Skip to main content

What do Bed Bug Bites Look Like

Melody is a volunteer for the Center for Disease and Control Prevention. She enjoys sharing her personal experience with others.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

If you are one of the unlucky people whose bed bug bites look worse than others, then you may be feeling frustrated. It can be hard to understand why one person gets a severe reaction when someone else has few or no symptoms.

According to Brent Williamson, of Sleep Tight Pest Control, LLC, you do not need to panic or throw your furniture away. You do need to know what a bite from a bed bug looks like.

Some people have no visible reaction to bites. Other people get red, itchy welts. Maybe you wake up with bed bugs, but your husband or wife does not. This isn't an unusual phenomenon.

Why does this happen?

Someone with no allergies may see nothing. But someone with a mild allergy may see Itchy bumps on arms and legs. Even worse, someone with a severe allergy may develop rashes all over the body.

Each person has a unique reaction to insect bites. Even doctors can not always tell what bit you. This is all thanks to the human body's histamine response.

Have a Circular Rash Like This?

The black arrow points to three red circles. This is a rash caused by one bed bug.

The black arrow points to three red circles. This is a rash caused by one bed bug.

Know Your Body

It is easy to suggest trying not to worry if your reaction seems worse than others. Here are some reasons your bites may be more visible:

  • Length of feeding session
  • Number of bugs that bit you
  • Duration of bed bug exposure
  • Amount of enzymes injected
  • Personal immune response
  • The body's ability to heal

Numbing agents in bed bug saliva prevent humans from knowing they were bitten. Other enzymes in the saliva prevent redness from appearing instantly. When you are bitten by mosquitoes you know right away, but with bed bugs, it might take you awhile to know you were a blood meal.

Bed bug bites are singular punctures. One bug makes up to three punctures, which will later develop into a red rash in some people. Experts refer to this as a three-course meal, comparing it to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

You may not see the puncture wound. The most noticeable characteristic of these rashes are the circular dots left behind. In some people, this can be as little as a few millimeters.

Confusion sets in when we remember that no two people develop the same rash. Plus, the more bugs you are bitten by, the more redness appears. Bites may even overlap each other.

If you have a serious reaction to bed bug bites, you need to get some maximum Strength Hydrocortisone. Of course, this cream also soothes minor irritations, too.

If you have a serious reaction, try using a steam cleaner to regularly de bedbug your mattress.

How to Stop Itching

While some people claim no discomfort, other people experience extreme discomfort and itching when it comes to these vampires.

Here are some ways to find relief from the discomfort of bed bug bites:

  • Wash the bite with soap and water. You can ice to bring down the swelling and reduce redness.
  • Use ice to bring down the swelling and reduce redness.
  • Go to your doctor and get prescription hydrocortisone cream. If you do not wish to go that route then purchase this cream, or one like it.
  • If you do not have access to a doctor then try a web doctor program such as Ebix Healthcare Magic or HealthTap.
  • Cortizone-10 Max Strength is as close as you are going to get to prescription strength hydrocortisone. Cortizone-10 is the maximum strength lotion, which means it works faster and soothes itching for longer. It helps sooth the rash while it helps your body erase the rash or bite.
  • For many bites try using a deep moisturizer such as DerMend. Its restorative action helps clear rashes quickly.
  • The Bed Bug Patch is a patch that is supposed to help deter blood-sucking critters from snacking on you at night. Reviews on this product have been mixed. If anyone has any experience with this prevention patch, please share below in the comments!

Other Factors For Severity

The carbon dioxide you breath attracts bed bugs, which makes irritation more common in the upper torso and face.

Scroll to Continue

Bed bug rashes are flat, red and come in groups of three. However, it is easier to mistake these for other types of bug bite or illness. The more bed bugs there are, the more likely you are to notice skin irritation.

Severe reactions can require medical care. Even though bed bugs don't spread disease, they can lead to infection and extreme discomfort. Intense scratching can cause a flat, bed bug rash to appear to be raised. Infection can make the rash look far worse than it is.

