
Do Earwigs Bite?
If you shudder a little when you think about earwigs, you’re probably not alone. They’ve developed quite a nasty reputation, thanks to urban legends (mostly false) that have been circulating for years. But are they harmful?
Cluster Flies In Your Home
If you’re like many homeowners, you’ve dealt with annoying flies ruining your summer barbecues and outdoor dinner parties. You may have even become accustomed to whipping out the flypaper and heavy-duty bug zappers the minute you hear the familiar buzz of a fly. These annoying pests are likely house flies, which can pose significant health risks to you and your family. But have you ever seen large, sluggish flies loitering inside your home in the autumn and winter? They may be cluster flies.
Tips to Get Rid of Stink Bugs in Your House
Now that it’s fall, it’s officially indoor stink bug season. Before it becomes winter, brown marmorated stink bugs are looking for comfortable overwintering sites to spend the cold months—and that can often mean that they may find a way to sneak into your house. While the odor that a stink bug releases is not dangerous, they are definitely a nuisance. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get rid of stink bugs in your house—without having to deal with the unpleasant smell.
What are Sand Fleas?
Many people love going to the beach to spend time in the sun, sand, and water. But they might not love some of the nuisances that live at the beach or in the ocean, such as gnats or jellyfish. But, what about the sand flea, a small critter that can be found in moist areas such as under rocks or debris. Keep reading to learn exactly what sand fleas are and if you need to worry about them.
The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives
Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.
The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.
Bad Bugs Slideshow: Identifying Bugs and Their Bites
Many bugs give us reason for pause, including spiders, chiggers, bees and lice. But few get under our skin — quite literally — like the tick. If you enjoy the outdoors, be careful of ticks — they can attach as you brush past grass and plants. Ticks don’t always carry diseases, and most bites are not serious. But they can carry diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Once a tick latches onto skin, it often moves to the warm, moist armpits and groin — feeding on blood and passing on any disease it carries. A tick bite can also trigger an allergic reaction. If you have a tick, it is important to remove it properly. To prevent tick bites, keep your arms, legs, and head covered when outdoors. Use tick repellant with DEET on skin or clothing, or products with permethrin on clothing. Check for ticks after spending time in grassy or wooded areas.
In the U.S., the Western blackвЂ“legged tick and the deer tick can carry Lyme disease bacteria. Infected ticks usually don’t spread the disease until they’ve been attached for at least 36 hours. The first sign of infection is often a circular skin rash. Early symptoms may also include fever, headache, and fatigue. Untreated Lyme disease may spread to other parts of the body, including the muscles, joints, heart, and nervous system. If you have symptoms or are worried, see your doctor.
Black Widow Spiders: Venomous!
Wood piles and tree stumps — that’s where venomous female black widows hide. She is long-legged and glossy black, with a distinctive orange, red, or yellow "hourglass" shape on her underside. These spiders are roughly 1/3 inch wide and 1.5 inches long, counting their long legs.
Black Widow Spider Bites
Black widow spider bites may cause stabbing pain in the bite area, but they can also be painless. Look for one or two red fang marks, redness, tenderness, and a nodule at the bite site. Severe muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, seizure, and a rise in blood pressure may follow soon after. Get medical care immediately. Anti-venom medicine is available. If possible, bring the spider with you for positive identification.
Brown Recluse Spiders Can Have a Nasty Bite
Hiding in attics and closets — in Midwestern and Southern states — that’s where you’ll find brown recluse spiders. The spiders range in color from yellowish-tan to dark brown, with darker legs. Their venom is toxic, and their bite can sometimes cause serious wounds and infection. Yet you may not even feel their bite until later.
Brown Recluse Spider Bites
When the brown recluse bites, it is often painless — then skin may redden, turn white, blister, and becomes painful. Sometimes an ulcer forms. These bites can be deadly in extremely rare cases. Get medical care if you have been bitten by a spider. If you can, bring the spider with you for positive identification.
Head Lice: Itchy!
