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Everything to know about bed bug bites

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 patterns


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.

Bite locations


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.

When do bites happen?

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 person wakes up while they're being bitten, bed bugs are likely to scuttle away and hide, only to return after to pick up where they left off.

Where do bed bugs bite?

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 bugs bites?

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 someone who is asleep, as bed bugs inject an anaesthetic so the bite is not felt.

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. This can be incredibly distressing from a psychological standpoint as they invade such an intimate and personal space.

How to treat bed bug bites

Because bed bug bites can be rather itchy, there is often some pain and discomfort associated with the healing process. Thankfully, there are several ways you can ease the pain, often right at home. Ibuprofen is a recommended medicine, and should be taken following the manufacturer’s instructions. This will typically always help with minor discomfort and pain. If you are dealing with swelling, consider taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl. Anti-itch cream is also helpful. As always, please consult your doctor before taking medications.

DIY remedies for bed bug bites

Anti-itch cream isn’t always in your bathroom, but chances are you have one of the following items at hand!

  • For quick relief, use 100% pure aloe vera gel on your bites. This can prevent secondary skin infections.
  • Soak a cotton ball with lemon juice or witch hazel, and apply to the bites. These are both natural astringents.
  • Mix baking soda with water until a thick paste is formed. Apply the mixture generously to your bites and let dry for an hour or more. Wash it off with warm water.
  • Apply toothpaste to the site of the bites. The menthol within toothpaste is an anti-itch agent.

Worried about your bed bug bites?

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

If you're seeing bed bug bites, it means you could need bed bug control to help you get rid of bed bugs and give you peace of mind. Start with an inspection today!

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