Bed Bug Bite Facts

Make sure to do your research in regards to bed bug information. You want to avoid falling for the hype or the myths.

  • Claims that bed bugs spread MRSA and other serious diseases are myths.
  • When you press on a MRSA rash, you will often feel a bump underneath it.
  • Bed bug bites sometimes look like ringworm, both may be a perfect circle rash.
  • Bed bug bites come in groups of 3, but it doesn't always go, or appear like it.
  • Not everyone gets a rash after being bitten.

If you have itchy, painful irritation, you must act now! Delaying action could allow them to multiply in to the thousands.The rashes will be worse every time you get bit, and with that many, you will not be able to sleep a wink.

If an infestation is minor, then you will never notice them biting you. With more severe infestations they might be trying to crawl all over you at all hours of the night.

Many Bed Bug Bites

Three, 3 course meal rashes made by bed bugs.

Three, 3 course meal rashes made by bed bugs.

These Are The Results Of A Major Infestation!

Picture 1 of a large bed bite attack on the same person.

Picture 1 of a large bed bite attack on the same person.

Picture 2 of a large bed bite attack on the same person.

Picture 2 of a large bed bite attack on the same person.

You Would Never Know What Type of Rash This is Without Clues!

Here is a person who does not have the typical circular rash. Instead, this person reacts to bed bug bites with splotches.

Here is a person who does not have the typical circular rash. Instead, this person reacts to bed bug bites with splotches.

Preventing Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug allergies can worsen over time. Exposure to lots of bugs leads to severe itching. The discomfort can be so severe that the reaction may be classified as severe allergic reactions. This is when medical intervention might be necessary.

If a bed bug sneaks in ten minutes of feeding, then they have enough time to bite their victim three times. Bed bug bites with red circles on the skin are the hallmark of these bloodsuckers.

Hydrocortisone cream can treat the itch, but to prevent the rashes the first step is to use a bed bug proof mattress and pillow cover.

All your bedding needs to be in the dryer for AT LEAST an hour, and you can wash it, too. It is the drying that is most important.

You need a GREAT mattress cover to protect yourself. Don't be fooled, you need one that can stand the heat of the dryer. Mattress covers that are subpar are made of delicate plastics that melt with too much heat exposure.

The best mattress covers are the Bed Bug Proof Sleep defense system. These are one of the few that can survive in the dryer. It is the drying that kills bed bugs, so you need a product like this that can last being dried for an hour without changing the integrity or shape of the cover.

If you can not wash or dry the mattress cover, what good does it do you. You just have to replace it!

The Bed Bug Proof Sleep Defense System is also a quite mattress cover. We don't often think about how much we move in bed. However, some mattress covers are made of plastics that are noisy as you toss and turn.

The zipper on the Sleep Defense System is quite secure, unlike other brands whose zipper tends to come lose. If the zipper becomes lose, bugs can get in and out.

This brand is also cheaper. Because it can be washed and dried so often, it doesn't have to be replaced as often. Many manufactures make an inferior product that needs to be replaced within months.

Truths, Rashes and Bed Bugs

In this picture, you see what looks like two red splotches that are flush with the skin.

When you run your finger over this type of rash you will not feel a bump unless a person has scratched it enough to open the skin and cause it to raise.

Some people say you can see a mark in the center of the rash, like a mosquito bite, but this is seldom true. If there is an opening in the center, it is due to scratching.

The bites in this image were likely caused by two separate creepers who were interrupted in their blood meal.

If there is a bite mark in the center (without scratching), you may have a flea or a mosquito problem.

Comparing bed bug bites and mosquito bites is pretty simple, because mosquitoes nibble causes a bump to rise above the skin, one that turns whitish.

Telling the difference between these blood sucking creepers and a fleas is a little more tricky.

Bed bugs do not cause bites that fill with puss, or any other kind of liquid. The only exception is an infected bite.

