Table of Contents
Bed Bug Bite Symptoms
Bites are by far the most common first sign of bed bugs that people deal with in an infestation.
While bites are very useful as an early warning that an infestation might be brewing, we always recommended finding other signs of bed bugs before spending money on expensive products and treatment.
The truth is that even professionals aren’t 100% confident identifying pests based on bites alone. The symptoms page will show you exactly where and what to look for outside of bites.
There are certain patterns and signs that point towards bed bugs though.
Some bed bug biting habits and symptoms include:
- Bites appear grouped in lines of two or more
- Bites appear after periods of rest (naps, sleep, reclining, etc)
- Bites appear every 3 days to 5 days early on
- Bites appear on skin exposed during sleep
- Bites typically found on areas with less hair
- Symptoms vary but are generally described as:
- flat or slightly raised red welts, bumps, or rashes
- A deep persistent itch, worse than mosquito bites
Symptoms can persist for as long as two or weeks or as little as half a day.
All of these signs depend on whether or not you are reactive to bed bug bites in the first place. For some people, signs appear almost immediately. Others take 2-3 days before feeling the itch, while others just don’t react at all.
While being itchy isn’t fun, not knowing you have a problem until you have a full-blown bed bug infestation on your hands is arguably worse.
Where Do Bed Bugs Bite?
You should look for bites anywhere that skin is exposed during sleep.
Anywhere that is uncovered during sleep is easy pickings for them.
In line with their preference for feedings sites that are easy to access, bed bugs prefer to feed on skin with less hair.
All 0f this could tell you your problem may a different bug if bites are showing up in spots covered with hair that are well covered during sleep.
What Do Bed Bug bites Look Like?
The way they look can vary greatly from person to person. Some people get large itchy red rashes while others may never show signs at all.
Check out this page for more pictures of bed bug bites on real people.
When Do Bed Bugs Bite
If you find that there does not seem to be a connection between bites appearing and sleep, it is unlikely that bed bugs are the actual problem.
You may be exposed to them somewhere else; workplace infestations are increasingly commonplace in recent years.
Bed bugs prefer to feed while you’re asleep.
If you sleep in the day and work at night, they will adjust to you and are able to determine when you’re asleep by your breathing and other chemical signals released by the body during sleep.
The process of getting and extracting a full meal takes about 5 minutes, during which the bug can ingest 7 times its weight in a single meal!
Bites in Rows
Looking for bites in loose rows in areas that bed bugs typically feed is a useful way to narrow down possible culprits.
While fleas and ticks like to target ankles and exposed feet, bed bugs are less finicky, preferring any amount of exposed skin such as your face, neck, back, arms, hands, feet, or legs as mentioned earlier.
That being said, there is no rule that says all bed bugs will bite 3 times in a neat row every time. There is also no rule that says other bugs can’t bite 3 times in a row as well.
This is why it is so easy to misdiagnose your problem based on bites alone.
Why Do Bed Bug Bites Itch
Most people will have no idea they’ve been bitten until the bug has finished feeding and is long gone.
The itching happens thanks to the potent combination of numbing anesthetics and powerful anticoagulants that numbs any discomfort while it also keeps blood flowing until the bed bug has had its meal.
Bed bug symptoms are actually symptoms of your body’s antibodies fighting invading bed bug chemicals.
While some people react violently and immediately, up to 30% of people do not react at all. Others find themselves in the middle ground, beginning to itch mildly after several hours or even days after being bit.
After feeding for up to five minutes, bed bugs will scurry back to their safe havens with up to seven times their original weight of blood in their bellies.
Bed bug bites are dangerously itchy. Seeing as bed bugs do not transmit diseases while biting, the greatest health danger they pose is infection due to exposure of broken skin caused by excessive itching.
It’s difficult not to itch, especially for those who are highly reactive. It’s totally normal to scratch while unconscious and asleep too.
To help stop the itching, we cover how to stop bed bugs from getting onto your bed in the next section. We also have a page on how to treat bed bug bites for those dealing with any kind of itchy bite.
How to Stop Bed Bug Bites
For most people going through bed bug treatment, getting bitten a couple times is to be expected. We can do a lot to minimize bites.
You could move out, bringing only properly laundered clothing and verified bed-bug-free belongings with you while a professional deals with the infestation but most people are not in a position to do that.
