Bed bugs and humans have been unfortunate companions for hundreds of years, even inspiring the common nighttime farewell “…Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” However, bed bugs aren’t the only things that bite in the night, so how can you tell if your bites are from bed bugs? The small, itchy, red bumps look similar to many other insect bites, so examining these bites is only one piece of the puzzle.
Location of Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood and must feed once during each of their immature stages and also in order to produce eggs. They are attracted by warmth and carbon dioxide, so bed bugs most often live near beds and feed on sleeping humans. Bites typically occur on places of the body that are exposed during sleep. Common body parts susceptible to bites include arms, legs, hands, shoulders, and the neck and face. Bed bugs may take several bites to meet their needs, so bites are often clustered together in lines or zigzag patterns.
Small bed bug bites on a human hand
Size and Shape of Bed Bug Bites
The size of bed bug bites is highly variable. Many individuals are not affected by bed bug bites at all, so they may have no marks and may not even notice that they have been bitten. On other people, bites appear as small, red bumps known as papules or wheals. These bumps can be flat or raised and may become inflamed, itchy, and blistered. If a person is sensitive or allergic to the saliva that the bed bugs injects, the bites may be much larger and more painful. Bed bug bites are typically rounded with a defined center that is darker than the surrounding swollen area. Bites may not show up immediately and may take a few days to appear.
Larger, inflamed bed bug bites on a human arm By James Heilman, MD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Treatment for Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs do not transmit any diseases, so most bites are merely annoying. Scratching a bite may result in a skin infection, so things should be done to calm the itch. First, clean the affected area with soap and water. You can then apply hydrocortisone or other anti-itch creams to the bites. Antihistamines can also be taken. In highly allergic individuals, serious symptoms like difficulty breathing, fever, nausea, and an irregular heartbeat may occur. This type of reaction is very rare, but requires immediate treatment by trained medical personnel.
If you are in need of help with bed bugs, check out the complete line of home pest control products from PF Harris. We are America’s oldest pest control brand, and have the experience you can count on.