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What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

Picture of bed bug crawling on hand

Bed bug crawling on hand

Bed bugs feed on blood as their only source of nutrition. In order to mature into adults, they must feed once during each of their immature stages. Adult females also need blood in order to produce eggs. Although bedbugs do bite humans, they are not known to transmit diseases to people.

What do bed bug bites look like?

Blood spots found on one's sheets, bites and the presence of bed bug feces and cast skins are some of the indications of a bed bug infestation. Bites are commonly found on the parts of the body that are more likely to be exposed to bed bugs during sleep - the hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs and arms. While not always the case, bed bug bites are often grouped together in a small area and at times may occur in a line or a zigzag pattern. Bites normally look like small, flat or raised areas that may become inflamed, itchy, red or blistered. Bed bug bite reactions don’t always appear immediately after you’re bitten and may take a few days to begin causing symptoms. However, not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same manner.

The size of bed bug bites varies with a number of different factors. Bed bugs inject an anti-coagulant along with their saliva when they pierce the skin to take a blood meal. This anti-coagulant is mostly responsible for how a person reacts to the bite and determines the size of the bug’s bite. Since people will have various sensitivities to the bed bug’s bite, the size of the bite will vary, as well. Another factor that influences the size of a bed bug reaction is the number of times a person is bitten. Bite reactions of people bitten many times are also variable, and their response may be either more or less intense as the number of bites increases.

Picture of bed bug bites on skin

Bed bug bites on skin

Bed bugs pierce human skin with elongated beaks through which they extract blood. Bed bug bites are not initially painful and can go unnoticed for hours or days. This allows bed bugs to withdraw human blood for up to 10 minutes with each feeding. Bed bug bites occur most commonly on exposed skin, such as the upper body, neck, arms and shoulders.

Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites

Some individuals who are bitten by bed bugs develop itching, red welts or swelling the day after being bitten. However, bites may not become obvious for several days or at all on some individuals. Many people do not react at all to the bite of a bed bug—many bites leave no mark and go completely unnoticed.

Unlike those of other insects, bed bug bites may sometimes appear in tight lines of multiple, small, red marks where multiple bed bugs have fed along an exposed area. Bed bug bites can cause itchiness. Initially, a victim may detect a slight burning sensation. The burning area then develops red bumps, known as papules or wheals (rash). In extreme cases, bites may swell dramatically or turn into blister-like skin inflammations.

If you develop a rash after being bitten by a bed bug, avoid scratching the affected area. If the rash persists or becomes infected, contact a medical professional immediately.

How do bed bugs bite?

Bed bugs are blood feeders that depend on blood for their food source, so they must consume blood for survival.

One bed bug will usually take more than one bite. Once a bed bug inserts its mouthparts and finds a suitable blood vessel, it will begin feeding. However, finding the right blood vessel may take more than one injection into the skin. In addition, bed bugs are very sensitive to movement by the host they are feeding on. Therefore, if a sleeping person moves, a feeding bed bug will probably withdraw its mouthparts and begin its search for a blood meal on another part of the body. It’s important to remember that the number of bites a person receives is not indicative of the number of bed bugs that feed on that person.

Are bed bug bites dangerous?

Scratching bed bug bites and failure to keep the bites clean and disinfected may lead to a secondary infection that can cause further swelling and bleeding. Children, the elderly, and individuals with weak immune systems, particularly those who are bedridden, may develop secondary infections that result from bed bug bites.

Do bed bugs bite dogs or cats?

Bites on dogs and cats will look much like bites on people, and the pet owner may actually suspect a mosquito or flea bit the pet. As with people, bed bugs do not stay on pets, but return to a protected harborage site after feeding. In addition to bites, the presence of the bug’s feces, cast skins and the animal’s irritation at night are also indicators of bed bugs biting pets. Therefore, one of the best things to do is inspect the pet’s bedding and frequently groom the animal while being vigilant for the telltale signs of bed bug presence.

Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites

While bed bug bites and flea bites may look similar, there are a few ways to tell the difference between them. Although treatment is necessary for flea and bed bug infestations, the process and strategy differ. If you’re noticing flea or bed bug bite symptoms on you, your pets, or children, here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to identify which pest you’re dealing with:

How to Identify a Flea Bite

  • These bites closely resemble those of a mosquito as they’re often randomly placed, have a dot shape, and feature a dark red center from a flea’s puncture bite

  • Become less swollen as time goes on

  • Immediately itch

  • Can turn into an open sore

How to Identify a Bed Bug Bite

  • Bites from a bed bug are red, raised, and flat due to an allergic reaction from bed bug saliva

  • Bed bug bites on humans display in a straight row, typically consisting of a few bites (but not always)

  • Can take a few days to show up as bed bugs feed every 7–10 days

  • Gradually itches as time goes on

Bed Bug Bites vs. Spider Bites

Typical of tiny biting pests, we often don’t see them until they’ve already bitten and symptoms appear. To know which course of treatment is required to effectively get rid of a potential bed bug or flea infestation, you need to properly identify which bug you’ve encountered. A solid way to decipher which type of bite you’re experiencing is learning how to tell the difference between bed bug bites and spider bites. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

How to Identify a Spider Bite

  • Feature two small holes due to spider fangs

  • Typically only one or two bites

  • Pretty rare as most spiders only bite when threatened

  • Bites from more dangerous spiders also include symptoms such as nausea, muscle cramping, and difficulty breathing

When trying to figure out whether you’ve been bit by a spider or a bed bug, take a look around to see if you can find any telltale signs of a possible infestation. For help getting rid of bed bugs and spiders, contact your local Orkin branch.

How to identify Bed Bugs?

Learn what Bed Bugs look like, and how to detect if you have a Bed Bug Infestation.

How do you get Bed Bugs?

Find out how Bed Bugs infiltrate your home and where they are attracted to.

How serious are Bed Bugs?

Learn about Bed Bug bites. their feces and how they can impact your health.

What Orkin Does

Learn how Orkin handles Bed Bugs, homeopathic cures and the cost of Bed Bug extermination services.

Schedule an inspection with an Orkin Pro to put your bed bug problem to rest so you can sleep at night.

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