Bed Bug Bites: Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Madeleine, Prevention’s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and she helps strategize for success across Prevention’s social media platforms.

Although the duration and intensity of a bed bug bite will vary from person to person, you typically won’t feel the effects of a bed bug bite—like itching and those raised red bumps—until mid-morning after a bite due to the anesthetic the bug injects prior to biting, says Gibb. “So they certainly don’t feel it when the bite is occurring, but shortly after, probably within a day,” he adds.

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In fact, bed bugs don’t even transmit anything dangerous to you. “They’ve never been shown to transmit any diseases,” says Rajotte. “Unlike mosquitoes and ticks and things, which can transmit some pretty bad diseases, bed bugs do not,” she says.

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How to treat bed bug bites

When you think of annoying, common house bugs, your mind probably jumps to stink bugs, flies, cockroaches, and spiders. But there’s one home invader that is very different from the rest: bed bugs. While bed bug bites might not be the most common bug bites to receive, if you’ve recently woken up with a few itchy bumps, you might want to keep reading.

Meet the Experts: Emma Grace Crumbley, entomologist for Mosquito Squad; Timothy Gibb, Ph.D., a clinical professor of entomology at Purdue University; Edwin Rajotte, Ph.D., a professor of entomology at Penn State University; Changlu Wang, Ph.D., extension specialist in entomology at Rutgers University.

Brielle Gregory previously worked at Men’s Health magazine, where she reported, edited, and fact checked all things health, nutrition, and weight loss related; she currently spends her time digging into similar topics as a freelancer writer and editor. She’s a doting dog mom to a half-corgi and an aspiring world-traveler who’s probably planning her next trip right now (the dog included).

Smart Info About How To Diagnose Bed Bug Bites

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The bite symptoms typically last for about two weeks, explains Wang. “Some people may still show symptoms after a month,” he says, while others may see their bites dissipate over a few days.

“They probe the skin in several different places, I think probably to find best access to draw blood,” says Gibb. In fact, if you have screens on your windows—thereby keeping out other insects that might bite—but are still waking up with a line of 3 or 4 bites on your arm, it’s safe to suspect that bed bugs might be to blame, says Edwin Rajotte, Ph.D., a professor of entomology at Penn State University.

Bed Bug Bites: Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Mona Gohara, M.D. is a Yale-trained, board-certified dermatologist, Oberlin College-bred feminist, medical media expert, fashion fanatic, mom, wife, and virgo. Mona enjoys educating on skin health, skin cancer, skin of color, and sun protection. She has done this through writing, lecturing on the local, national, and international levels, and by engaging popular media. Mona is an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology, where she chaired the social media task force, The Women’s Dermatologic Society where she serves as president, and The American Society For Dermatologic Surgery, where she chairs the DEI Work Group. She is also a member of Prevention’s Medical Review Board.

Although some people will say a bed bug bite hurts somewhat, most complaints are due to the itching the bites cause, says Gibb. And that itching is due to the chemicals the bed bug inserts into your body during the bite, notes Rajotte.

For a new infestation to occur, bed bugs must have been brought from one area to another through human intervention, says Emma Grace Crumbley, entomologist for Mosquito Squad. “For example, if you stay at a hotel that has a bed bug problem, and bed bugs get into your clothes and luggage, it is very likely you will have a bed bug problem at your next destination, be that another hotel or your own home,” she explains.

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