Bed Bug Bites - An In-depth Guide

Bed Bug Bites – An In-depth Guide

Bed Bug ItchYour alarm goes off, it’s 5am and time to get up for work.  You fumble around until you find your iPhone, and turn the alarm off.  You stretch and sit up trying to clear your head.  

You innocently scratch an inch on the side of your leg, reminding yourself that its winter, and dry skin time again.  

You head to the bathroom, turn on the light, and while reaching down to grab the toothpaste, you notice red welts all along the side of your thigh, from your panty line to your knee, exactly where you were itching … and it still itches.  What in the world ?

After showering and getting ready for work, you open your laptop, and begin looking up the red welts.   Seems they could be a number of things, but something, in particular, catches your attention.  A few photos show the welts in a line similar to yours … you click to read a little more.  WHAT?  Bed bug bites!!??  You panic.

Bed Bug Bites

New York City Bed BugThis same scenario happens daily around the world, and particularly in large cities.   Sometimes it’s a rash, or allergic reaction, other times a few mosquito bites and sometimes is what many of us dread, bed bug bites.   Just looking at the red welts alone often isn’t enough information to tell you, and you have to look for additional signs to confirm you may have bed bugs.

Unfortunately for us, bed bugs are spreading like wildfire, both in the United States, and around the world in general.   No, it’s not just poor people, or dirty people, or untidy people, it’s everyone, including the neat and tidy and the rich.  Some of the nicest hotels in the world have been in the news for having bed bug infestations.

What do bed bug bites look like?

Bed Bug BitesSymptoms vary but generally bed bug bites looks like pinkish red welts on your skin.  They are often mistaken for a rash and even called a bed bug rash, but they are not a rash, they are groups of bites.

Now, that being said, after being bitten, some people develop a rash around the bites due to an allergic reaction to the bed bug’s saliva, often referred to as a bed bug rash.

One of the big giveaways for bed bug bites vs other types of insect bites is that that they are generally linear.   If you were to look at the whole bite area, the bed bug bites will appear to be on “a path” if you will.  Bites are also often in groups of 2s and 3s, as seen in the photo to the right.

Why?  Well, at night when you sleep, bed bugs detect your presence and are drawn to it.   They bite, and draw blood, rest for a little bit, move some, then repeat the process.   Depending on how many, and how many times they bite will determine how extensive “the path” is.  The photo on the left shows this path or pattern very clearly.

Another key indicator of bed bug bites is the location.  Bed Bugs generally live in your bed (hence the name), or access your bed to get to you.   The bites are often located in areas of your skin touching or near the mattress.  In the case of the image to the right, this lady was most likely sleeping on her left side or back when bitten.

If you aren’t 100% sure you have bed bug bites, the only true way to confirm is to find the bed bugs themselves.   

Black people

bed bug bites black peopleDue to the darker skin color on both black people, bed bug bites often look very different.  The effects of the bites are nearly identical to caucasian people, however, the color of the bites and rash if any, will be a different color.  

Bed bug bites on black people are often much darker in color (depending on skin tone).  The bites themselves maybe often not even be red, but be a dark black/brown color.   The rash from the bite itself will also be darker, while it can be dark red, it is often a dark black or brown color as well.  Here is a photo for reference:

African Americans often have a more severe reaction to bites as well, due to their skin being more sensitive.   Bite treatment, however, is the same, and the strategies we discuss below will work equally as well for various skin colors and races.


Unfortunately, bed bugs don’t discriminate, and thousands of children living in bed bug infested homes or staying in bed bug infested hotels get bitten daily.  This includes infants as well, sadly.

Identifying bites on children vs. adults is no different, children will have similar reasons as adults.  Children often react more severely than adults, and especially younger children and infants, due to softer and more sensitive skin.

Consult with a physician before applying any anti-itch creams or lotions to younger children and infants.  Treatment of older children say 10 and up is nearly identical to adults.

