How To Determine If You Have A Bed Bug Bite

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

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.

How to Know if You Have Bed Bug Bites

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs are a traveler’s nightmare. They can be picked up in hotel rooms, leaving red itchy bumps and possibly rashes to ruin your vacation. Or even worse: If you accidentally bring them back with you, they could infect your whole house. To prevent a plague of bed bugs, here are some tips ​on what to check while you’re on the road and how to determine the symptoms of bed bug bites.​

How to Check for Bed Bugs

To avoid getting bed bugs while traveling, make sure to inspect the mattress and sheets on the hotel beds, especially near the seams, mattress tags, and box spring. If you see any rust​ stains, dark spots, or pale yellow patches, this could be a sign of bed bugs. Also, never put your suitcase on the bed itself or you could bring them home after your vacation. Most hotels provide a luggage rack, which is much wiser to use.

Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites typically appear in groups of three, called the "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" pattern. Each victim’s reaction to bed bug bites is unique. Some may have a slight reddening of the skin. Others may have a more severe reaction, causing a raised, itchy rash. A raised rash may obscure the individual bites, making it challenging to identify. Sometimes, bites and lesions can throb and become very painful for days after the bugs bit you.

What to Do if You Bring Bed Bugs Home

As a precaution, you can steam, vacuum, and spray rubbing alcohol all over your mattress and box springs. It’s also recommended to steam, wash, and dry all the bed linens using hot water and bleach. To clean out your suitcase, spray rubbing alcohol over the luggage, both inside and out. Then, finish the job by vacuumed your bedroom thoroughly.

If you believe that you found traces of bed bugs, immediately cover the mattresses and box springs with plastic mattress covers. In worst case scenarios, you’ll need to hire an exterminator to come inspect your home.

When to Go to the Doctor

If you got bit by bed bugs, use ice packs to relieve the swelling and itchiness. Go to the doctor if symptoms persist. They will usually prescribe you a dose of antihistamines and antibiotics. Additionally, they may instruct you to bathe multiple times a day and apply a special cream to the rash.

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.

9 SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF BED BUGS

Bed bugs are a nasty and uncomfortable problem. Signs and symptoms of bed bugs can be hard to detect at first, and even trickier to treat. To the untrained eye, bed bug bites can be confused with those of other biting insects.

Here are nine easy signs help you know if you have a bed bug problem.

RED, ITCHY BITES

People don’t often consider bed bugs until they’ve left their mark. The appearance of flat, red welts in zigzag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans. Bed bugs can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don’t spread diseases to humans, their bites are quite irritating and scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.

UNCOMFORTABLE NIGHTS

Bed bugs are most often found in the bed, where humans spend most of their nights. It makes logical sense for bed bugs to be most active at night while humans are in bed with them. Should you find yourself developing those itchy welts while laying in bed sleeping (or trying to sleep), it’s likely bed bugs are the problem.

MARKED ARMS AND SHOULDERS

Bed bugs tend to feed on exposed skin such as that on your arms and shoulders, which you may tend to leave uncovered while sleeping. This is different from, say, fleas and chiggers, which tend to bite around the ankles.

A BUGGY BED

The first sign of a bed bug problem is obvious: the bed. After bed bugs feed on humans, they’ll leave behind blood stains resembling small rust spots. These will usually be found near the corners and edges of the bed. Bed bugs also shed their skin, or molt, several times as they mature, so you may find their oval brown exoskeletons during your search.

THE NOSE HAS IT

A strong, unpleasant, musty odor like that of a wet towel is another common bed bug symptom. Bed bugs release pheromones, and when in large numbers, the smell can be quite strong. Should you find your bedroom smelling like a dirty locker room, you may want to perform an inspection.

Remember, bed bugs aren’t confined to your home. They can be found wherever you sleep, including hotel rooms.

Here are some quick inspection tips to help you avoid a serious problem, whether on the road or at home:

INSPECT THE BED

Strip the mattress and box spring and thoroughly inspect the corners and seams. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight. You’re looking for rust-colored, reddish-brown blood stains and/or small brown ovals (molted bed bug skin).

INSPECT THE ROOM

After searching the bed, it’s time to move to the rest of the room. Check anything upholstered, including chairs, couches, curtains and the edges of the carpet. Look in and behind dressers, underneath the bed and if possible, behind the headboard. Always be on the lookout for the signature reddish-brown spots.

OPEN THE CLOSET

Bed bugs can also cling to clothing, which is how they can travel and spread so adeptly. Be sure to look in your closets and check your clothing thoroughly. Bed bugs on clothes means bed bugs on humans.

USE YOUR NOSE

As stated above, one way detect bed bugs is their smell. The scent of their pheromones can be quite strong. It’s often described as a musty odor.

Since it’s possible for people to go for long periods without being aware they have a bed bug infestation, knowing the key bed bug symptoms and how to find these pests will go a long way in combating them.

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