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How Do You Know if Bites Are From Bed Bugs?

Reviewed on 2/10/2021

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are tiny insects found inside of homes, offices and hotels that can bite people. Bed bug bites look similar to bites of mosquitoes and fleas. They look different than the bites of other insects because they are red and itchy, form a zigzag pattern, have a red dot in the center, may form a blister and they often appear in the morning.
Bed bugs are tiny insects found inside of homes, offices and hotels that can bite people. Bed bug bites look similar to bites of mosquitoes and fleas. They look different than the bites of other insects because they are red and itchy, form a zigzag pattern, have a red dot in the center, may form a blister and they often appear in the morning.

Bed bugs have become a big problem in recent years. These tiny insects infest homes, offices, and hotels and cause significant difficulties. They reproduce very quickly and they are challenging to get rid of once they are in your home.

Bed bugs cause uncomfortable bites on your skin. The bites aren't usually dangerous. The only way to prevent bites is by getting rid of the bed bugs in your home.

What are bed bugs?

Cimex lectularius, commonly called bed bugs are tiny parasitic insects that can live inside furniture. They feed on blood from people. They don't carry any diseases, but they do cause irritating bites on your skin.

Bed bugs are tiny, no larger than an apple seed. They are brownish with a balloon-like shape. They can't jump or fly, but they can crawl very quickly. Female bed bugs can lay between 200 and 500 eggs in their lifetime. Infestations grow very quickly.  

Here are the signs to look for if you suspect you have bedbugs in your house:

  • Reddish stains on your bed caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Tiny dark spots left by bed bug excrement
  • Eggs, eggshells, and the outer skins that bed bugs shed as they grow
  • Live bed bugs
  • A musty odor in the rooms where bed bugs live

Bed bug bites on your skin are also a sign that you have bed bugs. 

Signs of bed bug bites

Bed bugs bite people and cause itchy welts on their skin.

You won't notice it when bed bugs are biting you. They inject a natural anesthetic into your skin during the bite. It takes a day or more for the bites to turn into noticeable bumps on your skin.

Bed bug bites look and feel like the bites from mosquitoes, fleas, or other insects. You may not suspect bed bugs at first.

Some characteristics make bed bug bites differ from other bug bites:

  • Itchy, red bumps
  • Bites in clusters of 3 to 5 that form a zigzag pattern
  • Bites may have a dark or red dot in the center
  • Bites may blister
  • Bites are most likely to appear in the morning

The itching caused by the bites and your concern about getting more can make it difficult to sleep.

Causes of bed bug bites 

The bad news is that bed bug bites mean you have been exposed to bed bugs. 

If you find the bites after sleeping in your own bed, it indicates that you have bed bugs in your home. You can also be exposed to bed bugs in hotels, or if you stay with friends or family

To avoid bringing bed bugs home from travel, try these tactics:

  • Examine the space where you are sleeping for signs of bed bugs.
  • Put your luggage on a rack off of the floor so the bugs can't infest your belongings.
  • When you get home, put all the clothes from your trip in the dryer for 20 minutes. The heat will kill any bugs that got in with them. 

When to see the doctor for bed bug bites 

Most bed bug bites are not serious. Unlike other parasites, bed bugs don't carry diseases.  In some cases, the bites can cause other problems that require a doctor

You should call a doctor about bed bug bites if you experience: 

  • A lot of bites
  • Bites that have blistered
  • An allergic reaction like extreme swelling or hives
  • Your bites have become infected

Diagnosing bed bug bites 

Your doctor will look at the bites on your skin. They will ask if you have stayed in any place with a known bed bug problem. 

Your doctor may also ask if you have noticed other signs of bedbugs in your home or at a place you stayed recently.

Treatments for bed bug bites 

You can manage the discomfort with over-the-counter (OTC) creams like hydrocortisone to stop the itching

If home treatment doesn't work, your doctor can give your prescription strength antihistamines to stop the itching from bed bug bites. If the bites have gotten infected, they can prescribe antibiotics for you. 

The only way to prevent more bed bug bites is to get rid of the bed bugs in your home. You may need to speak with a professional exterminator about the best way of stopping an infestation of bed bugs.


 

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References
SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Bed Bugs: Diagnosis and Treatment."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Parasites."

Environmental Protection Agency: "Bed Bugs: Get Them Out and Keep Them Out."

Seattle Children's: "Bed Bug Bite."

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