How to Identify Bed Bug Bites
Do you wake up itching with red welts on your skin? Chances are you have a bed bug problem. But before you call the doctor to treat the welts, let's run through a few key facts about bed bug bites.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, flat parasitic insects that are active year-round. Roughly the size of apple seeds with oval-shaped bodies, these pests feed on the blood of a human or animal host. Bed bugs nest in dark places near humans; this is why mattresses, box springs, and pillows are typically associated with bed bug infestation.
What do bed bug bites look like?
When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic that numbs the area and makes it so you don't even know you've been bitten. In fact the marks don't appear until a few days after the first bite.
The mark looks similar to a mosquito or a flea bite; because of this most people don't think they have a bed bug infestation. The area might appear swollen or red and is itchy. The bites often appear in a straight line. Unlike flea bites, bed bug bites appear on any part of the skin exposed during sleep. The bites do not have a red spot in the center or only appear on the ankles, as flea bites do. Everybody reacts to bed bug bites differently. You might have no reaction at all or you could be allergic to the bed bugs. In some cases you could end up with large bite marks, swelling and, in extreme cases, you could go into anaphylactic shock.
What are the health risks associated with bed bug bites?
Bed bugs aren't known to spread disease. Yet, their very presence is annoying and can cause itching or loss of sleep. Bed bugs feed while you are sleeping – day or night! They can feed from three to 10 minutes before detaching and crawling away. In some cases, the scratching involved with bed bugs can lead to a skin infection.
How do you treat a bed bug bite?
If you've been bitten by a bed bug, avoid scratching and apply an antiseptic lotion or cream to the area. You can also take an antihistamine to reduce the itching. In extreme cases, consult a doctor for treatment.
How can I be sure it is bed bugs?
Bed bug bites are hard to identify, even for doctors. That is why the best solution is to find evidence of bed bugs. Bed bugs can travel over 100 feet in a single night but tend to live within eight feet of where people sleep. This means bed bugs can live on furniture, in the carpet or any crack or crevice in the home. The female bed bug can lay up to five eggs a day and 500 eggs in her lifetime. In normal room temperatures and with the right environment, bed bugs can live up to 300 days.
Bed bug signs to look for include:
- Exoskeletons of bed bugs left behind during molting
- Actual bed bugs hiding in the folds of a mattress, linens or in a couch
- Rust-colored spots of excrement on mattresses or linens
- A sweet musty smell
Ok, so I think I have identified bed bug bites. What now?
Identifying the signs of a bed bug infestation is only the first step to a home free from this irritating pest. What else do you need to do? Our free guide, “Bed Bug 411: The North Carolina Homeowner’s Guide to Complete Eradication” will help you get started, with recommendations taken from the latest bed bug research and years of pest control experience.