Bites with raised, fluid filled centers might be poison ivy, oak or sumac. They could be a burn or some time of viral rash.

How many Bug Bites Do You See?

It looks like one, or maybe two. There are actually 3 separate bed bug bites in this picture. They are overlapping, which makes it hard to tell.

It looks like one, or maybe two. There are actually 3 separate bed bug bites in this picture. They are overlapping, which makes it hard to tell.

What About The Children?

It is important to visualize how irritation presents on children. This image is of a 10-year-old boy. This picture is of bed bug bites on the child's back and right arm.

This reaction is askew. It looks like a common rash. The mother reports that the boy sleeps without a shirt and on his side or stomach.

The skin on the back and arm are exposed, so it was the perfect way to feast. This child reported severe itching.

Scratch too much, too soon and the areas will be less defined edges and look more splotchy.

Do you Know How To Protect Your Kids from the Bugs That Caused This Rash?

Notice the bites on the arm and torso of this 10 year old boy. These are bed bug rashes.

Notice the bites on the arm and torso of this 10 year old boy. These are bed bug rashes.

Protecting Kids From Bed Bugs

This is another picture of bites on a child. This child had a slightly different reaction and is probably scratching less.

This 7-year-old boy is also known to sleep with his shirt off. To prevent bites it is important to cover as much of your body as possible.

However, this might drive the creepers places they usually wouldn't feast. This could mean a greater chance of visible rashes on the neck, face and hands.

Since infants are mostly immobile, they tend to be attacked and bitten more than any other family member. If you have an infant or young children, it is essential that you let a professional handle things.

© 2012 Melody Collins


Unknown on June 04, 2019:

My school has bed bugs

Angel on March 20, 2019:

I am itching my leg a lot in one spot, I look at it but there is no rash and it’s the only spot I’ve been itching. It looks like a mosquito bite, but not red and doesn’t have a mark on it. Can I have more information??

desperate on March 27, 2016:

I have a few marks on my neck but no where else and as the day went on they weren't as red but my whole body itches, I recently changed how much Laundy soap I put put in the washer. My biological mother have bites all over her body do to bed bugs and she always is at my grandma's and although I have nothing to do with my mom I visited my grandparents for roughly 4 hours and there cat was laying on me the whole time can animals get bed bugs and if me sitting in a leather chair and at the kitchen table could I have them or am I freaking myself out? PLEASE HELP!!!!

jega on October 08, 2014:

anyone can help how to kill tat bed bugs

Anand Kumar on May 28, 2014:

Very interesting articles and nice pictures. Though I have experienced bed bug bites but never had any rashes.

Melody Collins (author) from United States on May 31, 2013:

Thank you Ethan. I am glad you found them useful. I really admire those who reach out and help others.

Ethan Green on May 31, 2013:

I was working with homeless people for a long time in London, and found your articles about bedbugs really useful! Thanks for these:-)

CS Cart Reviews on March 06, 2013:

Great post. Its very helpful and the theme mixes well with your content. Its very professional looking.. Your information is always accommodating.

Golivas888 on February 02, 2013:

Hello..... A fast way to make bedbug bites stop itching almost instantly is to rub fresh garlic cloves on the bites(as long as the wound has not been opened... Or else it'll burn a little) will instantly stop the itch..... So if you don't mind smelling like an Italian dish... This tip will help

s on December 07, 2012:

i have engage 2 times of those bed bugs killer services to get those bed bugs out and also bought loads of some d something power that was supposingly to kill them slowly but after all these services and products ive used, im still getting bit! the nest was at my old bed but i threw it away and all those infected items. i bought new ones but now why am i still getting bit? i can't find their new nest but i suspect it coming under my standing fan? is it possible?

Rtorres on November 26, 2012:

Hello, I have been getting what look like bites for days now but my husband has not. Is this possible?

Susie on November 21, 2012:

My 7 months of bug bites was never diagnosed by the 7 doctors appointments; an entomologist diagnosed it through the casings and debris that was coming out of my skin--freaking me out. He said to spray alcohol 90% and that would kill them. It's been a few weeks now and big improvement, along with ripping out my carpeting.

