Bed Bug Bites

Bed Bug Bites on arm.

Bed Bug Bites on arm.

If you are asking:

  • Why am I getting itchy skin bumps?

  • I have swollen and painful red welts that I can't explain, what could they be?

  • Am I getting bitten by bed bugs?

  • Someone close to me has a bed bug infestation, am I at risk?

  • I am worried I have a bed bug infestation, what do I do now?

Important Facts About Bed Bug Bites:

  • Bed bug bites are an allergic skin reaction to bed bug saliva

  • Bed bug bites can vary widely in appearance and itchiness from person to person.

  • We can almost always distinguish bed bug bites from other biting insects.

  • Not all people react to bed bug bites, about 30% of people show no sign of bed bug bites



Bed Bug Bite Analysis


Unfortunately, since bed bug bites can vary so widely in appearance, distribution and itchiness, confirming a bed bug infestation from a skin reaction alone is a tricky, inexact science.

Even an experienced dermatologist will not be able to definitively determine that you have a bed bug infestation by examining the bites on your skin alone.

At Addison, we deal with bed bug infestations every day. We have developed an in depth understanding of the common characteristics and symptoms associated with bed bug bites.

We’ve created the ADDISON SCALE for bite assessment based on a balanced consideration of the redness, itchiness, swelling and distribution of bites, which allows us to determine whether further action, inspection or treatment is necessary.

Click Below to send us a photo of any bites for analysis.


Bed Bug Bites


What are bed bug bites?

  • Bed bug bites are not technically bites, like a spider or a flea bite.

  • When bed bugs draw blood from their victim they inject both an anticoagulant agent and anaesthetic saliva underneath the skin.

  • The “bite” we see on our skin is actually an allergic reaction to these chemicals that the bed bug leaves behind in the process of drawing a blood meal.

  • About 30% of humans are not allergic to these chemicals and therefore show no skin reaction to bed bug bites.

  • Non-symptomatic individuals are at particularly high risk of infestation since most people don’t have any reason to flip up their mattresses in search of bed bugs if they don’t have bites.

  • Since bed bugs are excellent at hiding and only emerge when we are asleep, the infestation can go unnoticed for a long time, at which point the infestation may already be out of hand.



What do bed bug bites look like?

  • The symptoms and appearance of bed bug bites vary widely.

  • Bed bug bites are an allergic skin reaction to the anticoagulant and numbing chemicals the bugs inject while drawing blood.

  • Bed Bug bites can appear as single pimple-like red bumps, swollen hives, clustered welts, an inflamed painful rash, or nothing at all.

  • The "three in a row" bed bug bite pattern referred to as “breakfast, lunch and dinner”is a myth. Bed bugs don’t always bite this way.

  • Bed bugs test one or more different sites for the best place to draw blood. Sometimes they will hit on the first try and sometimes it will take them five or six tries until they locate a suitable feeding site. These may appear as a single marking, a straight line, in a cluster or three in a row.

  • Because they vary so widely, bed bug bites can easily be confused with other bug bites, skin irritations, or rashes.

  • Some of the most common false alarms for bed bugs are carpet beetle dermatitis, flea and spider bites or a skin allergy to a new soap or detergent. 



When do bed bugs bite?

  • Like most insects, bed bugs are afraid of humans so they will only come out to bite when they think it is safe to do so.

  • Bed bugs have sophisticated mechanisms to determine when we are asleep or awake. They can pick up on:

    • body heat

    • carbon dioxide output

    • amount of motion

    • amount of light

  • It is rare for bed bugs to emerge from hiding when a room is fully lit or when you are moving around.

  • Bed bugs may come out and try to feed if you are  sitting, relaxing and watching a movie, reading, or sleeping.

  • Just like mosquitos, bed bug saliva is a natural anaesthetic, so you will not feel a bed bug bite as it is happening.



What do bed bug bites feel like?

  • Most of the time you won’t feel a bed bug bite until it shows up as an itchy welt.

  • Bed bug saliva contains an anaesthetic to prevent us from feeling the bite.

  • Bed bugs normally bite when we are asleep and the bites do not wake us up. 

  • Bites can result in painful welts, extreme itchiness, or a soreness and tenderness around the feeding site.

  • About 30% of people do not react to bed bug bites at all, it is possible to have a full-blown infestation without showing any symptoms of itchy or swollen bites.



How long do bed bug bites last?

  • Bed bug bites last from 3-6 weeks. The itchy sensation will wear off after about a week.

  • Scratching bed bug bites can cause a secondary infection which will prolong the bite on your skin.

  • Resist scratching bed bug bites and keep them clean with soap and water.



Do bed bug bites show up immediately?

  • Bed bug bites can show up in minutes, but may take up to 5 days to show up on the skin.

