Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

Find quick facts about bed bug bite symptoms, details about the variety of symptoms people experience, and videos about the signs of bedbug bites all right here.

On this page our goal is to give you quick and easy access to the information you need about bed bug bites and the symptoms they produce. Not everyone is looking for the same thing and people have different learning styles. So, you can work your way down the page or...

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At the end of each section, you'll find a link back up to this menu so you can check out just the sections that interest you in whatever order you choose.

If you want to learn more bed bug bite basics like how and why they bite, how to prevent them from biting you so much and bedbug bite treatment tips - see the general information page of the bed bug bites section...

Bed Bug Bite Symptoms - 8 Quick Facts

  • Bedbug bite symptoms are similar to symptoms of other insect bites
  • Not everyone reacts the same way
  • Symptoms are an allergic reaction to the bed bugs' saliva
  • Bite reactions can be immediate - or delayed up to 14 days
  • Some people show no symptoms at all - even though they are being bitten
  • Their bites are not dangerous - bed bugs do not transmit disease
  • Bedbug bites are often the first sign of a bed bug infestation
  • Bite symptoms are not proof that you have bed bugs

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Bite Reaction Photos - Immediate and Delayed

The photos below show immediate symptoms of bed bug bites (left) and the reaction a day later (right).  Note: Dr. Sorkin regularly feeds his laboratory bed bugs, so his skin is likely more sensitive than the average person as a result of frequent and prolonged exposure to bed bug bites...not to mention that this was the result of A LOT of bedbugs feeding in one small area from a laboratory vial. See more pictures of bed bug bites on the bite page of our  bed bug photo gallery.

Immediate Bed Bug Bite SymptomsCredit: Lou Sorkin, American Museum of Natural History
Bed Bug Bite Symptoms - after 1 weekCredit: Lou Sorkin, American Museum of Natural History

Types of Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

Bed bug bite symptoms vary from person to person and some people have don't react at all.  This was true in our case.  While my husband was crawling out of his skin,  I didn't really have any symptoms at least in the beginning. This is part of why I didn't believe him at first (read more about that here).

They are pretty much like any other allergic reaction and can be confused with other things like other insect bites, poison ivy, and even allergic reactions to chemicals in things like detergents or perfume.

Symptoms include itching, redness, and swelling of the bite area. Itchy skin reactions are the most common symptom. And that can vary from a mild skin mind-crushing itchiness that makes you just want to crawl out of your skin!

Bed bug bite marks can show up in a wide variety of ways (pretty much any combination of itchiness redness and/or swelling) including the following:

  • red marks
  • itchy bumps
  • little red bumps like pimples
  • "bed bug rash" - a red itchy rash almost like poison ivy
  • red welts, swollen raised welts or other symptoms like hives

The bites may show up in a grouping of three (sometimes referred to the "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" pattern), sometimes in a line or cluster of bites.  But they can also be scattered in no recognizable pattern.

Sensitivity to bed bug bites can increase the longer a person is exposed to them.  This is what happened to me.  I had no symptoms in the beginning, but near the end I was suffering from itchy red bites just like my husband.

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  Bites are not proof that you have bedbugs. They could be the symptoms of something else or you could have been bitten by bed bugs, but not brought them home. The only way to know for sure is to find evidence of them. Learn about the 9 symptoms of bed bugs and then check out more pictures of the signs of bed bug infestation in the picture gallery.

Symptom Statistics

The Entomology department at the University of Kentucky conducted a study of the variety and prevalence of bed bug bite symptoms among people who were living with known bed bug infestations and this is what they found:

30% displayed no symptoms of bed bug bites at all!

What's even more interesting is that still fewer people over the age of 65 reported reactions.

  • 42% of people over 65 had no bed bug bite symptoms
  • 26% of people ages 11-65 had no reactions to bedbug bites

Location of Bites

Of the people who did have symptoms, the breakdown of the location(s) of the bites on their bodies is as follows:

  • 84% had bites on their arms
  • 75% had bites on their legs
  • 50% had bites on their chest or back
  • 40% had bites on their neck
  • 40% had bites on their hands
  • 38% had bites on their feet
  • 21% had bites on their face

Types of Symptoms Reported

Itchiness was the #1 symptom...sometimes even in the absence of bed bug bite marks.  Here's the breakdown of that they reported:

  • 72% had itchy red welts
  • 50% had redness and skin discoloration
  • 28% had itching, but no welts

Other Symptoms Reported

Physical reactions were not the only symptoms reported.  31% of people in the study suffered emotional symptoms as well. Here's the breakdown:

  • 29% reported insomnia/sleeplessness
  • 22% reported emotional distress
  • 20% reported anxiety
  • 14% reported "stress"

Additional symptoms mentioned included:

  • nervousness
  • paranoia
  • anger
  • frustration
  • embarrassment
  • devastation
  • depression

These so-called secondary symptoms are often overlooked.  In reality they can be the most devastating part of dealing with bedbugs.  Personally, I can identify.  While I didn't suffer the physical symptoms of bed bug bites until later on (after I had been bitten for a while and developed a sensitivity), the emotional burden was heavy. You can read our story here.

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Health Checks Video: Signs of Bed Bug Bites

In this Health Checks video from the National Pest Management Association, Dr. Parada provides a brief overview of bed bug bites, how to treat them, and when to see your doctor.  In my opinion its a good summary of much of the information shared on this page.

This video is shared via our Bed Bug Bites Video Playlist on the Bed Bug Answers Channel on YouTube. You can pause the video at the end or let the whole list of related videos (displayed on other pages of the bedbug bites section of this site) play through. If you want to skip to another video, just click the playlist icon in the upper left corner to see the entire list.

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Not sure if its bed bugs bites or symptoms of something else? Narrow it down by answering the questions on this page.

You can also see more pictures of bed bug bite symptoms here and learn about how to treat the symptoms of bedbug bites here... including some simple home remedies that might surprise you!

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