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Guide to Bed Bug Bite Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

" A bed bug bite is not actually a bite or stings, but a small puncture wound caused by a sharp stylet that projects from the bedbugs head into the skin. A bed bug will puncture the exposed skin area to feed when seeking a blood meal, usually just before dawn. Any visible signs of a bite, effects such as redness or rash is actually an allergic reaction. Since most people are not allergic to the bites, it is common for an infestation can grow undetected for some time, particular among the elderly who can have no or a longer reaction time. This is also why two people in the same bed or home can have different reactions, ranging from no visible skin reaction to one that is chronic. Some people show small red round papules or raised areas with a clear center. In extreme cases, the bedbug bites can result in a more pronounced skin reaction such as a large 2 inch circular red wheal, hives, welts or even blistering. Bite reactions can also be delayed by several days after being bitten. "

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When Do Bed Bugs bite?

Bed bugs like to avoid light, so bites are most likely to occur at night, just before dawn.

How to Identify Bed Bug Bites symptoms

First bed bugs don't actually bite the skin, they puncture it with a hollow stylet that projects from the head. It is inserted into the skin and pushed in and out until the bed bug locates a blood source such as a capillary.

bed bug bite picturesPicture Bed Bugs Bite Skin Reaction
This is the Typical Skin Reaction That Occurs Immediately After Being Bitten

Does Everyone Show the Same Allergic BedBug Bite Reaction

Everyone reacts to bed bug bites or punctures differently. Any skin reaction is actually an allergic reaction to substances left behind by the bed bug. The majority of people will not have any bite reaction, so two people sleeping in the same bed can react differently to a bite. Everyone will have a small puncture, although without a skin reaction, this would be difficult to recognize.

Where Do Bed Bug Bites Appear?

Most bed bugs hide in or around the bed, particularly in bed seams and under any bed labels. When the host is sleeping, they will move to the nearest exposed skin area on the body, such as the legs, arms and neck, and then bite the host. Among those that do have an allergic reaction to the bed bug bite, there can be a single bite or many in an area, depending on the size of the infestation. When bites are found in a row on the skin, it is probably due to a leg leaning against a bed seam, where several bed bugs are hiding.

bed bug bites in row on armBed Bug Bite Picture
Bites Probably Caused by Bed Bugs Hiding Along a Seam Where the Arm Rested When Person was Sleeping

Do Bed Bugs Bites Reactions Get Worse Each Time?

It depends on the person.  While some people may see a worsening of the allergic reaction each time, others may not.

Bed Bugs Skin Rashes Pictures

Bed Bug Signs, Symptoms, and TreatmentUp Close Photo BedBugs Bite Skin Reaction
Picture Single Bed Bug Bite Wheal ReactionPicture Single Bed Bug Bite Wheal Reaction

What Can Happen in Cases of Severe Bed Bugs Bites?

Since a bite does cause an allergic reaction,  in highly allergic people, the bites can cause blistering of the skin and in rare cases breathing problems, particularly in people that have asthma.  In the rarest  of cases, the reaction can cause a person to go into  Anaphylactic shock.  This is a sudden allergic reaction where mast cells are quickly released to the site of the allergy, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure and breathing problems.  In severe cases, a condition called Anaphylactic shock it could lead to death in minutes.

bed bug bite blisters on armBed Bug Bite Blister Reaction

Can You Feel a BedBug Bite?

You might feel a small pinch when a bed bug bites, although most people will not notice as the problem occurs when sleeping.  You are more likely to notice the symptoms, which is referred to as bed bug itch.

How Long Do Bed Bug Bites last

Bed bug bites should go away in 2 to 3 days after being bitten.  Note that some people show a delayed skin reaction.  In this case, it could take 7 to 10 days after symptoms appear for the bite to stop.

Do Bed Bugs Spread Disease?

While a bed bug can contain disease, there is no evidence that disease can be spread to humans.

How Often Do Bed Bugs Feed?

Each Bed bug will look for a blood meal in a frequency of every 5 to 10 days.

What are Insects that Cause Skin reactions Look Like Bed Bugs Bites

Bedbug bites can look like several insect bite marks caused by lice, fleas, chiggers, spiders and mosquitoes. Diseases such as chicken pox also cause a similar bite reaction. if bite marks are only on the bottoms of the feet, then the problem if more likely to be scabies than a bite from a bed bug.

Bed bugs  bites are usually differentiated from other insect bite reactions using 3 factors:

  1. Symptoms: Do the bites itch? After a skin reaction, itchy skin is one the most telling sign of a bed bugs bites reaction. 
  2. Skin Bite Pattern: Bites can be individual, but often they form a pattern such as in a straight line as pictured above.
  3. Clear Center Appearance: Bites are clear in the middle, the site of the skin puncture, and if there is a skin reason, the puncture is surrounded by a red raised area.
  4. Location on Body: As noted above, bed bugs tend to bite exposed areas during sleep such as the bottoms of the legs, arms and neck.  They tend to avoid the face, hands and bottoms of the feet.

How do you stop bed bug itch?

Bed bug itch can be stopped with either a product made specifically for Bed Bugs such as All Stop, or a topical cream made for insect bites such as Aveeno.  Calamine lotion might bring some relief.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

The best approach for getting rid of bed bugs is to call in a professional.  It's best to go the professional route as bed bugs are difficult to find and a thorough job is needed to get rid of them.   Be sure to ask anyone you hire their specific experience and tools that will be used to rid your home of bed bugs.

Follow this link to find a qualified local bedbug exterminator near you from our list of qualified experts.  Please keep in mind that if the bed bugs are not treated correctly, insects missed will begin to multiply and the problem will return.  Don't use a pest control company unless they have extensive experience treating bed bugs.

If you are a do it yourselfer, follow our directions on how to get rid of bed bugs.  You will need a bed bugs kit, which comes with information needed to learn how to kill bed bugs. 

We suggest a combination of insecticide sprays with an organic dust product over organic products alone since the combination will have a longer lasting effect.  Make sure that products used to treat mattresses are mattress safe. 


Bed bugs can travel from one apartment to another or they can be carried home. See our prevention tips:

If you have a bed bug infestation minimize exposed skin areas. Tips include when sleeping wear socks over pajama bottoms to protect the legs and wear long sleeve shirts with gloves.  Move the bed 5" inches away from walls and furniture. Use a bed bug mattress cover to trap and kill any insects inside the mattress and box spring. 

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Mayo Clinic

Bed Bug Photos


Each of these free brochures provide additional information on how to identify bed bugs in your home or apartment.

The rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords for treating Toronto bed bug infestations.
Available in a free Ebook

How to identify and treat a bed bug infestation.
Available in a free Ebook

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