Because there are so many different insect species in the world, many of them of the biting variety, it is important to be familiar with the exact symptoms associated with bed bug bites. This knowledge will help to alert people as to whether it is likely that they have developed a bed bug infestation in their house, condominium, or apartment. According to the renowned Mayo Clinic, it is not easy to differentiate between bed bug bites and the bites of other insects, but knowing the most common signs and indications of a bed bug bite will help.
Any site that has been subjected to the bite of the common bed bug is likely to be red, but unlike some insect bites which present as a solid red blotch, those of bed bugs tend to have a more intense red spot located in the middle of the bite. This darker red color can sometimes be the “giveaway” that indicated a bed bug bite.
Typical Grouping Arrangements for Bed Bug Bites
Although bed bug bites do tend to be quite itchy, this in and of itself is not likely to distinguish them from the bites of other insects. Instead, bite sufferers should look for the bites to be arranged in straight lines. Frequently they appear in clusters of three, but the clusters will be lined up one after another in an arrangement that is somewhat ghoulishly referred to as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” by some experts in infectious diseases. Sometimes the clusters may not be linear but are instead bunched together in the same general vicinity.
Typical Locations for Bed Bug Bites
Although this again does not distinguish bed bug bites completely, it is true that most bits tend to occur on certain areas of the body. These include:
- the face
- the neck
- the arms
- the hands
Despite the predominance of bites in these areas, bed bug bites may, however, also occur on other parts of the body.
A Word About Itchiness
People are highly variable in their reactions to bed bug bites. Some will barely be able to detect them at all, except by sight and touch. Others are more sensitive to the chemical that the bed bugs inject as they are feeding; these individuals experience a slight allergic reaction which can lead to itchiness. Those who are even more sensitive to the chemical injected by the insects may experience severe itchiness that they will report as likely to drive them mad.
In even more extreme cases, bite sufferers may develop blisters or even hives as a result of these bites. Sometimes this is the result of scratching bites; the scratch marks can become infected and form abscesses, leading to any number of additional problems. It may be extremely difficult not to scratch, but in general it is much better to avoid doing so as it can lead to complications that are best avoided when possible.
Those who experience severe reactions should seek help from a medical professional. In particular, if you develop any sort of blistering on your skin within just a few moments of a bite, seek out a doctor at once. Such a rapid and severe reaction can be a sign of an extreme allergic reaction – and such reactions, if not treated promptly and appropriately, can actually become life-threatening in some individuals.
When Do Symptoms Occur?
Contrary to popular belief, it is quite unusual for bed bug symptoms to show up immediately after the bite occurs. In most cases the symptoms are not even apparent in the morning. Instead, it may take as long as a week for the initial symptoms to appear and trigger concern on the part of bite victims.
Unfortunately, this time lag is significant and allows for these pests to spread. Victims may be home from vacation and unpacked before they realize that they may have unwittingly brought bed bugs back with them from their holiday destination. Nature has no doubt arranged matters this way so as to add to the chances that bed bugs will be able to survive and even thrive despite the efforts of human beings to stamp them out. Like many facets of basic biology, this arrangement makes perfect sense in a state of nature but is decidedly inconvenient for people living in the modern age – people who would like to see bed bugs completely eliminated from existence if at all possible.
The Common Sequence of Bed Bug Symptoms
The first sign to usually occur is the presence of small-sized bumps on the hands, feet, neck, and face. At first these bumps may not be painful or itchy at all. Indeed, they may be quite difficult to recognize at this stage; the most helpful sign that they are indeed the result of bed bug bites will probably be the linear pattern of three bumps in a row.
After a few days, red welts may rise up on the skin in the location where the bumps were. At this point it is common to feel a burning and / or itching sensation, though again, people do vary and some individuals will merely see the red welts appear without feeling any particular discomfort as a result of them. In fact, more than half of all people who develop bug bites will be unaware of them on a physical level at this stage – another circumstance that no doubt helps the insects in their ability to spread and thrive, as some bite sufferers do not realize that they should begin taking steps to stamp out an infestation.
Other reasons why itchiness may vary
We tend to think of skin as the same all over our body, but in fact the skin on different areas of the body may react and behave quite distinctly from skin located elsewhere. A simple illustration can bring this point home – very few people tend to sunburn much on the tips of their fingers, yet their arms will develop quite severe sunburns – and this is true even when sun exposure across the entire arm has been precisely the same.
So too do different skin areas react differently to the presence of bed bug bites. The skin that covers areas such as the hands, feet, and face tends to be the most sensitive in this regard.
Another variable is the conditions to which you have been exposed. Even though we think of a warm bath as a calming influence, bites plunged into warm water may react by becoming more itchy. Chlorinated water such as is commonly found in swimming pools, hot tubs, or Jacuzzi s is also problematic, as is any environment that could be classed as polluted. All of these can contribute to additional itchiness, particularly for those who were already sensitive to bed bug bites to begin with.
Other Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites
The symptoms outlined above are the most common signs of a bed bug attack. In rarer cases other symptoms can also accompany instances of biting. For example, sometimes the small red bumps which occur at the first can become subject to swelling – even serious swelling. It is not unknown for swellings longer than four inches to result from bed bug bites. Such swellings often develop into lesions which resemble large blisters. These may be intensely itchy for some people, but again, scratching should be avoided to the maximum degree possible as it is not wise to open up the skin to infectious disease agents.
How Long do Bed Bug Bite Symptoms Persist?
In most cases, the effects of bites will begin to wear away three to four days after the bites first appear as small red bumps. After this time, the bite symptoms will gradually fade away. This may be of little solace, however, since a bed bug infestation may well mean a fresh round of bites every night. Indeed, it can be difficult for bite sufferers to even realize that their symptoms are fading since new bites marks may be appearing on a regular basis.
That said, many bed bug bite outbreaks will be periodical in nature. Bugs may emerge to feed on a somewhat regular schedule and then subsist for a while. Some bugs feed once a month, while others feed every few weeks or so. The cessation of symptoms can lead bite sufferers to believe that an infestation has been eradicated when in fact the bugs are merely waiting until they “come out to play another day” – or night, as the case may be.
An added complication is the fact that old bite marks may actually become bothersome once again when an individual is under stress. Environmental and other factors can also cause bite symptoms to recur even when no new bites are being laid down.
Non-medical Symptoms of a Bed Bug Infestation
Many medical events are accompanied by circumstances which are environmental rather than medical in nature. Bed bug infestations are no exception. In the case of a bed bug infestation, the most prominent environmental sign will be the presence of dark spots on mattresses or bed sheets. These stains indicate the presence of bed bugs because they consist of the bugs’ fecal leavings.