Bedbug Bites: What You Need to Know, Live Science

Bedbug Bites: What You Need to Know

By Denise Chow 30 May 2013

Bedbugs have recently reared their insatiable little heads in the Empire State Building, movie theaters, airplanes, apartments, clothing stores, hotel rooms and even Google’s Manhattan office. Businesses are now spending thousands of dollars on exterminators and bedbug-sniffing dogs to root out the blood-sucking beasts.

And it’s no wonder their bites can be itchy and unsightly, and knowing you have bedbugs can lead a person to drastic measures. Arson charges were recently brought against a Phoenix man who doused his bed with cologne and set it on fire because he wanted to be rid of the pests.

«It can push people over the edge who are already there,» said entomologist Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, a bedbug expert at Cornell University in New York. «And most people who have them have trouble sleeping because they don’t want to be bitten.»

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about bedbug bites: What do the bites look like?

The bites are small, red and itchy, Gangloff-Kaufmann told MyHealthNewsDaily, but people vary in reaction to them.

People might see little red bumps as early as the next morning after being bitten, or they may appear or days or weeks later.

«Most people in this country have not been bitten by bedbugs, so everybody doesn’t have a history of a reaction like mosquitoes,» she said. «A lot of people don’t react at all.»

«That’s a big factor in why [they] spread,» Gangloff-Kaufmann said. «There are many people who have [them] and don’t know it because they didn’t have complications from [them].

Bedbugs usually bite exposed areas of skin, such as the arms, neck, face or feet. This makes bedbug bites different from flea bites, which can appear all over the body, even the parts that are covered by clothes, she said.

The bites also tend to appear in a line or a cluster, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Can I only be bitten while sleeping or lying very still?

You don’t have to lie down or be still to get bitten, but because bedbugs usually come out at night and are stealth in their nature, sleeping people are the most likely to be attacked, Gangloff-Kaufmann said. However, bedbugs have been known to bite people while they’re up and about or even at work. Can you tell a bedbug bite from other kinds of insect bites?

It’s hard to tell a bedbug bite from bites of other insects because there’s really no difference in how they appear, Gangloff-Kaufmann said. However, with a little sleuthing, you might be able to deduce which type of pest struck.

«If it’s wintertime, and you stayed in a hotel, and you got bites that look like mosquito bites, those are factors that might lead you to think they might be bedbugs,» because mosquitoes aren’t around during the winter, she said.

Mosquito and bedbug bites often look alike, she said, but most people have a reaction to mosquito bites. Can you prevent being bitten if you have bedbugs, or are sleeping somewhere you suspect they might be hiding?

There is no spray or lotion you can apply to ward off bedbug bites if you already have an infestation, Gangloff-Kaufmann said. But you can put up physical barriers if the insects haven’t yet infested your mattress or bed.

Make your bed an island by moving it away from the wall and keeping bedding from touching the ground. Then, put a dish with water under each bed leg to prevent the bugs from climbing up into your mattress, she said.

«Make it inaccessible,» Gangloff-Kaufmann said. «These steps create a barrier for the bedbugs to get to you.» If I’m bitten, will I get a disease?

Bedbugs are not associated with the transmission of any human disease. However, the bites can leave an open wound on the skin, which can become infected if you scratch, Gangloff-Kaufmann said.

Though there is no known link to bedbug bites, infection by opportunistic bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, has the potential to spread through any open wounds on the body, she said.

Skin creams containing hydrocortisone or taking an oral antihistamine can help relieve the itching sensation of the bites, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Bedbug bites: symptoms and how to get rid

Medical expert of the article

Since bedbug bites disturb people in the 21st century, and few know what to do when bedbugs bite, we tried to collect as much useful information as possible in this article.

The variety of bedbugs — the arthropod insects of the Hemiptera order — is striking, but let’s start with the ones that bother the human most.

[1], [2]


Statistics show that over the past two decades, the number of cases of infection of premises with bedbugs is increasing globally, and, in addition to developing countries, the invasion of arthropods is noted in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia. In Canada from 1995 to 2005 a third of the residents of dormitories and hotel guests and furnished rooms complained about bedbug bites. In the UK, this figure increased by 24%, while experts from the American National Pest Control Association reported an increase in the number of calls for bedbugs between 2000 and 2005 by 72%.

