Think you might have problems with bed bugs? Bed bug infestations have been on the rise in the last 30 years, and no one is immune. They tend to travel from one location to another by clinging to clothing, luggage, purses, and bedding.
Not sure how to diagnose a bed bug problem? Below, we’ll explore the symptoms of bed bugs and show you what else to look for in the environment.
What Is a Bed Bug?
A bed bug is a small insect that feeds on the blood of warm-blooded animals—like humans. A bed bug is small and reddish-brown in color. Adult bed bugs will grow to 4-5 mm in length, and 1.5 mm or so in width, usually compared to the size of an apple seed. Newly hatched nymphs are only 1 mm in length and are cream-colored.
Bed Bug Symptoms on Humans
It’s not always easy to distinguish the symptoms of bed bugs from other insect bites. But their bites can be distinguished by a constellation of distinctive characteristics:
Location of Bite
Bed bug bites will typically be found on the face, neck, arms, shoulders, and hands. This differs from that of other insects, like the flea, which typically bites the ankles.
Bites can also be detected on the mattress, as they will leave tiny dots of blood from where the bed bug was feeding.
Type of Bite
A bed bug bite is usually red, with a darker spot in the center. They also tend to appear in a line or even a cluster, unlike other insect bites that tend to appear only once.
Symptoms of Bite
Bed bug bites tend to be itchy and irritating. Bed bugs aren’t known to carry disease, but some people may have allergic reactions to the bites, resulting in a rash, blisters, or hives. Additionally, these bites can be a hazard if you scratch them open and risk infection. If you experience these symptoms, check with your doctor to ensure your symptoms don’t worsen.
Bed Bug Symptoms in the Environment
In addition to the direct signs of bed bugs on your skin, your environment may reveal the presence of a bed bug infestation.
You may have heard that bed bugs prefer dirty or messy environments. That’s not true! Bed bugs are an equal opportunity offender and can be found in a variety of places, including:
- Hotels and cruise ships
- Summer camps
- College dorms
Sometimes you can see bed bugs with the naked eye. Other times, you have to look for the right combination of clues. If you suspect the presence of bed bugs, there are a few critical areas you’ll want to check for signs:
Checking the Bed
Bed bugs may be found in multiple places in and around a bed. This includes the mattress, box spring, as well as the headboard and bed frame. Additionally, if there are objects or clutter near beds, this can be a place for bed bugs to hide.
Bed bugs can be detected by the presence of rust-colored, reddish-brown stains, which result from molting bug skin.
You might also notice bed bug excrement on the surface of your mattress. Or, as we noted above, you might notice tiny red stains from the blood drawn during their feedings.
Checking the Room
Bed bugs aren’t confined to the bed. They may also be found:
- Beneath light switches or the plates of electrical outlets
- In the seams of other upholstered furniture
- Beneath wallpaper
- Beneath peeling paint
- Beneath the carpet, near the baseboard
Again, look for the telltale presence of the reddish-brown stain from molting bed bugs. Another sign of a bed bug infestation is an unpleasant, musty smell, often compared to a wet towel. This smell is a product of the bugs’ natural pheromones. The more bugs that are present, the stronger the smell. If you notice the room smells a bit like a locker room, you may be looking at a bed bug problem.
Checking the Closet
Bed bugs can cling to the surface of your closet itself, but they can also be found on your clothing. As with your bed and the room, check your clothing thoroughly for reddish brown stains.
Controlling Bed Bugs
The immediate symptoms of bed bugs are relatively mild—though admittedly irritating. But a bed bug infestation will need professional attention to ensure the problem is fully resolved.
You can prevent bed bugs from spreading through the following habits:
Never put your luggage or purse on the floor of a carpeted hotel or other place you’re staying at temporarily.
Eliminate Other Inhabitants
If you have birds or bats living near your home, they could be harboring bed bugs or other insects. Eliminating these inhabitants can prevent bed bugs from entering your home.
Beware of Secondhand Clothing or Bedding
If you purchase or receive secondhand clothing or bedding, inspect it thoroughly for the reddish-brown stain of bed bugs. Of course, you’ll want to thoroughly wash any second-hand clothing or bedding before you use it.
By knowing the signs and symptoms of bed bugs, you can help stop their spread and ensure a good night’s sleep.
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