In hair — that’s where you’ll find lice. They like to hide in the neck area of the scalp and behind the ears. If you have lice, you likely got it from sharing a hat, brush, or other item with a person who has lice. Lice are itchy, but scratching can lead to infection. In severe cases, hair may fall out.
Head Lice Remedies
To kill lice and their eggs (called nits), use lotions, creams, or shampoos from the drug store or prescribed by your doctor which are designed specifically for lice. You’ll also need to use a comb to get rid of the nits. In some areas, lice are resistant to permethrin; check with your doctor about which treatment is best.В Wash clothing, bedding, and brushes in hot water and dry in a hot dryer of dry clean to prevent the spread of lice. Check all household members, and treat everyone who has nits or lice.В
Fleas: Not for Pets Only
Fleas are small, wingless, agile insects that live off the blood of their host — and they don’t just bite pets. They dine on people, too.
Some people are very sensitive to flea bites — but scratching can cause a wound or infection. The best solution is to get rid of fleas on pets and in your home. Keep pets out of your bed and be sure to vacuum rugs daily. Spray insecticides according to directions on infested areas. Consider using a veterinary approved insecticide on your pet.
Bee, Wasp, Hornet, Yellow Jacket
When certain types of bees sting, they lose their stinger and die. But a wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket can inflict multiple stings because it does not lose the stinger. These stings can cause serious reactions in people who are allergic to them.
Bee, Wasp, Hornet, Yellow Jacket Stings
If you don’t have an allergic reaction, simply remove the stinger, clean the sting site, apply ice, take oral antihistamine for itching, and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief. If you have a severe anaphylactic reaction, use an epinephrine auto-injector if you have one. Call for emergency care. Lie down and carefully remove the stinger without squeezing the venom sac.В
Fire Ants: Ouch!
Fire ants look much like ordinary ants — and are found in most of the Southern states. They produce large mounds in open areas and are aggressive when disturbed. During an attack, the fire ant latches onto the skin with its jaw, then stings from its abdomen. It may inject venom many times.
Fire Ant Stings
The fire ant sting typically causes red lesions that burn and itch. Painful pus-filled lesions can also occur. Cold packs, pain relievers, and antihistamines can help relieve the discomfort. A large number of stings may trigger a toxic or severe life-threatening allergic reaction. Get emergency care immediately if needed.
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers are not insects; they are arachnids. Specifically, chiggers are the juvenile (or larval) form of a family of mites called Trombiculidae. They only dine on humans in their juvenile form. Their bites are painless, but lesions are very itchy. Itching usually peaks a day or two after the bite occurs.
After a few days of being attached to the skin, chiggers fall off — leaving itchy red welts. Over-the-counter products can help relieve itching. See your doctor if the skin appears infected or the welts appear to be spreading.
Scabies: Stealthy Pests
When scabies mites get into the skin, they can cause a big skin problem. The mites spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person — or by sharing towels, bed linens, and other objects.
Intense itching and skin sores don’t appear until several weeks after mites get into skin. The itching is very severe and usually worse at night. The rash typically is seen on the sides and webs of the fingers, the wrist, elbows, genitals, and buttock. You’ll need prescription lotion or pills to get rid of scabies. Wash all clothes, towels, and bedding in hot water and dry in a hot dryer or dry clean.
Bedbugs: Hitching a Ride
Their name tells the tale, as these tiny insects tend to hide in bedding. They are often found in hotels, shelters, and apartment complexes — and can hitch a ride into your home aboard luggage, pets, and boxes.
Bedbugs leave itchy, red bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. More of a nuisance than a health hazard, it is possible to develop an infection from scratching. If you have an allergic skin reaction, use creams with corticosteroids and take oral antihistamines — and see your doctor.
Puss Caterpillar: Southern Stinger!
The most poisonous caterpillar in the U.S., puss caterpillars can be found in Southern states where they feed on shade trees like elm, oak, and sycamore. The poison is hidden in hollow spines among the hairs.
