BedBug Bites

" Bedbug bites are often misdiagnosed since other insects such as spiders, fleas, mites, mosquitoes and infections can cause similar symptoms. The average person has no reaction and will only see  a small skin puncture where the "bite" occurred. Individuals that do see a bed bug bite reaction notice small red raised areas around the clear center where the puncture occurred. Extremely allergic individuals might experience a  large circular wheal or blister reaction. Bite symptoms can appear from 1 hour to up to 14 days after a bite episode"

Bed bug bites affect each person differently. It may take anywhere from 1 hour to several days to have a reaction. Reactions themselves last up to 2 to 5 days.  Bed bugs do not actually bite, but puncture the skin with a single stylet.

Bedbug Bites Video

Every time you are bitten the reaction can happen faster than the time before as your body becomes more sensitive to the bites. There is a study of a person bitten in a hotel room 1 year, and then returned to the hotel the following year and was bitten again. The reaction the second time happened faster and was worse than the first time including blisters and macules (spots on the skin that aren't raised).

Most people have no reaction to a bite with a small puncture mark at the point where the bite occurred.

Reactions can include:

  • No redness, small puncture mark on skin
  • Small Red Bump or Mark
  • Slightly elevated round patches called "wheals"
  • It is difficult to tell if a bite is due to a bedbug. If a reaction to a bite does occur, it usually looks like a small lesion 2 to 3 millimeters in size as depicted below:

    Pictures of Bed Bug Bites

    pictures of bed bug bites

    3MM Skin Lesions 1 Hour after Bed Bug Bite

    pictures of bed bug bites

    Source UNLV - Raised Bites

    pictures bed bug bite

    There are several causes for bite marks that look similar to those that could be left by a bedbug. These include:

    Insect/Parasite Causes:

    • Spiders
    • Chiggers
    • Scabies (mites) - usually appear on bottom of feet and lower legs
    • Mosquitoes

      bed bug and mosquitoe bites
      Picture Mosquito Bites
      Note that while similar to bedbug bites, these mosquito bites are on the back, an unusual place for bed bugs, particularly if you wear a top to sleep. Bites are also random.
    Infectious Causes:

  • Fungal Skin Infection
  • Chicken Pox
  • There are certain signs associated with bedbug bites that could help identify a bite. The checklist includes:

  • Size: Bites are usually round, red, and swollen to a size that is greater than 3/8 of an inch
  • Appearance: no red spot in the middle of the bite
  • Location: Bites are usually seen on the neck, shoulders and arms
  • Pattern: A bite pattern might follow the seam of a mattress (where the bugs hide) and therefore appear as a straight line There may also be a triangle pattern.
  • Itch: Bites can be itchy depending on individual reaction
  • If bedbug bites are itched and scratched they could last for weeks and become infected.

    Bedbug Bites and Disease

    There is no evidence that bed bug bites spread disease.

    Bed Bug Bites Symptoms

    Itch is the most common complaint after being bitten by a bed bug. If left untreated the itch should go away within a week.

    In rare cases, reactions to bedbug bites can include asthma, There are a few
    studies of systemic reactions from bed bug bites, including asthma, generalized hives (urticaria), and anaphylaxis (immediate immune system allergic reaction including a restricted airway, can cause death).  Chronic skin reactions can blister.

    bedbug bites
    Picture Bedbug Bite Blister Reaction

    Treatment of BedBug Bites

    Left untreated, most bed bug bites will go away by themselves in a few days. If the bites itch, then a topical over the counter itch cream which contains paroxime or doxepin will help. All Stop Healing and Protection Spray is made specifically to stop bed bug itch and itch from other insect bites. The same company offers a do it yourself kit for killing bed bugs and bedbug eggs from your home.

    Getting Rid of Bed Bugs and Bedbug Bites

    The biggest decision in getting rid of bed bugs is to decide whether you are going to do it yourself or hire a professional.  

    Do It Yourself

    A do it yourself kit includes  all of the products needed to be successful including a spray (kills bedbugs on contact), dust product (kills any late hatching eggs), hand steamer (kills eggs, sprays are ineffective), and mattress covers (traps any remaining bedbugs inside the mattress and boxspring).  Kits can be purchase on line such as the one available from Dermisil for Bed Bugs.

    Pest Control Professional

    There are many advantages to using a professional. This includes their expertise in terms of knowing where bedbugs hide and any specialized chemical and non chemical methods they have that are not available to homeowners. The downside is cost, where inspections can cost from $75 to $500 (bedbug sniffing dogs cause the high end price) with the treatment costing $750+.

    Given the cost, it pays to contact several exterminators to compare methods and quotes.  We'd start with Terminix (1.877.291.4849) since they provide a free in home inspection and free quote.  Compare to Service Magic (877.233.1145) which will provide callers with 4 free quotes.


    Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius)
    and Clinical Consequences of Their Bites
    Jerome Goddard, PhD
    Richard deShazo, MD

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