10 Reasons Why Bed Bugs Bite Some People And Not Others

Bed bugs typically don’t cause serious harm to people, but their bites can be uncomfortable and infestations can cause stress and insomnia for people. In certain cases, bed bug bites can lead to skin infections or more severe reactions.

Because their bite marks resemble other insect bites, it can be difficult to tell if you have a bed bug bite unless you find an infestation. Signs of an infestation may include bed bugs or their molted exoskeletons in the edges of the mattress or sheets, blood spots on the mattress, and a sweet, musty odor.

For 2022, a total of 1,126 cases of the West Nile virus were reported across 42 states in the United States, according to the CDC. Symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after the bite and can include headaches, body aches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and a skin rash. People with a more severe West Nile infection may develop meningitis or encephalitis and have symptoms including neck stiffness, severe headache, disorientation, high fever, and convulsions.

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Mites do not usually spread disease, but their bites can irritate the skin and cause intense itching. Itch mites usually feed on insects but will bite other animals, including people. The bites usually go unnoticed until itchy, red marks develop that may look like a skin rash.

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However, if you’re allergic to bee, wasp, or hornet stings — or you’ve been stung multiple times — a sting can cause severe allergic reactions, including nausea, rapid heartbeat, swelling, dizziness, hives, and shortness of breath, warns the Mayo Clinic. Call 911, and seek emergency medical treatment if you experience any of these symptoms.

Although horse flies and deer flies most affect the animals in those names, unfortunately being a human doesn’t earn you a free pass. According to the University of Kentucky, these flies can target humans who are outside, and the intensity of their attack varies from year to year. Bites can be painful and cause bleeding, swelling, irritation, or an allergic reaction. Swelling and irritation should disappear in a day or two.

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Ant bites and stings are typically painful and cause red skin bumps. Some types of ants, like fire ants, are venomous, and their bites can cause a severe allergic reaction. Fire ants bite first to hold on and then sting, giving a sharp pain and a burning sensation. If you’re bitten by fire ants, you may see white, fluid-filled pustules or blisters (pictured) a day or two after the sting. These last three to eight days and may cause scars. The bumps may also be itchy and red, and you may have swelling around the site. It’s important not to scratch or break open the blisters because they can become infected, notes the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Carpenter ant bites are also painful because they spray formic acid into the bite, which causes a burning feeling.

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Bee Stings Can Result in Severe Allergic Responses

Hornet stings (like bee and wasp stings) are usually painful, itchy, red, and swollen immediately after they happen, without causing long-term effects. Many people can simply ice the area to soothe pain and pop an over-the-counter antihistamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to help with itching. “After a half hour, you can go on with your business,” says Howard Russell, an insect and arthropod diagnostician at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Symptoms typically disappear after a day or two, says the Mayo Clinic.

Black flies (sometimes called buffalo gnats or “no-see-ums”) are also common throughout the United States and can bite (though they’re not known to spread disease), according to Spokane Regional Health District. They’re small in size and usually bite around the head, particularly the eyes, ears, and scalp. Their bites can cause swelling, numbness, and soreness that can last for several days.

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Bed Bug Bite: What Are the Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction?

Lice bites are tiny red spots on the shoulders, neck, and scalp from small parasitic insects that can live on your clothes or in your bedding. Because lice bites are so small, they usually don’t hurt, but they do itch. Some people may develop a larger, uncomfortable skin rash from lice bites. Continual scratching of the itchy spots could lead to an infection, marked by symptoms including swollen lymph nodes and tender, red skin. An infected lice bite may also ooze and crust over; it will need to be treated by a doctor, but lice are not known to carry other diseases.

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Ant Bites and Stings Can Become Infected

Hornets typically build their large paper nests in tree hollows, as well as undisturbed spots in barns, attics, and even walls, according to the University of Kentucky. Hornets will defend their nests (and may attack you) if you get too close, so leave the area if you come across one. If you come across a solitary hornet, leave it alone; hornets typically only sting when threatened, the University of Kentucky notes. And if you do get stung, leave the area right away to avoid another attack, Russell says.

For all of these types of fly bites, they usually show up as small red bumps that are itchy.

Signs and Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites

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If you have hives, get many bites, or notice a bite that looks infected, you should visit a board-certified dermatologist for treatment, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Bedbug bites can occur anywhere on your body but typically show up on uncovered areas, such as your neck, face, arms, and hands. It’s good to know that although they’re common, bedbugs do not carry disease, according to the CDC.

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In rare cases, some people can experience a severe allergic reaction to bed bug saliva. This is called anaphylaxis, and can present with symptoms like:

Bed bug bites often cause intensely itchy, red, and swollen bumps on the skin, and can appear in zig-zag lines or in clusters of three or more bites. The bites can take up to 14 days after contact with bed bugs to appear.

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