Bed Bug Bites Child

Young girl with lower legs covered in bed bug bites

Why do they itch?

Bed Bugs Immune to SpraysDifferent people react differently to bed bug bites, some break out and itch like crazy, while others don’t show any signs of being bitten, including not even itching.    Interesting, a study was done that showed that a very large percentage of people over the age of 65, had no reaction at all from bed bug bites, and didn’t even know they were bitten.

Bed bug bites itch some people due to the saliva injected into the skin by the bed bug.   The saliva has a numbing effect, they keep people from feeling the pain of the bite itself.  The injected saliva does generally irritate the skin later, causing the red whelps often associated with bed bugs.

How long do they last?

doctorThis varies from person to person, depending on how severe the reaction is to the injected saliva.   Generally bites last 1 – 2 weeks. However, they can last longer, especially if they are scratched and become infected.

Infected bed bug bites will be brighter red in color, and often have white tops where the bite occurred.  They will have a larger pink circle around them, and sometimes be warm to the touch.  If you see white tops, large red circles or the bite feels hot to the touch, you’ll want to get medical attention quickly, as you most likely have an infected bite.  

Infected bites take longer to heal, and require treatment with antibiotics.

Can they cause disease?

Generally no, but bed bugs have recently been proven to be carriers of disease, and can transmit a disease to you.  

Bed bugs prefer humans but will feed on other animals as well when humans blood is not available.    If a bed bug was feeding on an infected animal, prior to biting you, it is possible that you could be infected.  Bed bugs have recently been shown to carry typhus, yellow fever, anthrax, and Chagas.

With that being said, the number of cases where a person has been infected with a bed bug bite is extremely rare and highly unlikely.

How to get rid of bed bug bites

The only real way to get rid of bed bug bites is to get rid of the bed bugs.  As long as you have bed bugs in your home, you’ll have bed bug bites, nearly every single night.   Unfortunately, the bites will most likely get worse as time goes by.

Bed bug bites, as mentioned above, will generally heal on their own within 1-2 weeks.  There really isn’t any additional treatment that can be done to make them go away any faster.   BUT, you can lessen the itching using over the counter anti-itch creams and lotions and natural remedies.

After treating your bed bug bites, the next and most important priority is to begin treating your bed bug problem.  Once you’ve treated your home, you’ll want to put some prevention methods in place as well.


Bed bug bite treatment

Treatment of bed bug bites is the same as treating any other insect bite or sting.  You can wash the area with warm soapy water to remove an saliva residue, then apply over the counter anti-itch creams and lotions to keep the bites from itching.  

Do not scratch or rub the bites or area around the bites, as they can often cause the bites to become infected.  Do not cover the bites or area around the bites, and be sure to allow lots of air to reach bites.  Learn more about how to treat bed bug bites.

How do you get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are travelers.  As a result bed bugs are brought into homes by people, often from items they are carrying with them like luggage, bags, or even on their clothes.

Most often they are brought home by sleeping at someone else’s home that has an infestation, or even more frequently by staying at a hotel that is infested.   While there, the bed bugs get into your luggage and clothing and hide.   When you bring your luggage home and unpack, they infest your home.

Bed Bugs Luggage

Another common way of getting bed bugs is by buying used furniture that is infested.  Used mattresses and couches are common causes of bed bug infestations.   We highly recommend against buying used furniture due to the high chance of getting bed bugs.

For those of you living in apartment buildings, you risk is high, especially in more urban and populated cities.   If one apartment gets infested, others can easily become infested as well, as the bed bugs will travel from one apartment to the in search for food, which is unfortunately you.

Pictures of bed bug bites

Below you’ll find many different pictures of bed bug bites.  These bed bug bite images have both been found on the internet, and submitted by people who found our site and wanted to contribute.   We think you’ll find these bed bug bite pictures really helpful for identifying bed bug bites and determining whether you may or may not have an infestation.