Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

" Bed bug bite symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction to a bed bug salivary protein. Bites are allergic reactions can can vary from person to person.  They can also get more severe each time a person is bitten.   Some people show no reaction at all, while others can develop small red inflamed areas , large red wheals or blisters. The center of a bedbug bite where the puncture of the skin actually occurs is clear.  All reactions usually itch.  Symptoms that appear within 1 hour to 1 day resolve themselves in 3 to 4 days.  Symptoms that appear in 1 to 14 days take 2 to 5 days to clear. If bites do not heal, or if their are signs of infection such as puss or crusts, then medical attention is needed."

Bed bugs bite at each stage of their life cycle. They are not actually biting the skin, but puncturing it in one place for each "bite" with a sharp sytlet which projects from the head.  Each feeding period lasts 3 to 15 minutes.  The bedugs leave their hiding place and usually bite exposed skin areas such as the neck, legs and shoulders just before dawn.  It is rare for bed bug bites to occur on the bottoms of the feet.  If bites are limited to this area, the problem is usually scabies, which are caused by mites.  

The typical reaction is a raised red round area 3/8 inch in diameter.  Most bites itch.  To help with itch either purchase an over the counter insect itch cream or you can purchase one made specifically to soothe skin bitten by bed bugs offered by All Stop.

 If the bedbug bites are scratched, a secondary infection could set in from breaking the skin with a finger nail.  If symptoms do not go away by themselves in several days, or if the reaction looks infected such as having puss or crusts, then see a Doctor for an anti-biotic cream or oral anti-biotic.

Bed Bug Bite Symptoms - Pattern

Bed bugs often bite in a row, which would follow the seam of a bed, a common hiding place for bedbugs.  The papules seen below are a typical bite reaction.  However, it is possible for a single bite to be a bedbug bite.

bed bug bite sympoms
Picture of Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

bed bug bite symptoms
Bed Bug Bite Symptoms on Arm

Bed Bug Bite Reactions

Reactions can range from no reaction at all to blistering of the skin. A light skin reaction is known as a macule.  The reaction depicted below occurred 1 hour after the skin was punctured by the bedbug.

pictures of bed bug bites

3MM Skin Reaction 1 Hour after BedBug Bite

Similar to the picture shown at the top of the page, bites occur in rows and can vary in size.

pictures bed bug bite
Raised Bed Bug Bite Symptoms
Source UNLV

bed bug bite symptoms
Bed Bugs Bite Pattern

Rare Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

In people that are very allergic to the anesthetic/anticoagulant compounds  in bed bug saliva, blisters could form on the arm.

bed bug bite symptoms
Picture of Blister Reaction to Bed Bug Bite

A chronic or severe allergic reaction could result in asthma, hives (urticaria) or in very rare cases anaphylaxis which results in difficulty breathing and possibly even death, although again, this is rare.

If repeatedly bitten by a large infestation, then a person can suffer from mild anemia, which is a low number of red blood cells. Symptoms include paleness, shortness of breath and feeling tired.

Killing Bedbugs in Your Home 

Bed bugs are very difficult to remove from a home or apartment.  Several types of products are needed to kill both the bedbugs and their eggs. 

Professionals have an edge in that they know how to find the bedbug's hiding places and they have the experience, and possibly better chemical and non-chemical approaches.  The downside is cost which can include a payment for an on site inspection ($50 - $100 - more if bedbug sniffing do is used) and payment for the treatment itself ($500 - $1000+).   Here are three easy ways to quickly call a professional:

  1. Call A National Company: We suggest calling a firm such as Terminix (phone 877.291.4849).  This company in particular provides a free on-site inspection and free quote.  Even if you decide to do it yourself, this will confirm that you have an infestation and what is involved during treatment.  A national company also establishes and is improving their approach based on the experience of their local pest control professionals.
  2. Search the Service Magic List: Service Magic (phone 877-233-1145) is a network of local pest control companies that have been pre-screened.  They will provide 4 free bed bug quotes.
  3. Check Our Database: We have a list of bed bug professionals that can be searched here.

If planning to do it yourself, and if you have patience and time, then a kit, such as the one offered by  Dermisil for Bed Bugs (organic/natural products) or (insecticide based products)  is a cost effective approach. Kits, which cost approximately $160 contain a mattress safe spray for killing live bedbugs, a steamer to kill the eggs and fossil dust which will be sprinkled around the areas bed bug hide to kill any that were missed or from late hatching eggs that were not killed.

In addition to the kits, be sure to buy a bed bug proof mattress and box spring cover.  Walmart is a good source for a low cost option.   Studies show that 80% of bed bugs will appear in and around the bed.

For more information see our guide to killing bed bugs.


The Connecticut Agricultural Extension

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