Puss Caterpillar Stings
When a puss caterpillar stings, you may get waves of intense pain, rash, fever, vomiting, and muscle cramps. Remove the broken-off spines by using cellophane tape or a commercial facial peel — and call your doctor.
All scorpions are venomous, but only a few species are dangerous to people. Scorpions are found mostly in the Southern and Western states. Symptoms of a sting include pain, swelling, itching, vomiting, increased sweating, and vision problems. Get medical care immediately.
These biting flies live in wetlands, forests, and other damp environs. Keep these painful bites clean and avoid scratching to help prevent infection. Some types of deerflies spread Tularemia, an infectious bacterial disease that requires medical attention. Insect repellant and protective clothing help prevent deerfly bites.
Mosquitoes: More Than Irritating!
Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they rank anong the world’s deadliest animals.В Scratching a bite can cause a skin infection. Also, mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, dengue fever virus, and other diseases including malaria. To protect yourself from mosquitoes, apply insect repellent and cover up when you go outdoors. Use window screens, and get rid of standing water in your yard.
Houseflies: Dirty, Hairy!
A housefly is a dirty insect — carrying more than 1 million bacteria on its body. It can spread intestinal infections by contaminating food. To control flies, keep food and garbage in closed containers and use window screens on your home.
Cockroaches: Ugly Trouble
They’re not just ugly. Cockroaches carry diseases like salmonella. They can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. If you live in a warm climate, getting rid of cockroaches can be difficult. It helps to use pesticides (or an exterminator), keep a clean kitchen, and repair cracks and holes in floors and walls.
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National Institutes of Health web site.
Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa web site.
Tennessee Department of Agriculture web site.
The University of Minnesota web site.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources web site.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site.
Texas A&M University Department of Entomology web site.
Missouri Department of Conservation: "Chiggers!"
Ohio State University, Extension Fact Sheet: "Chiggers."
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, "Horse Flies and Deer Flies."
KidsHealth.Org, ""Bug Bites and Stings."
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Bed bug bites: What you need to know
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Most people who are bitten by bed bugs experience symptoms that include irritation, sores, or itchiness. But how should bed bug bites be treated and can they be prevented?
There are several ways of reducing the chances of getting bites, while the treatment options include good hygiene and antihistamines.
This article explores bed bug bite treatment and prevention methods in detail.
Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood.
While they are a public health concern, bed bugs are not known to transmit disease through their bites.
Bed bugs use a small tube-like structure called a proboscis to pierce the skin and drink a person’s blood. The pests are most active when humans are asleep, during the night and early morning.
An estimated one in five Americans have personally dealt with a bed bug infestation or knows someone who has encountered the pests.
Bed bugs can bite anywhere on the body where there is skin. Typically, bites tend to occur on areas exposed during sleeping, such as:
Many people do not feel the bite itself or develop clear symptoms other than the dots where the bug bit and some minor, surrounding inflammation and irritation. Others are considered hypersensitive to bites and develop more severe symptoms.
In most cases symptoms occur more or less immediately after the bite, but they can develop or progress over the following days as well. Without further irritation, symptoms typically resolve after a week or so.
Almost all bed bug bites will produce some degree of discomfort, typically itchiness and inflammation. Other signs and symptoms of bed bug bites include:
- a burning painful sensation
- a raised itchy bump with a clear center
- a red itchy bump with a dark center and lighter swollen surrounding area
- small red bumps or welts in a zigzag pattern or a line
- small red bumps surrounded by blisters or hives
- papular eruptions or areas of skin with raised or flat patches that may be inflamed
- small spots of blood from bites often dried or stained onto sheets or bed clothing
- reddish or reddish-brown dried stains on fabrics due to bed bug droppings
- white or clear skins, shed by the nymphs as they mature
Individual characteristics of the bug’s bite and the person who is bitten also influence the resulting sore.
While fairly rare, some people have or develop severe reactions and symptoms from bed bug bites. Serious symptoms that require medical attention include:
- difficulty breathing
- feeling nauseous or flu-like
- swollen tongue
- irregular heartbeat
Living with bed bugs can cause additional health complications:
- Increased likelihood of infection: Due to the skin’s surface being compromised.