[3], [4], [5], [6], [7]

Causes of the bedbug bites

The usual domestic bloodsucker, that is, the hematophagous Cimex lectularius (bed bug), lives mainly in regions with a temperate climate. And no matter how you call them, the bite of a sofa bedbug, the bite of a domestic bedbug or the bite of a bedbug — in fact, the same bedbug bites you (which can live in your sofa or in the bedding drawer) ). Bedbugs are easy to hide anywhere, but the main thing for them is to find a place closer to sleeping people, since it is difficult for them to travel more than three meters. And to wait for daylight, insects choose such secluded places as the seams of a mattress or sofa upholstery, cracks in the walls, crevices in wooden furniture, etc.

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In addition to Cimex lectularius, which satisfy hunger with human blood, the Cimicinae subfamily includes another type of bed bugs — Cimex hemipterus, living in tropical or warm regions, including Africa, Asia, and the southern US states. So the inhabitants of Florida or Louisiana are biting precisely these heat-loving blood-sucking ectoparasites.

By the way, bedbug larvae bites are possible, since these insect entomologists refer to the Hemimetabolous order, that is, the metamorphosis that does not go through a full cycle: after they leave the eggs, nymph larvae resemble an adult insect. They feed on their own and gradually (from one molt to another) reach the adult stage.


Risk factors

So the risk factors to be bitten by bed bugs include night sleep in places with frequent changes of tenants (hotels, hostels, trains, tourist centers, etc.).

[9], [10], [11]


[12], [13], [14], [15]

Symptoms of the bedbug bites

What does a bug bite look like? In most cases, the marks of bedbugs have the appearance of isolated red papules or nodules on the skin — with a red swollen area and a dark red center. These traces, in essence, are the first signs of superficial entomosis, which, in the case of bug bites, is called chemipterosis by specialists.

Swelling from a bug bite occurs because, biting a man, an insect injects tissue puncture and sucking blood injects secretions of the salivary glands, reducing the sensitivity of the skin (therefore, the bite itself is not felt) and slows down blood coagulation. The pathogenesis of reddening of the skin is associated with the fact that local protection (cellular immunity) responds to damage to the integrity of the epidermis and the introduction of foreign substances into its surface layer; for the same reason, small pustules or blisters from bedbug bites up to 4-5 cm in diameter appear. When there are several pustules, one can often observe their location by a group or a zigzag line — a whole path of bug bites is formed, and these are distinctive symptoms of chemipterosis.

The insect prefers to feed on the open areas of the body of a sleeping person, so in most cases the bugs bite on the face, legs, arms, neck and just above the shoulder blades are found.

In this case, the itch of the bug bite may not begin immediately: it all depends on the individual level of sensitivity. In some people, the reaction to the bite develops within a few days, and some (about 20%) do not feel itching at all.

Similarly, the bites of bedbugs during pregnancy, as well as the bedbug bite in a child of any age, manifest themselves.

How many bedbug bites pass? Usually, itchy red spots from bites disappear on their own within one to two weeks.

Complications and consequences

The bites of bed bugs themselves, as a rule, do not represent a health hazard, since the involvement of these insects in the spread of human pathogens (HIV, S. Aureus, hepatitis, etc.) has not been identified by researchers to date. However, some suggest that bugs, like many arthropods, can transfer arboviruses from warm-blooded animals to humans in a transmissive way.

People whose homes are bedbugs often have trouble sleeping (due to severe itching bites). But the main consequences and complications are an allergy to bedbug bites, especially with increased reactivity of the immune system. That’s when a rash from bedbug bites or urticaria can appear on the background of bedbug bites.

Thus, the development of an entomotic allergic reaction in the form of angioedema to a bedbug bite in a child suffering from diathesis is possible, and in adults with asthma with symptoms of anaphylactic shock requiring emergency medical care.

In addition, infections can easily get into the scratching of itchy bites, causing skin inflammation.

