There are various bed bug symptoms. Some of them are obvious, like bites or seeing bed bugs in your home. Others are less obviously, such as the odor and stains that bed bugs can leave. We’ve described some of these common symptoms of bed bugs below to help you identify whether you have bed bugs or not:
photo credit: Richard ThomasBites – Many people who are bitten by bed bugs see evidence of those bites, although some lucky people are not affected by the bites and therefore don’t see any bites. If you do see bites, the bites usually manifest itself as small bumps (sometimes flat and sometimes raised), and many people experience redness, swelling and itchiness on the affected areas. Common areas to find these bites are on your face, neck, arms and hands, although bites on other body parts are also normal. Bed bug bites are similar to many other insect bites or skin allergies so it’s often difficult to distinguish between them. There are 2 signs that may indicate a bite is from a bed bug rather than another insect (although these are definitely not fail-proof!): (1) three bites in a straight line (often known as breakfast, dinner, and lunch) and (2) two puncture marks on the skin (one puncture to inject the numbing agent and one puncture to suck up your blood). To find out more about bed bug bites, read our Bed Bug Bites page, and if you’re interested in how to treat the bites, read the Bed Bug Bites Treatment page.
- Seeing Bed Bugs – Of course, if you see bed bugs, you probably have a large infestation as it’s rare to be able to spot them crawling around. There are monitors that you can purchase to help catch bed bugs. These monitors mimic human breathing to draw bed bugs to them. Other methods of catching bed bugs are also available, and these include spreading Vaseline or attaching double-sided tape to the bottom of your furniture.
- Stains – Bed bugs leave excrement and exoskeletons, which you can find in the creases of your bed sheets or mattresses/box springs. You can usually see their excrement as reddish or brownish stains on your mattress or bedroom furniture. But note that these stains may be difficult to spot if you don’t have a large infestation. The exoskeletons that they shed may be even harder to spot as they’re very small and will usually disintegrate if you crush it.
- Sweet Odor – Bed bugs emit a sweet musty smell that you might be able to detect in your room if you have bed bugs. However, you’re unlikely to notice the smell unless you have a large infestation.
Unfortunately, although there are many possible symptoms of having a bed bug infestation, no particular symptom will tell you if you definitely have bed bugs except for actually seeing the bed bugs. I strongly encourage you to make sure that you have bed bugs before you undertake a thorough treatment regime, because you can’t tell what kind of treatment is successful unless you can accurately determine whether or not you still have bed bugs. I’ve put up a whole post on bed bugs signs, but if you really want to know, consider hiring a sniffer dog or getting a device such as the Climbup Detector.