What do bedbug bites look like? Pictures to help you identify and treat them

The key bed bug bite symptom to look for is a red, raised bump, says Gibb, similar in appearance to a spider or mosquito bite. But what sets bed bugs apart from other insects is that oftentimes, their bites will present in a line or cluster on one part or side of your body. This is the result of what’s called “probing.”

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.

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.

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Bed bugs naturally like to hide in your mattress, especially in the corners, near the head end, and in the cord that goes around it. They also like to camp out behind the headboard, behind any pictures on the wall, and in electrical sockets.

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“There’s nothing truly unique about lesions caused by bedbugs” that can be used to diagnose them, dermatologist Dr. Benjamin N. Ungar tells TODAY.com.

Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and are very flat from top to bottom—almost as thin as a piece of paper—with a brownish color, says Rajotte. Baby bed bugs are also brownish in color, but pinhead-sized.

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That’s why they’re most often found in areas of the bedroom that are close to where people sleep, like the headboard or crevices in the wall or floorboards, Frye says. “They can fit into very tiny cracks that are the thickness of a credit card, and they will actually aggregate in those areas.”

In fact, Gibb says some people’s skin doesn’t respond to a bed bug bite at all, which is especially the case for the elderly population. That’s why it can be difficult to determine if your bite is from a bed bug just by looking at it.

In most cases, the only way to say for sure whether it was a bedbug that bit you is to search for evidence of bedbugs living in your home. “Once you start to notice the itchy bites, the second giveaway is the presence of small blood spots on your sheets or mattress, usually resembling patches of rust,” Durham says. Those spots are left behind after a bedbug has been smashed.

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The most common way a bedbug bite shows up is a red itchy bump, he explains. There can also be a flat area of redness surrounding the bump itself. For some people, the reaction can be as small as a pinprick, Frye says, while others have “fairly exuberant” reactions, adds Ungar.

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What do bedbug bites look like?

Bedbug bites tend to stick around longer than mosquito bites, though they look very similar.

Checking in with your doctor or dermatologist can also help you determine exactly what type of skin issue you’re dealing with.

Bedbug bites generally heal within a couple of weeks. It is recommended to clean the area with soap and water and apply a corticosteroid cream to relieve itchiness.

What do bedbug bites look like? Pictures to help you identify and treat them

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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.

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What do bed bug bites look like?

According to Changlu Wang, Ph.D., extension specialist in entomology at Rutgers University, bed bugs typically feed every two to three days when a host is present, so if fresh bites appear in such a frequency, the timing could be another indicator of their presence.

If bed bugs are the cause of your bites, realize there’s no urgent need to panic. Yes, they might cost you a pretty penny and can be a pain to get rid of, but bed bugs can’t do any serious damage to your body. “They don’t kill people,” says Gibb. “A parasite would have a hard time surviving if it killed its host, and these do not.”

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