And there is also the possibility of anemia: as reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in 2009, doctors diagnosed anemia in a 60-year-old patient caused by blood loss from bedbug bites.

[16], [17]

Diagnostics of the bedbug bites

Diagnostics begins with the collection of indisputable evidence of involvement in bedbug bites, in particular, a thorough examination of the bed.

Traces of insects can be found in the folds of the mattress and other places where they can hide. For example, you can find pale yellow shell of the bug larvae (empty exoskeletons), which they periodically discard in the process of molting. Bedbugs also leave small brown «grains of sand» of excrement, often collected as spots: it is enough to wipe them with a damp cloth and they will become red-rusty in color (due to the presence of blood particles). You can also notice small blood smears on the sheets, if the drunk bug was accidentally crushed.

By the way, antibodies in the bite of a bug in the blood can be detected only in the event of an allergic reaction, when urticaria appears on the background of bedbug bites.

[18], [19]

Differential diagnosis

Differential diagnosis is necessary, as bedbug bites can be mistaken for bites of fleas, mosquitoes or other blood-sucking insects.

How to distinguish a flea bite from bedbug bites? Flea bites are localized, usually on the lower legs — in the ankles.

How to distinguish a mosquito bite from a bug bite? The trail of a mosquito bite appears in the form of a rapidly increasing round swelling, in some cases a small dot can be seen in its center. In addition, at the moment of the bite the person can feel a burning sensation. The «lump» at the site of the mosquito attack quickly turns red, it feels hard and itches very much.

How to distinguish scabies from bedbug bites? Scabies more often occur in the wrists and fingers, in the elbows and under the knees, on the buttocks and thighs, on the face and on the scalp. And the main differences between lichen bites and bedbugs are that with any kind of lichen, desquamation (peeling) of the skin is always observed.

In addition, bedbug bites should be differentiated from dermatological diseases such as erythema nodosum; bullous or herpetiform dermatitis; acute febrile dermatosis associated with leukemia (Sweet syndrome).

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[20], [21], [22], [23]

Forest and green bug bites

The superfamily of the Pentatomoidea up — shields or shield bugs — belong to the sub-order Heteropterans, numbering almost seven thousand species. All of them, and even their nymph larvae on the abdomen, have glands that secrete a fetid liquid — the main defense against potential enemies. Why and got the name of the bug stinker.

Most species of land bugs, for example, the harmful turtle (Eurygaster integriceps) or the brown-gray marble bug (Halyomorpha Halys) are known pests. For example, a marble stink bug pierces the seeds and fruits of legumes, fruits, berries and vegetables and sucks their juice with their proboscis. That is, these insects are phytophagous. So a stink bug bite is theoretically impossible.

Like the bite of a forest bug, Pentatoma rufipes (Red Shvennik), Elasmucha grisea (Gray Shivnik) or Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale (Deciduous Kalevik), since all of them are phytophagous, and their diet is only vegetable food.

Some woody bugs belong to predators, more precisely, to predators: with their style moving forward from the jaws, they pierce the caterpillars, and with their proboscis they suck the liquid out of them. In the saliva of these bugs there are digestive enzymes that they release into the victim’s body, which makes it easier to extract pre-digested prey contents. It is clear that a person is not among the potential victims of a hungry forest bug.

Is it possible to bite a green bug? Palomena prasina, a woody green shield shale most prevalent in our latitudes, lives in deciduous plantings, green bugs of the species Nezara viridula and Acrosternum hilare — in gardens, in the fields, in the grass. Both are phytophagous. But the green bug of Troilus luridus is a predator, but it hunts only caterpillars and larvae of beetles.

At the end of autumn insects are looking for a warm place for wintering and can crawl or fly into houses and apartments. But whether they can bite people is unknown.

But Anthocoris nemorum flower bugs (having a tiny oval body, reflective wings and orange-brown limbs) peacefully sit on flowering plants in parks and gardens, but. Waiting for their potential food — aphids and ticks. British entomologists claim that this insect can, if necessary, behave aggressively and bite a person: the bite will itch for a long time and heal slowly, but it is absolutely not dangerous for health.

