Signs and symptoms of bedbug bites

Bedbug bites cause itchy, red hives on the body and rarely cause serious problems such as allergies or anemia. A bedbug bite looks similar to other insect bites – there is little that differentiates the actual bite mark. Bedbug bites can be mistaken for rashes or bites from other beetles.

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Common symptoms

Bedbug bites typically cause itchy wheals on the skin, usually pink or red in appearance. Bed bugs are a species of insect known as Cimex lectularius (Cimex is Latin for beetle and lectulo is Latin for bed). There is a second common type of bug known as the Cimex hemiptera. These are known as tropical bed bugs and for the most part stay within 30 degrees of the equator.


Bed bugs have needle-like mouthparts that pierce the skin and allow bed bugs to feed on blood. To make it easier to eat, they secrete saliva, which has anticoagulant (blood-thinning) properties. In some people, this saliva can cause reactions, including itching.

Scratching can make itching worse.

There are published reports, many of them without evidence, that each of the common types of bedbugs has chemically different saliva. However, some researchers have found no difference in the responses caused by each species.

Small, red lesions

Bedbug bites are small, red wheals (swollen patches on the skin) that usually don’t get more than 5 millimeters (mm) wide. The lesions start out as red areas that can be raised and then develop into blisters.

Bedbug bites are often grouped along lines, usually by arms and legs.

Bedbug bites often appear in a straight line or row. Theories for this pattern include the idea that bed bugs feed along blood vessels or that they only feed along lines where the skin touches the bedding.

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Rare symptoms

There may be a tiny amount of bleeding from the middle of a bedbug bite after the beetle finishes eating. The bleeding is self-limiting and shows up as blood stains on the leaves.

Large bedbug bites can cover large parts of the body and look like chickenpox. If the bite clusters are close enough together, the bites can flow together and appear as a large rash. People with chronic, large clusters of bedbug bites can develop anemia, which can lead to fatigue.

Some people develop blisters especially on the arms and legs.

Bedbug bites can rarely cause a severe allergic reaction.

Signs of infestation

Bedbug bites can easily be mistaken for a rash. For this reason, finding signs of an infestation is an important part of confirming the diagnosis.

Bed bugs tend to infect the creases and folds of upholstery on furniture and mattresses.

Bed bugs can appear pretty much anywhere and are likely to be on other soft furniture in rooms where an infestation can be found on a bed or chair.

Bed bug infestation is characterized by fecal matter that looks like small spots and increases in frequency the closer you get to the actual dwelling. The beetles produce pheromones when they are stressed or in danger. It smells sickly sweet and gets stronger when people try to kill the bedbugs.

frequently asked Questions

  • How can I tell if I have bed bug bites or another insect bite?

    Bedbug bites look like small, raised red bumps that can form blisters. They are usually difficult to distinguish from other insect bites, such as mosquitoes, fleas or spiders. Bedbug bites often appear in a straight line or in small groups on the limbs, thanks to the bedbugs’ feeding patterns.

  • Do bed bug bites itch?

    Yes, bed bug bites usually itch due to the beetles’ saliva, which can cause a histamine reaction. Histamine responses can vary, with some adults and children showing a stronger response and others showing very limited or no response. Infection can develop if you scratch the bites. Otherwise, they usually go away on their own.

  • What are the common symptoms of bed bug bites?

    Aside from small, red, itchy bites, bedbug bites can cause the following symptoms:

    • A small amount of bleeding from the center of the bite
    • A larger rash formed by clusters of bites that have converged
    • Skin infection when bites are scratched open

    In more severe cases, bedbug bites can lead to the following consequences:

    • Anemia from repeated bites
    • Asthma attacks
    • Anxiety, Insomnia, and Other Sleep Disorders

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