Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

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.

Most common characteristics of bed bug bites: Color

red spots bed bugs

Notice the red circles of the bed bug bites on the skin. The pattern of the bites are also very linear.

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.

For more information on bed bugs read Bed Bugs FAQ

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.

The linear bite pattern of the bed bug bites are the one thing that will often set them apart from other insect bites. This pattern is due to the fact that bed bugs will bite multiple times while traveling an a human. This leads to the often linear pattern of bites that occurs. Depending on the level of infestation of bed bugs there could be 3-4 bites or there could be 20 bites. Backpackers who stumble upon a hostel that has a huge bed bug infestation will probably get more than a few bites.

Typical Locations for Bed Bug Bites

This is a very common pattern of bed bug bites on the leg. Notice the dark red spots that are very linear all the way up the leg.

This is a very common pattern of bed bug bites on the leg. Notice the dark red spots that are very linear all the way up the leg.

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 legs
  • the neck
  • the arms
  • the hands

Despite the predominance of bites in these areas, bed bug bites may, however, also occur on any part 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.

Learn how to prevent bed bugs to avoid getting bitten

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. This is often the case with people who are on vacation and come back home with red marks on their body. Vacationers can get bitten up to a week previously until the bite marks show up.

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.

This image shows a young man that has bed bug bites all over his arm. The infestation must have been severe to have caused so many bite marks.

This image shows a young man that has bed bug bites all over his arm. The infestation must have been severe to have caused so many bite marks.

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.

The bite marks left by bed bugs can take some people many weeks and months before they are fully gone. Every individual reacts differently to bed bug bites. People who are very sensitive to bites are more likely to have the bite symptoms last longer than others. You can have to people sleeping in the same bed and one person shows marks all over their body, while there other person might show no signs of bites. You won’t know the reaction you have to bed bugs until you get bitten by them.

Other 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.

A common sign that you are being bitten by bed bugs at night is if you wake up and notice blood smears and spots on the bed sheets. If you are constantly itching and scratching at night there is a good chance that you will end up crushing a bed bug that has just bitten you. The blood smears and spots on the sheets are tell tale signs that you have killed a bed bug at night. Also look for dark little shapes the size of an apple seed in your bed. This could be a bed bug that you might have killed while you sleep.

Before booking your next vacation make sure you look up how to inspect your hotel for bed bugs

Looking at the different bed bug bite symptoms will ensure that you have concrete evidence of bed bugs. If you get bitten while you are staying in a hotel or guesthouse make sure you talk to the management right away. Sometimes finding a new hotel is the better option than making a room change. Often rooms that are situated beside or adjacent to one another can be affected by bed bugs because they can live inside the walls and go under the carpets between rooms. Always ensure that you inspect any new room you are staying in to ensure that you avoid a situation where you will end up being bitten by bed bugs. A little bite of effort can go a long way to ensuring you don’t run into these pesky insects.

Comments

  1. please don't have bed bugs says:

    Even after reading this and many other articles, I still have no idea if I have bed bugs or not because I seem to only be getting bit during the day. Or, like you said the symptoms lag and I could be getting bit at night… I have the linear bites though, my bites are getting bigger, 1 inch in length and are hard like mosquito bites and very itchy. But I’m the only one in my house getting bit! Why is this? What is this? I really hope it’s not bed bugs, but it seems I getting bit every night, and my bites look similar to the pictures. scary.

  2. Thiis information is invaluable. When can I find out more?

  3. Stephanie says:

    thanks for posting such excellent information. the facts about the delayed appearance has really helped me to make a diagnosis that the doctor was calling either measles or an allergic reaction….. too bad he didn’t know about the 3 bites in a row and so on…. thanks again

    • This is a very good point. A lot of doctors aren’t able to properly identify bed bug bite symptoms and misdiagnose patients all of the time. Doing your own research is the best way to determine if you have been bitten by bed bugs. Glad you were able to make a good self diagnosis :)

  4. Bedbugs die die die die die zoo zoo zoooooooooossssssiiiiiieeeeeeeee…..

  5. Bed bugz suck asssssss!!!!!!

  6. how to get rid of bed bugs says:

    Good day! I just want to give you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you have here on this post.
    I will be returning to your website for more soon.

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  1. [...] Bed bug bite symptoms: This post talks about the various symptoms you can experience if you get bitten by bed bugs. Being able to recognize you are being bitten by bed bugs is the first step in getting rid of them. [...]

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