Bed Bug Bites and Rash Symptoms
Unfortunately, identifying bed bug bites can be difficult. Bed bug bites often look like other insect bites. Further complicating things, some people don’t react to bed bug bites at all. In fact, the majority of people 65 and over do not have reactions to bites at all.
Medical professionals often misdiagnose those bitten by bed bugs, due to being nearly impossible to tell if what bite you was actually a bed bug. Medical Professionals often mistake bed bug bites for mosquito bites.
The only real way to know for sure is to bring in the bug that bit you.
Generally, you can detect bed bug bites by seeing spots that are red. The spots are often darker in the middle areas, and the bite is often itchy, but not always. Bites are often near or on areas of the skin that are directly on the bed sheet.
One distinguishing characteristic of a bed bug bite is they are often in a pattern either in a rough line or in a cluster. This is due to feeding habits of bed bugs. They will often bite, pull in blood, move a little, bite, pull in blood, etc.
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.
Why do bed bug bites itch?
Bed bugs don’t actually bite, instead they pierce your skin with a long beak. The beak contains saliva that not only thins your blood but also numbs your nerves so you don’t feel the bite. The bite itself does not cause the itching, but the saliva can.
Many people often have an allergic reaction to the saliva, resulting in welts or rashes that itch. The more allergic a person is, the worse the welt or rash, and the worse the itching.
The itching can last for hours or weeks. The amount of time varies on how allergic a person is.
Bed bug bite reactions often not only cause red welts to form but can also cause a rash, commonly referred to as a bed bugs rash. Symptoms that can also occur, but are rare, are hives or blisters.
Severe reactions to bed bug bites can often last for 3-4 weeks, although reactions this severe are rare. Remember though, unless the bed bugs themselves are treated and killed, the biting will most likely continue, resulting in an ongoing reaction that can last months or years.
How long do they last?
This 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.
Due 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.
Health Risks of Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs are known carriers of various diseases but are not known to cause any disease infection directly, thank goodness.
Bedbugs mainly feed on human blood. If human blood isn’t immediately available, they will find other sources of blood like rodents, bats, and domestic animals like cats and dogs. If a bedbug fed from another animal it could carry various diseases or bacteria, however, there is no current proof that bedbugs could transmit the disease.
Bed bugs are known carriers of typhus, yellow fever, and even anthrax.
The most common ailment from bed bug bites is an infection due to scratching. Excess scratching can result in open wounds around the bite area which can quickly and easily become infected. Infections like this can be serious.
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.
Treating Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bites are not a cause for immediate medical attention, and generally go away completely within a few days to a week at most.
They do cause anxiety, stress and most times – restless nights which are generally far worse than the bites themselves.
You should see a doctor for treatment if:
- You have many red itchy bites and blisters.
- Your skin becomes red and oozes discharge such as pus.
- If you have severe itching that isn’t controlled by over the counter medicines
While rare, severe allergic reactions may require an injection of an antihistamine or corticosteroid or epinephrine (adrenaline). If you have severe swelling, trouble breathing or feel nauseous, seek immediate medical assistance.
One other complication often accompanied by bed bug bites are skin infections due to scratching. If you have bleeding, very red skin around the bite area that is hot to the touch, or you see pus coming from the bites, you should seek medical attention. These symptoms can be a sign of infection. Infections often require an antibiotic cream. The best way to avoid an infection is to NOT scratch at the bites.
If you think you’ve been bitten by bed bugs, you’ll want to immediately wash the bite area with hot water and soap to both disinfect the area and to reduce itching.
One of the most effective ways to treat bites is using Cortizone cream or Benadryl Gel. These creams and gels will prevent itching, and as a result reduce the risk of infection.
>>Read more about how to treat bed bug bites on our bite treatment page.
More About Bed Bugs
The risk of you encountering bed bugs mostly lies in places with a high turnover of guests – both day and night time, particularly in places like hospitals, homeless shelter, hotels, and motels.
Bed bug infestations may also be linked to insecticide resistance, increases in international travel and recent changes to pest control activities.
How do bed begs spread?
Bed bugs are known to be great hitchhikers and commonly spread by hitchhiking. They move from one site to another by traveling on items such as clothing, furniture, luggage bags, boxes, carpets, and bedding. Bed bugs do not care if your environment is clean or dirty, all they need is a warm host and plenty of creaks and crevices to hide in.
Bed Bugs crawl as fast as ladybugs but do not fly or jump, although they may look like it. They just crawl very quickly.
Improper use of bed bug sprays can often spread bed bugs further around in your home. This is a common problem with people who think they may have bed bugs, but don’t take the time to properly educate themselves on how to best treat a bed bug infestation. When threatened, bed bugs will move quickly to other areas of your home.
Signs of bed bugs
If you have bed bugs, you won’t usually see the bugs themselves very often, if at all. What you will see are signs they’re around. You may find spots of blood on bedding, on upholstered furniture and sometimes on couches.
Other times, you may see spots of blood near the seams of furniture or bedding. You may also see their exoskeletons. Bed Bugs have an outer shell that they can shed and leave behind as they grow.
You may also see tiny blackish specks on your bed sheets and mattress, which are bed bug excrement.
Finally, you may also see eggs. After mating, these female bedbugs lay small white and oval eggs in cracks and in crevices. Magnified photographs would show you the eggs clearly, as they are often difficult to see with your natural eyes.
Read more about finding bed bugs in your home on our bed bug detection page.
Treating bed bugs
Treating bed bug bite and rash symptoms alone isn’t enough. Unless you get rid of the bed bugs from your home, you’ll just continue to get bitten. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just throw away your mattress and get a new one. Bed bugs hide in far more place than just your mattress.
The most effective way to treat a bed bug infestation in your home is to engage a professional exterminator and one that has experience treating bed bugs.
The downside to engaging a professional exterminator is that it can be expensive, and for money just not within their financial means. If this is the case, we recommend following our self-treatment and prevention options. Diatomaceous earth and heat treatment are both highly effective and safe.
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.