bed bug on skin

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Bed bug bites: Everything you need to know

With millions of species of bugs and insects, thousand of which bite or sting humans, proper identification of bed bug bites can be a challenge. The longer a bed bug problem goes undiagnosed, the more difficult and expensive effective bed bug treatment becomes.

Bed bug bites are usually itchy, raised and inflamed; this statement unfortunately also describes most insect bites and stings. To clear up the confusion, the experts at Western Exterminator have pulled together a few tips to distinguish bed bug bites from some common imposters.

What do bed bug bites look like?

Bite patterns

Bed bug bites are generally small, flat or raised bumps on the skin. Redness, swelling, and itching commonly occurs.

Bite locations

Several bites tend to appear in a line or row along an exposed area, such as an arm or leg. Bites found on different parts of the body can indicate bites by several different bed bugs.

When do bites happen?

A small proportion of people can react very badly to bed bug bites and develop a skin rash. The red spots which indicate the location of a bite, may become raised and very itchy over time.

Bed bug bite locations

Bed bug bites can occur anywhere on the body but often happen close to blood vessels near the skin. Think about the type of pajamas you wear and check for signs of bites on exposed areas such as your neck, hands, arms and legs. If bites are located on the same body parts your sleepwear doesn't cover, bed bugs are likely to be the culprit.

When do bed bug bites happen?

As the saying suggests ‘Good night, don’t let the bed bugs bite’, bed bug bites occur at night, when we are sleeping. Bed bug bites are unlikely to wake the host (victim) as bed bugs inject an anaesthetic so the bite is not felt.

How do bed bugs bite?

Bed bugs have a needle-like mouth part that tucks into a special slot built into their under-side. The needle emerges when the bed bug is ready to feed, piercing the skin through to the blood vessel beneath. The bed bug injects saliva that numbs the area, so the bite is not felt and releases an anticoagulant so that blood flows freely.

Bed bugs are attracted to the heat and carbon monoxide that humans give off when they breathe. Their senses allow them to find the blood vessels closest to the surface of the skin. Although their ability to feed is not quite as fast or economical as a mosquito, they manage to feed relatively quickly before returning to their hiding places. If the host (victim) wakes up mid-feed, bed bugs are likely to scuttle away and hide, only to return after to pick up where they left off.

Are bed bug bites harmful?

The short answer is, no. If you are talking about actual physical risks, bed bug bites have minimal risk for adverse health effects. Unlike mosquitoes, whose bites are known vectors of many diseases, bed bug bites are not considered to be dangerous.

Having said that, bed bug bites affect each person differently and bite responses can range from a small bite mark to serious allergic reactions. There is also the heavy emotional trauma of waking up to find you have bites all over body and the longer-term toll of having to deal with a bed bug infestation, which can be incredibly distressing from a psychological standpoint as they invade such an intimate and personal space.

Worried about your bed bug bites?

Everyone has a unique reaction to bed bug bites, so if you are concerned about your bites, contact your physician. If you are not having a serious reaction, wash the bites with a mild soap and apply an antihistamine cream to relieve itchiness.


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