Melody Collins (author) from United States on September 20, 2012:

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if those are bed bug bites from pictures alone. If you did not find signs of bed bugs then you can not assume they are bed bugs. You have a ton of bites, and from my experience that many bites usually results in finding bed bugs upon a search. However, that is not always true. Off the top of my head I would ask the dr. about fleas and scabies.

I really don't like when doctors give up without a cause. As a patient you have the right to ask them to keep looking. In my opinion, leaving a rash a mystery is not a good idea.

Scabies are more common than people thing. Tons of people get it, but most will never admit it.

If I were you, I would keep inspecting my sleeping area. Just to be safe I would wash all of my bedding and make sure to thoroughly vacuum the floor often.

No matter if it is bed bugs, fleas, scabies or an allergic reaction, regularly changing the bedding and vacuuming can help.

You might also consider getting a zippered mattress cover. In your case, I would get a vinyl mattress cover. The reason I would get a particular type in your case is because your rash is unidentified.

I hope you find a solution for your rash soon!

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on September 07, 2012:

I will bookmark this. I know someone who are having red patches on the skin. Thanks for posting this hub, this might help. :)

Melody Collins (author) from United States on August 10, 2012:

The first step is to remember not to panic. A non moving spec could be anything. It is not a bad idea to be careful, but if you have found no signs of bed bugs you may want to think about some other places you have been, such as your boyfriend. You usually don't need a magnifying glass to see bed bugs, although small ones are pretty tiny. I would not panic yet, instead I would check this sight to learn the signs of bed bugs

At this point, a few red bites and no other evidence does not suggest bed bugs, although it is never a bad idea to do routine inspections.

Jess on August 10, 2012:

I'm a little concerned because my mom is a germaphobic. I put my mattress on the floor last year to help with my back issues and have never been bit. (except during flea season till we get the animals treated then it stops.) Here recently I got a new kitten who we treated, but after getting him I ended up having 3 bites on my hips I showed my doctor he said bed but which sent my mom through the roof and me a little bit. I thought maybe I got bit by fleas at my boyfriends because it reacted the same way ( I have really sensitive skin) and went away pretty quickly. Then this morning I woke up scratching my stomach after the kitten leaned against me with what looked like a flea bite again, but I haven't been bitten since the first incident about a week ago till the kitten was with me this AM. I stripped my bed washed my bedding in hot water and searched my mattress I found a minute oval reddish non moving speck that looked like it had strips so I just panicked - I started looking at my mattress with a magnifying glass and flash light under the seams in the cracks anywhere I could get to and I didn't find anything else .. I am still freaked out, but I don't know if I have them now or not.

Melody Collins (author) from United States on May 08, 2012:

I am glad you have never seen a rash like this! I hope you never have to! You can never have too much cortizone cream around the house!

Dianna Mendez on May 08, 2012:

This is quite interesting. I don't think I have ever seen a bite or rash similar to this, and I guess that is good. Thank God for cortizone creams!

dmop from Cambridge City, IN on May 07, 2012:

I have been hearing a lot about bed bugs recently. They seem to be a real problem in many ares. This is some great information, I will keep in mind for future reference and pass it on to anyone who might benefit from it.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 05, 2012:

Very useful. Bug bites can be really painful sometimes as you scratch as it itches.

Luis E Gonzalez from Miami, Florida on May 03, 2012:

Very interesting article on such a topic.

Welcome to HubPages

Dale Hyde from Tropical Paradise on Planet X on May 02, 2012:

A most informative hub and a great follow up to your previous hub on the subject, "Becoming Bed Bug Free." As a "victim" of such critter bites, I can vouch for the validity of them being a true pain! Not being able to identify what is causing these bite marks was a challenge. Once I learned what was going on, then it was about ending the source!

Vote up and interesting. Welcome to HubPages!

Related Articles