If you will be facing your bugs while living at home, you can significantly reduce the number of bites you’ll get by following a few guidelines.
Your bed is the most important part of the house to protect.
By focusing on the bed, we will be denying the infestation easy food, getting much needed rest, and taking some control in a situation that, at times, feels completely uncontrollable.
To learn everything you could want to know about treating bed bugs yourself or professionally, the treatment page serves a great resource.
Bed Bug Bite Prevention Steps
While these steps will stop all biting if done properly, the only way to completely stop bed bug bites is by getting rid of them.
In the meantime, this short guide will help you take control and get much-needed sleep.
You can read the long-form version of how to keep bed bugs off your bed at the prevent bed bugs page.
Once you complete the steps and consistently keep bedding off the floor, you should find yourself free of bed bug bites – even during an infestation.
As a quick rundown, you can follow this quick list of steps:
- Remove and clean all bedding at high heats twice a week. Dryers should reach 140˚F.
- Move beds away from walls and other overhanging furniture and light fixtures.
- Be sure that nothing hangs off the bed and touches the floor.
- Secure your mattress, box spring, and pillows in encasements.
- Use bedpost interceptors to monitor populations and prevent bites
- Shower and wear clothes that has been through the dryer before getting in bed
- Use bug-proof containers to keep your fresh clothes bug-free
For more on protecting your bed and encasements in general, visit the bed bug encasement page.
To help you figure out which encasement is right for you, we’ve created comparison charts that make the choice easy.
|AllerZip Smooth||SafeRest Premium||SureGuard||Sleep Defense|
|Zipper||BugLock 3-part||Velcro, Micro-Zipper||Velcro, "Zipper Technology"||Velcro, Zip-tie|
|Material||Cotton, polyester terry fabric||Polyester knit fabric||Polyester knit fabric||Polyester knit fabric|
|Sleeping Surface||Cotton||Cotton Terry||Cotton Terry||Polyester knit fabric|
|Rating||5.0 / 5||4.6 / 5||4.0 / 5||3.4 / 5|
|Why Buy?||Best Overall||Great Value||Budget Comfort||Budget Friendly|
As for traps and interceptors, we also host a page dedicated to them, complete with charts and reviews.
|Bait||You||You||You||You, Optional Lure|
|Trap||ABS Pitfall||Powdered Pitfall||Comfy Harborage||Pitfall|
|Rating||5.0 / 5||4.0 / 5||4.6 / 5||3.4 / 5|
|Price||$$||$||$$||$$ - $$$|
Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. Once you’ve found bed bugs, do not retreat to another bed!
This means not staying with friends or family if you’ve found an infestation unless completely certain that you aren’t carrying hitchhikers on yourself or in your belongings.
They are known as the hitchhiking bug because where you go, they will follow.
Bug Bug Proof Bed Printable
The printable below will do a lot to help you prevent bed bug bites for the rest of your life.
To print this file:
- Right click the image
- Select “save image as”
- Open the file wherever you saved it
- Print as usual!
To get the full resolution and black and white versions of this printable, check out the great Debedbug ebook.
It includes four more hugely helpful printables and condensed information that will get you on the path to freedom from bed bugs. Try it free today!
Click here for more details.
It’s unsurprisingly very common for people to believe they have bed bugs when they are actually dealing with fleas or mosquitoes. Making sure you’re dealing with the right pest saves your money, time, and health and is worth your time.
Misdiagnoses of bed bugs is more common than with other pests because they operate at night and are genuinely very sneaky.
The media has gone through numerous periods of highlighting dramatic infestations on planes and in public places as well. This has given many people a general feeling of paranoia which increases misdiagnoses.
On the other hand, other bugs are sometimes blamed when folks actually do have bed bugs.
Either way, the importance of an accurate and verified diagnosis can’t be overstated. Most non-professionals are not above making an incorrect diagnosis, especially if only looking at a bite as evidence.
The bed bug symptoms page is written to help you do exactly that with great accuracy. Use it to figure out where and what to look for before you expose yourself to potentially harmful pesticides and sprays.
Symptoms Mistaken for Bed Bug Bites
Other bugs that bite, environmental factors like allergies, and even totally imagined symptoms frequently lead people to believe they have a bed bug infestation.