  • If you have a delayed reaction to bed bug bites, identifying the source of the bites can be more complicated.

  • If you stayed in a hotel over the weekend and notice a skin reaction mid week it is possible you were bitten in the hotel, and have no infestation in your own home.

  • If you have spent a night in an infested bed you should arrange a professional bed bug inspection as soon as possible.

  • Over time the body’s reaction to bed bugs can change

  • Our reaction to bed bug bites usually becomes more severe and immediate the more times we are bitten.



Are bed bug bites dangerous?

  • Bed bugs do not transmit pathogens or viruses like West Nile, Malaria, MRSA or Zika. 

  • The bed bug bites themselves are not contagious or poisonous.

  • Bed Bugs can harbour blood pathogens like Chagas disease but they cannot transmit it to humans. Entomologists are monitoring bed bug populations closely for mutations that may make it possible to transmit blood diseases to humans

  • The biggest risk associated with bed bug bites is a secondary infection caused by excessive scratching of itchy bites.

  • It is not normally necessary to see a doctor for treatment of bed bug bites.

  • Over the counter remedies for cleaning and reducing swelling and itchiness include:

    • oral anti-histamine tablets

    • corticosteroid or calamine topical creams

    • Topical disinfectants

    • soap and water

  • In very rare cases anaphylactic reactions to bed bug bites have been recorded.

  • In these severe, rare cases seek emergency medical attention immediately or use emergency intervention methods such as epipen, as indicated by your doctor.



If I have bed bug bites, do I have an infestation?

  • An infestation can very rarely be confirmed by skin reactions alone.

  • A single bed bug bite does not necessarily mean you have a full-blown infestation.

  • Since bites can take up to 5 days to appear on the skin it is possible that you may have been bitten in a hotel, a taxicab or a doctor’s office.

  • Since about 30% of people do not react to bed bug bites, you may have an infestation even if you are not getting bites.

  • Bed bug infestations can escalate very quickly. Bed bug bites will continue to get more frequent until you take action with a professional pest control service.

  • If you are getting bitten more and more often and it is clear you have an infestation call us today for a no-obligation quote on bed bug extermination.



Where do bed bugs bite?

  • Unlike mosquitos or fleas, which favour ankles and wrists where the blood vessels are close to the surface, bed bugs can draw blood anywhere on the human body.

  • Bed bugs are most likely to bite skin that is uncovered and easily accessible.

  • While bed bugs are able to bite through clothing, socks and pyjamas,  they prefer to bite skin that is not covered.

  • Bed bugs have been known bite around the nose and face as well as in the scalp and groin.

  • Bed bugs cannot bite through a zip-up mattress encasement, especially the ones made of the synthetic Tyvek material.

  • These encasements  DO NOT prevent an infestation, they rip very easily, and can provide more surface area and folds for the bugs to safely hide out of sight.

  • We do not recommend these costly and deceptive zip-up mattress covers.



Do bed bugs bite dogs, cats and other pets?

  • Bed bugs can bite house pets like cats and dogs, but they have a hard time navigating the animal’s thick fur

  • Bed Bugs are less likely to establish hiding spots on a dog or cat bed

  • If the animal moves around at night time or sleeps in different locations every night, bed bugs will not be likely to bite it.



Do bed bugs only eat blood?

  • Yes, bed bugs’ diet consists exclusively of mammalian blood.

  • The presence of sleeping or resting humans is the strongest attractor for bugs.

  • Contrary to common belief, the cleanliness of the home has NOTHING to do with the likelihood of contracting a bed bug infestation.

  • The more often you change your sheets, and inspect the mattress, box spring and bed frame seams and crevices and the less clutter around the bed the easier it is to spot a bed bug infestation at an early stage.

  • Bed bugs need to feed in order to survive. Bed bugs bite about once every 5 to 7 days.

  • Bed Bugs can hibernate and survive without feeding for up to 12 months, if they are closed up inside a plastic bag or they cannot pick up on the presence of humans by sensing the output of carbon dioxide and body heat

  • Abandoning your home will not eliminate bed bugs. It may even cause them to spread to neighbours or hibernate until you return.



Who can confirm whether I have bed bug bites or not?

  • We offer bite identification service free of charge. Send us a clear, in-focus, well-lit photo of your affected skin area to:

  • We caution customers doctor's diagnosis of bed bug bites. We often encounter mistakes or discrepancies in these diagnoses. 

  • Our analysts have years of experience identifying bed bug bites. We can almost always distinguish bed bug bites from mosquito, spider or flea bites.

  • If you suspect you might have bed bugs the safest bet is to book an inspection with one of our trained technicians. We can always get out to perform the inspection on very short notice, so you can sleep soundly or take action as necessary.


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