[24], [25]

Water bug bite

Water bugs belong to the suborder Heteroptera, the Nepoidea superseed, the water strider family (Infraorder Nepomorpha), the Dipsocoromorpha subfamily. The most common are rod-shaped water striders (Hydrometridae) and ten species of common water strider bugs (Gerridae Hemiptera).

They have adapted to life on the surface of fresh water and are moving along it due to the presence on their paws and the body of many water-repellent villi; food for water striders are smaller insects that accidentally fell into the water. Man, they do not bite.

But there is the genus Lethocerus of the family Belostomatidae — the largest water bugs (can be up to 12 cm long), which lives in rivers and lakes of North and South America, in East Asia and in northern Australia. Here they are — the real predators that feed on water worms, snails, crustaceans, fish and frogs. And the bite of the water bug-lettserus is considered one of the most painful among insect bites. But from a medical point of view, it is harmless. And the insect bites a person extremely rarely: it usually throws fetid liquid out of its abdominal gland and immediately pretends to be dead.

Kiss the bug

The bite of the kissing bug is a real threat to life and health — the Triatoma infestans triatomic hematofag (its other names are the American predator bug, the Chagas bug, the cone-bearing bug), mainly inhabiting the countries of South and Central America.

This bug carries one-cell parasites of trypanosomes (Trypanosoma cruzi), which cause dangerous Chagas disease, resulting in impaired functioning of the human heart, digestive system and nervous system. According to some reports, today 16-18 million people worldwide are infected with trypanosomes.

Researchers note that in the past decade and a half, another subspecies of triatomid bugs has intensified in Vietnam — Triatoma rubrofasciata or a large kissing bug that lives near human dwellings (in firewood, in dumps, in chicken coops). In large cities (Hanoi, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City), these bugs tempt tenants of multi-storey houses at night.

[26], [27], [28]

What Is and Isn’t a Bed Bug Bite?

What Is and Isn’t a Bed Bug Bite?

Everyone at some point in their life has gone crazy trying to figure out if the bug bite on their body is from a bed bug or not. It can be a scary thought to come across when you are deciding whether you have to deal with a bed bug infestation or if it was just another insect bite. I promise you, you are not alone. We are here to help set your mind at ease! Here are some characteristics to help identify the difference:

Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs usually attack at night when you are sleeping in your bed. Therefore, the parts of the body that are usually bitten are the skin that is exposed while you sleep. Most cases of bed bug bites are all clustered together in a small area that may form a line pattern on your skin. Many times the bite can cause a burning and itching sensation. There can also be signs of small blood stains on your bed sheets that alerts you with the presence of bed bugs. Not everyone has an immediate reaction to a bed bug bite, so it is good to always keep an eye out for blood on your bed if you feel discomfort on your skin. В В

Some bug bites that are commonly mistaken as bed bug bites are:


Similar to bed bugs, mosquitoes feast on blood, and go after the parts of your skin not covered by clothing. This is why a lot of times people get confused between mosquito bites and bed bug bites. Mosquito bites can also cause a burning and itching sensation on your skin where you were bitten. These bites usually show up as red bumps similar to bed bugs. Except, they do not show up in a small line or zig zag pattern like bed bugs. They are usually single red bumps that are scattered in a random pattern .


Flea bites often appear as small clusters of red dots , bed bugs also appear as red dots but with a darker red spot in the center of the bite.Flea bites appear on the skin in a random pattern , while bed bug bites stay in a linear pattern. Fleas usually bite people on their legs and ankles because that is where it is easiest for them to bite people. Bed bug bites appear all over the body because they bite whatever skin is exposed in your sleep.However, both flea and bed bug bites will irritate your skin with swelling and itchiness. Another key factor in identifying flea bites is if you have pets, check their fur to see if they have fleas. If they have fleas that is the most likely answer to your problem.

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Unlike bed bugs that usually only bite at night, spider bites can happen at any time of day . Spider bites usually takes around a week to disappear, while bed bug bites take around 1-2 weeks to disappear. Typically, with spider bites you can see an insertion of two fangs where your skin is swollen and red. If you see the entry site of two fangs, it is important to keep an eye on the bite to make sure it is not poisonous. Spider bites usually appear as only one swollen spot on your skin, showing no sign of a pattern . Spider bites are usually presented with some type of mild pain that accompanies the itchiness and swelling.