Assuming that you have bed bugs without concrete evidence can make a small problem much worse than it needs to be. Don’t forget that in many cases, people find that whatever is plaguing them turns out to be completely irrelevant to bed bugs.
Lice, mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, fleas, and bed bugs all leave behind similar itchy signs.
You can find photos of more lookalikes on the pictures page.
Dermatological conditions such as eczema and allergies can also create comparable symptoms.
In the post describing bed bug symptoms, potential environmental culprits are also described.
Certain fabrics, stray fiber from insulation, carpets, furniture, and even dry air all can lead to rashes, itching, and general allergic reactions.
Hives, which are another symptom of allergies, can be reminiscent of raised welts from bed bug bites.
What Not To Do
Do not begin treating for bed bugs haphazardly with chemicals, bug bombs, and hardware store “solutions.” This is a great way to spread your problem deep into your home as well as your neighbors’ homes. These products do not kill bed bugs.
Do not buy an encasement that isn’t well rated. This is your first and last line of defense, I recommend investing in peace-of-mind and good sleep.
Do not bother trying to keep them off by wearing more clothes. They are perfectly capable of biting through thin fabrics and can crawl under your clothes anyways. You’re only serving to concentrate bites on your face and other parts that have to be uncovered.
Some of these mistakes are hazardous to your health and the health of your housemates.
You can read reviews and all about the best bed bug killing products on the market at this post. Having the right tools for the job is critical in the fight!
Do Bed Bugs Spread Disease?
People often assume that bed bugs transmit diseases. While the logic makes sense, seeing as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes transmit, bed bugs absolutely do not.
The rate of disease transmission by bed bugs is zero.
Like mosquitoes and fleas, bed bugs are known to carry a host of different human borne illnesses, however, they do not transfer them except in extreme cases of bad luck.
The biggest issue you’ll face is scarring or infection due to excessive scratching and a loss of sleep according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Topical antibiotics and antihistamines are recommended to prevent nighttime scratching.
Freak cases in which recently fed bed bugs are crushed over open wounds, or where people exposed to extremely high amounts of bed bug feces have resulted in transmitted diseases. These are extremely unlikely scenarios that require massive infestations to become possible.
Bed Bug Bite Complications
Outside of typical symptoms, those dealing with an infestation often have to deal with the heavy mental toll that bed bugs have.
Paranoia at home, insomnia, and a constant sense of discomfort are normal. All of these can be seen as diseases in their own rights to be honest as they affect your everyday life.
Some psychologists have even claimed that victims of severe infestation show signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
Some individuals have antibodies that get very aggressive against anesthetic and anticoagulant proteins injected during feeding.
Those unlucky few that are allergic to the compounds are at risk of a severe reaction, as with any allergy.
Mild reactions include persistent itching and the appearance of pronounced rashes and welts.
Serious reactions may induce a loss of breath and vomiting, or even heart attack and shock.
Another reported danger in extreme cases is anemia. Anemia is developed when you lose an excessive amount of healthy red blood. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, and pallor.
These symptoms could only arise in the most severe cases in which a heavy infestation is allowed to feed freely for an extended period of time.
Seeking Medical Help
Proper medical care will normally stop or completely fix most of these extreme reactions.
Outside of extreme cases, medical treatment is almost never necessary.
Bed bug bites are more of an extreme nuisance than a health danger.
If you think you may be allergic or reacting dangerously, check with a doctor or dermatologist.
Due to the physical and mental trauma inflicted by bed bugs, several agencies such as the CDC and the United States Department of Agriculture still consider bed bugs a public health pest even though they do not spread diseases.
Most other pests on the list famously spread diseases and infection.
Should you be at all concerned with your well-being, please do not hesitate to consult a physician or other qualified health professional.
Thanks for Reading!
I’d like to reiterate that bites are not a reliable method of identification.
Treating while assuming you’re dealing with bed bugs is asking for headache. Please don’t make that mistake!
In many cases, treating for bed bugs would not only be a waste of time and money, it would cause a lot of stress, potentially expose you to harmful chemicals, and also leaves the actual problem untreated.
If bed bugs are found to be your culprit, comprehensive treatment is the only true fix for your problem.
Prevention is never a bad idea and can potentially save you a lot of grief if you are worried, or suspect that you might be exposed some day. Prevention is truly the best form of medicine!
For more on what you’ll need to fight bed bugs, check out the page on bed bug tools.