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Everything You Should Know About Bed Bug Bites

December 4, 2023 - Bed Bugs

Author - Tom Miche

bed bug bites

Bed bug bites are skin reactions caused by the feeding of bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), small parasitic insects that primarily feed on the blood of humans. These bites are generally painless at the moment of occurrence, but they can develop into itchy welts or red bumps. Bed bug bites are not known to transmit diseases, but they can cause discomfort and irritation.

Here is what you should know about bed bug bites:

Bed Bug Bite Appearance:

Bed bug bites can vary in appearance from person to person, and the reaction to the bites can differ based on factors such as an individual's sensitivity to the bites and the number of times they've been bitten. Here is what bed bug bites typically look like:

  • Red, Itchy Bumps: Bed bug bites often appear as small, red bumps on the skin. The bites can be slightly raised or flat.

  • Bite Pattern: Bed bug bites commonly occur in a pattern known as a "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" pattern. This refers to multiple bites in a row or cluster, as bed bugs often feed multiple times during a single feeding session.

  • Arrangement: The bites are frequently arranged in groups or lines, and they may follow the pattern of exposed skin while sleeping. Common areas for bites include the face, neck, arms, and hands.

  • Red Halo: Bed bug bites may have a red halo or surround, giving them a distinctive appearance. This redness is often more pronounced in the center of the bite.

  • Itching and Swelling: One of the primary characteristics of bed bug bites is intense itching. The affected area may also swell, particularly if the individual has a strong reaction to the bites.

  • No Pain During Feeding: Bed bugs typically inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant into the skin before feeding to prevent the person from feeling the bite. As a result, the bites are usually painless at the time of occurrence.

  • Linear or Clusters: Bed bug bites can appear in linear patterns or clusters, often following the lines of blood vessels just beneath the skin.

  • Varied Reactions: Different people may react differently to bed bug bites. Some individuals may develop large, itchy welts, while others may only have minor red bumps. The severity of the reaction is not necessarily indicative of the level of infestation.

Bed bug bites can be mistaken for bites from other insects, such as mosquitoes or fleas. Additionally, some people may not have any visible reaction to bed bug bites, making it challenging to identify an infestation solely based on bites.

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, it's crucial to look for other signs, such as live bugs, shed skins, or fecal stains on bedding and furniture. If you are uncertain about the cause of skin reactions, consulting with a healthcare professional or a pest control expert for a thorough examination is recommended.

Learn more: What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

Timing and Duration:

The duration of bed bug bites can vary from person to person based on individual reactions and the specific circumstances surrounding the bites. Here are some general considerations regarding the duration of bed bug bites:

  • Immediate Reaction: Bed bug bites may not be immediately noticeable, as the insects inject an anesthetic while feeding. Some people may not realize they've been bitten until red, itchy welts or bumps appear.

  • Onset of Symptoms: Symptoms of bed bug bites, such as itching and redness, typically develop within a few hours to a few days after the bites occur.

  • Duration of Symptoms: The duration of symptoms can vary. In many cases, bed bug bites resolve on their own within one to two weeks. However, this timeline is not universal, and individual responses to bites can differ.

  • Itching and Discomfort: Itching is a common symptom of bed bug bites. While the urge to scratch can be intense, scratching should be avoided as it can lead to skin irritation, secondary infections, and prolong the healing process.

  • Treatment Impact: Using over-the-counter creams, antihistamines, or corticosteroids can help alleviate itching and inflammation, potentially reducing the overall duration of symptoms.

  • Individual Variability: The duration and severity of bed bug bite symptoms depend on individual factors, including skin sensitivity and the immune response. Some individuals may experience more prolonged or intense symptoms, while others may have milder reactions that resolve more quickly.

  • Recurring Bites: If an individual continues to be exposed to bed bugs, new bites may occur, and the cycle of symptoms may persist. Effective treatment of the underlying bed bug infestation is crucial for preventing recurrent bites.

Bed bug bites, while uncomfortable, are generally not considered a serious medical concern. If symptoms are severe or if there are signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or the development of pus, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate medical intervention.

Learn more: How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?

Itching and Discomfort:

Bed bug bites commonly cause itching. Itching is one of the primary symptoms associated with bed bug bites, and it can be quite intense for some individuals. The severity of itching can vary from person to person, and while some may experience mild discomfort, others may find the itching highly bothersome.

The itching is typically a result of the body's reaction to the compounds in bed bug saliva that are injected into the skin during feeding. Bed bugs use an anticoagulant and anesthetic in their saliva to feed without being noticed, and the body's immune response to these substances can lead to itching, redness, and swelling around the bite sites.

Scratching bed bug bites can exacerbate the symptoms and may lead to secondary infections. Resisting the urge to scratch and using over-the-counter anti-itch creams or antihistamines can help alleviate itching. Additionally, addressing the underlying bed bug infestation is crucial to prevent further bites and reduce the overall impact on health and well-being. If itching persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate guidance and treatment.