We hope these differences can help set a lot of people’s mind at ease. If you cannot make up your mind about your insect bite then you may benefit from a professional opinion. Always remember, if believe you that you might have a bed bug infestation in your home it is important to get it taken care of right away. Bed Bug BBQ in Lakewood, Ohio even offers free local bed bug home inspections! Bed Bug BBQ is always ready to tackle any bed bug challenges that come their way with their environmentally friendly heat treatment. If you need an expert’s opinion feel free to contact them and give them a call at (216)-206-6717.

Here’s how to tell if you’ve been bitten by bedbugs — and what to do next

  • Bedbug bites can be tricky to identify because by themselves, they can resemble mosquito and flea bites.
  • However, only bedbug bites come in tight groupings or lines — mosquito and flea bites are more randomly scattered.
  • It’s possible to not notice bedbug bites for a couple of days after you’ve been bitten — in fact, you might notice other evidence of infestation such as eggs or fecal matter before you notice bites.
  • Severe allergic reactions are very uncommon, and bedbugs don’t carry disease — but if you have any questions, you should talk to your doctor.

Picture this: You’re drifting peacefully in dreamland, and all your worries are miles away.

Until the day you find some mysterious bites on your skin. You don’t remember getting them — which you usually do when it’s a pesky mosquito bite, because they’re so immediately annoying.

Then you notice that they’re raised, red, itchy, feel a bit like they’re burning — and are in a group or line. If you want to know if these are bedbug bites, read on.

Here’s why you might not know if you’ve been bitten right away.

When a bedbug bites you, it injects an anesthetic that makes most people not feel the insect as it’s feeding. That means the bug can take its time drinking your sweet, sweet blood — sometimes for 10 minutes or more at a time. Keep in mind that they’re biting you while you’re at your most vulnerable — in deep slumber, resting peacefully in your bed at night.

Since bedbug allergies are uncommon — and since they happen when you’re asleep — many people might not even notice them until a couple of days after they’ve happened. Depending on how you look at it, the fact that these bugs may not feed on you every single day may make things worse — or better.

There are similarities and differences between bedbug and other bug bites.

Bedbug bites are most frequently itchy , and you may also feel a burning sensation a couple of days after having been bitten. They can become raised red bumps that are easily mistaken for mosquito or even flea bites. If you notice small groupings of bites or even bites in a straight line, they’re most likely from bedbugs . Mosquitoes and fleas don’t leave bite patterns like this.

Although bedbugs thankfully don’t transmit disease via their bites, you do need to be careful about scratching yourself into a secondary infection — as can happen with any wounds that you don’t keep clean and sanitary while they’re healing.

There are clues that indicate you have a bedbug infestation.

You might notice other suspicious clues before you find bedbug bites on your body. Casings, little red fecal dots on your sheets, and eggs in and around where you sleep can indicate a bedbug infestation whether you’ve been bitten or not.

Severe allergic reactions are uncommon, but complex skin reactions can occur.

While it’s not common, hives — raised, itchy red welts — and even rashes can occur with bedbug bites. Some of these rashes can even look like blisters .

Robert Usinger — who is widely regarded as the father of bedbug research — performed an experiment on himself where he fed bedbugs using his own body once a week for seven years

At first, he noticed the same delayed reactions to the bites that are most commonly experienced by people noticing bites for the first time. But after awhile, he discovered that the more frequently he was bitten, the more immediate his reaction to the bites became — in the form of an angry red rash that would appear soon after the biting.

Additionally, some individuals may be allergic to anticoagulants and certain protein compounds that are found in the saliva of bedbugs, according to Pest Control Technology.

You’ll want an effective treatment for the bedbug bites.

First, don’t scratch yourself bloody — it’s tough when you’re uncomfortable, but you don’t want to get a secondary infection. Apply your favorite anti-itch cream, take an antihistamine that works for you — and if it’s unbearable or worries you for some other reason, call your doctor for proper medical advice for your situation.

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