Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on human blood. These pests are about 1 to 7 mm in length, flat, oval, and reddish-brown in color. Bed bugs don’t have wings and can’t fly so they depend on humans and other animals to transport them from place to place. Bed bug infestations are a concern to public health but they are not known to transmit any serious diseases.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have either dealt with bed bugs themselves or know someone who has. Bed bugs are most active at night, feeding on hosts for their blood meal. This nocturnal feeding frenzy can leave unwanted results on their unsuspecting human hosts. How do you know that bite on your leg is from a bed bug? Here are the signs and symptoms of bed bug bites, as well as treatment options for them and bed bug prevention tips.

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs can bite anywhere there is skin. Common areas they are known to bite are the neck, face, hands, shoulders, arms, and legs. Most people don’t actually feel the bites and only realize they have them the next morning when they wake up with red itchy spots on their skin.

Symptoms of bed bug bites include:

  • red dot at the site of the bite
  • surrounding inflammation and irritation
  • itchiness
  • burning, painful sensation
  • raised, itchy bump with a clear center
  • red, itchy bump with a dark center and lighter surrounding area
  • small red bumps or welts in a zigzag pattern, line, or small cluster
  • small red bumps surrounded by blisters or hives
  • papular eruptions or raised flat patches on the skin
  • small blood spots from bites that are dried onto the sheets
  • Reddish or reddish-brown dried stains from droppings
  • white or clear skins that are shed by nymphs

If you are hypersensitive to bed bugs, reactions can be more severe to include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • blisters
  • fever
  • nausea
  • flu-like symptoms
  • swollen tongue
  • irregular heartbeat

In addition to these symptoms of bed bug bites, there are additional health complications that can arise from a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can increase the likelihood of developing an infection as the surface of the skin is broken and compromised. Sleep deprivation is common as people avoid sleep or have restless sleep because of the bites or out of fear of bites. Sleep deprivation can also lead to other issues with wellbeing as a lack of sleep has been linked to depression, anxiety, fatigue, and a weakened immune system.

Treatment

There aren’t very many treatments for bed bug bites and they will usually clear up within a week or so. Some options for treatment include:

  • Cleaning the wound with soap and water
  • Applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
  • Using anti-itch creams
  • Taking antihistamines
  • Receiving injectable corticosteroids
  • Injecting epinephrine
  • Using a cold cloth or ice pack wrapped in a towel on the affected area
  • Applying a thin paste of baking soda and water
  • Using essential oils, especially camphor oil or chamomile oil

Prevention

Bed bug bites can be avoided by preventing bed bugs in the first place. Some ways to prevent bed bugs include:

  1. Avoiding furniture from infested or likely infested areas
  2. Choosing furniture that doesn’t have seams, cracks, or crevices (e.g. made of plastic, stone, metal or plaster)
  3. Filling cracks, crevices, and seams with glue or caulk
  4. Cleaning bedding and clothing regularly
  5. Washing and drying bedding on high heat
  6. Vacuuming upholstered items thoroughly and on a regular basis
  7. Using a hand steamer to kill eggs and bugs in luggage and upholstered items
  8. When traveling, store your luggage on racks and make sure to keep it off the floor, furniture, and bed
  9. Check for signs of bed bugs anywhere you stay when traveling
  10. Cover as much skin as possible while sleeping

If you suspect you have a bed bug problem, contact a professional pest control company who can provide you with a thorough evaluation to look for signs of bed bugs and provide you with a thorough bed bug control and elimination program.