Distinguishing Bed Bug Bites:

Distinguishing bed bug bites from bites caused by other insects can be challenging because the reactions to bites can vary widely among individuals. However, there are certain characteristics that may help you differentiate bed bug bites from those of other insects. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and individual reactions can vary.

Bed Bug Bites:

  • Pattern: Bed bug bites often appear in a linear or clustered pattern. They may be arranged in rows or groups, commonly referred to as a "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" pattern.

  • Location: Bed bug bites frequently occur on areas of the body that are exposed during sleep, such as the face, neck, arms, and hands. However, bites can occur on any part of the body.

  • Multiple Bites: Bed bugs feed multiple times during a single feeding session, leading to the characteristic pattern of multiple bites in close proximity.

  • Red Halo: Bed bug bites may have a red halo or surround, especially in the center of the bite.

  • Itching: Intense itching is a common symptom of bed bug bites. The urge to scratch can be significant.

Mosquito Bites:

  • Random Distribution: Mosquito bites are often randomly distributed on the body, without a specific pattern.

  • Quick Onset: Mosquito bites typically cause immediate itching and swelling.

  • Visible Mosquito: If you see mosquitoes in your environment, and you notice fresh bites, it may be indicative of mosquito activity.

Flea Bites:

  • Lower Body Preference: Flea bites are often concentrated around the lower legs and ankles.

  • Clusters: Flea bites can appear in clusters, especially if you've been in an environment where fleas are present.

  • Itching and Redness: Flea bites, like bed bug bites, can be itchy and cause redness.

Learn more: Bed Bug Bites vs Flea Bites

Spider Bites:

  • Single Bite: Spider bites are usually singular rather than clustered.

  • Pain at the Bite Site: Some spider bites can be painful, and you may feel discomfort at the site of the bite.

Chigger Bites:

  • Common in Waistband and Socks: Chigger bites often occur in areas where clothing is tight, such as the waistband and socks.

  • Intense Itching: Chigger bites are known for causing intense itching, similar to bed bug bites.

Allergic Reactions:

  • Systemic Symptoms: If you experience systemic symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or swelling in areas away from the bite site, it could indicate an allergic reaction, which is not typical for bed bug bites.

Visual identification alone may not be conclusive. If you suspect an infestation or are unsure about the cause of your skin reactions, consider consulting with a healthcare professional or a pest control expert for a more accurate diagnosis. Additionally, identifying other signs of infestation, such as live bugs, shed skins, or fecal stains, can contribute to a more comprehensive assessment.


Treating bed bug bites focuses on relieving symptoms such as itching and minimizing the risk of infection. Here are some steps you can take to treat bed bug bites:

  • Avoid Scratching: Although it can be challenging, try to resist the urge to scratch the bed bug bites. Scratching can lead to skin irritation, break the skin, and increase the risk of infection.

  • Wash the Bites: Clean the bites gently with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection. Pat the area dry with a clean towel.

  • Topical Anti-Itch Creams: Apply over-the-counter anti-itch creams or ointments containing ingredients like hydrocortisone to alleviate itching and reduce inflammation. Follow the product's instructions for application.

  • Antihistamines: Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or cetirizine (Zyrtec), can help relieve itching. Follow the recommended dosage on the product label.

  • Cool Compress: Apply a cool compress or ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the affected area for about 10-15 minutes. This can help reduce swelling and numb the area, providing temporary relief.

  • Calamine Lotion: Calamine lotion can be applied to the bites to soothe itching. Shake the lotion well before use and follow the product instructions.

  • Aloe Vera Gel: Aloe vera gel, known for its soothing properties, can be applied to the bites to reduce redness and provide relief.

  • OTC Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Follow the recommended dosage on the product label.

  • Keep the Area Clean: Keep the bite sites clean to prevent infection. Avoid using strong or scented soaps, as they may irritate the skin.

  • Avoid Allergic Triggers: If you are aware of any allergies or sensitivities, avoid products that may trigger an allergic reaction.

  • Natural Remedies: Some people find relief from natural remedies, such as applying diluted tea tree oil or witch hazel to the bites. However, use caution with essential oils and perform a patch test to check for skin sensitivity.

  • Consult a Healthcare Professional: If your symptoms are severe, persistent, or if you notice signs of infection (such as increasing redness, swelling, or the development of pus), consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate medical intervention.

  • Address the Bed Bug Infestation: To prevent further bites, it's crucial to address the underlying bed bug infestation. Contact us to inspect and treat your living environment.

Remember that individual responses to bed bug bites can vary, and what works for one person may not work as effectively for another. If you have concerns about the bites or if they persist, seek guidance from a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options.

Professional Bed Bug Control:

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, it's advisable to seek the services of a professional pest control company. DIY methods may not be as effective in completely eradicating bed bugs.

Learn more: Bed Bug Control

Bed bug bites can be a nuisance, causing itching and discomfort. While they are not known to transmit diseases, addressing the underlying bed bug infestation is crucial for preventing future bites and ensuring a pest-free living environment. If you have concerns about bed bugs, consulting with our team of pest control professionals is recommended for a thorough and effective solution.

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