- Sleep deprivation: The idea of being fed on can be extremely stressful. Given that the bugs only feed at night, some people will avoid sleep or will only get fitful or restless sleep.
- Decreased wellbeing: A continual lack of sleep has been linked to feelings of depression, anxiety, general fatigue, and lowered immune function. The misconceptions surrounding bed bugs, especially the mistaken association with lack of cleanliness, can add to feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
There are relatively few treatments options when it comes to uncomplicated bed bug bites.
The first recommended line of treatment involves cleaning the wound, ideally with soap and water.
For itchy bites, the following may relieve minor symptoms:
- over-the-counter hydrocortisone, which can be purchased online.
- anti-itch creams
Most wounds heal on their own within a week, sometimes two.
If severe swelling, inflammation, or itchiness occurs or persists, a person should seek medical attention.
A dramatic immune response may be a sign of an allergic reaction. If this is the case, one of the following may need to be administered:
- an injectable corticosteroid
- epinephrine medication
If infection occurs, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Severe itchiness may result in further complications, such as infection or scarring. If severe itching is experienced, people may be prescribed corticosteroid creams and antihistamine pills or liquid.
One way to help prevent exposure and potential infestations by bed bugs is to be able to recognize bed bugs and distinguish them from other pests.
In a 2017 study, some 35 percent of polled American business travellers and 28 percent of leisure travellers were unable to tell a bed bug apart from other household pests.
Common characteristics of nymphs (young bed bugs) include:
- being less than than 5 mm in length
- whitish-yellow and or clear-colored
- invisible without a microscope or magnifying glass
The nymphs are easier to see if they have just feed when the blood fills their abdomen, giving it a reddish brown color.
Adult bed bugs are typically far easier to spot than nymphs. Identifiable characteristics of most adult bed bugs include:
- an oval-shaped body
- apple seed in size
- a body that is fairly flat unless recently fed and inflated
- reddish-brown to light-brown or tan color of shell, depending on how recently it fed
- a length of 5-7 millimeters (mm)
- three segments, an antenna with four parts, short yellow hairs, and unusable wings
- a musty or stale-sweet scent released by glands on the underbelly
Controlling bed bugs needs the identification and complete removal or destruction of the pest’s eggs.
On average, one female can produce at least 345 eggs over her lifetime. Egg-laying females often increase the volume and frequency of feeding to support their brood.
Common characteristics and signs of bed bug eggs include:
- they are often laid in the same places where the female choses to rest
- they resemble tiny barrel-shaped, pearl-colored specks, no bigger than the head of a pin
- they develop a noticeable eye spot after a few days
The key to preventing bed bug bites is to stop the insects entering, feeding, and breeding in human environments.
In the daytime, bed bugs often seek refuge in the cracks and crevices of furniture, flooring, walls, and mattresses.
The seams and folds of upholstered furniture can also offer an ideal hiding place. Bed bugs have been known to persist in vacuum canisters or units.
The insects tend to pick hiding spots near human sleeping quarters, including bedrooms. Bed bugs found in other rooms are usually a sign of a severe infestation.
Areas where bed bug infestations commonly occur include:
- apartment or condominium buildings
- large office spaces
- vacation rentals
- cruise ships
- nursing homes
- college dormitories or housing units
- public transportation, including airplanes
- shopping malls
- furniture or second hand stores
- urban areas
- rented homes
Items commonly responsible for spreading bed bugs include:
- used or secondhand furniture
- new furniture or textiles exposed to bed bugs during transit
- items of luggage
- chairs or loungers where people fall asleep
- bedding or bed clothes
- moving or storage boxes
- shipped items, especially if held at several locations or warehouses
Bed bugs do not have a preference between sanitary, messy, or unsanitary conditions.
They can, however, be found at higher rates in places, such as hotels, if infestations are not properly cleared.