Bed Bug Rash

"Bed bug rash is an allergic reaction to a bed bug bite.  A person's reaction to bed bugs can get progressively worse each time they are bitten. The rash area can also itch. The rash should resolve itself within a week."  

Bed bug rash can vary between people.  A minority will show no symptoms when bitten by a bed bug other than a small puncture at the site of the bite.

Most people will have develop a small red bump (called pruritic maculopapular or an erythematous lesion), at the area where the bedbug bite occurred.  A common symptom is itch.   Each bed bug that feeds on the human host will leave behind a bump or red area.

bed bug rash
Picture Bed Bug Bites With Swelling
(Source: CT Gov)

The time it takes to develop a reaction to the bed bug bite varies between people.  It can range from an hour to 14 days later.  The size of the red bumps could vary from 3/8 of an inch to 2 to 3 inches.

bed bug rash
Bed Bug Bites Picture
(Source: London Pest Group)

Highly allergic or people that are repeatedly bitten may have a more pronounced reaction such as a wheal (welt) and even blisters.

bed bug rash
Bed Bug Bites Blister Picture

In many people, the skin reaction that appears each time they are bitten gets progressively worse. 

Bites are most often seen on the head, arms, shoulders and neck.  Bite marks can appear on other areas of the body.

Bed Bug Rash

Some individuals get a rash which can occur days after a bite.  Often the rash area is scratched which causes the area to become infected.  Infections could last on the skin for weeks.

Infection (known as a secondary infection since it was caused by another condition), can result in folliculitis (inflammation where the skin meets each hair), cellulites (bacterial infection just below the skin surface).

Other Reactions to Bed Bug Bites

In some cases, an individual can suffer from asthma, urticaria (elevated patches on skin, swelling) and in some cases anaphylaxis. (immediate and severe life threatening allergic reaction including constriction of the throat which restricts breathing.

Treatment of Bed Bug Rash

Over the counter anti-itch and anti-biotic ointments are usually all that is needed.   If rash areas are infected and are not healing on their own, be sure to see a Doctor as an oral anti-biotic or prescription cream may be needed.

A homeopathic anti-itch cream may also help such as Itch Dr. which is made to soothe the symptoms of itching and irritated skin.

A Doctor will treat chronic reactions with medications such as epinephrine, corticosteriods and antihistamines.

What Else Could it Be?

Bed bug bites are often misdiagnosed.  Common mistakes include:

  •  Scabies
  • Mosquito bites
  • Flea bites
  • Food allergy
  • Antibiotic reaction
  • Chiggers
  • Eczema
  • Skin infection

The only way to make a diagnosis is to find and identify a bed bug in your home or apartment.


Goddard, Jerome PDH, deShazo, Richard MD

London Pest Group

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