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One of the worst things that can arise is you waking up and finding bites on your body. Suddenly all your fears of bed bugs return as you rack your brain for what bed bug symptoms are! Do you have bed bugs or not? How can you tell?
Well, let me help in this article – I’m going to list and describe in detail a bunch of the telltale signs that you are dealing with bed bugs so that you can accurately determine whether you need to start a treatment plan to kill them or go back to sleep. This can be a stressful situation, so try to stay calm and read the list of bed bug signs objectively. I’ve known many people to think they have bed bugs based on 1 or 2 bites and to then go overboard and start buying sprays and throwing their stuff away.
While you definitely want to start getting rid of bed bugs as soon as you have them, you also need to accurately determine whether you have bed bugs or not! So, let’s begin.
First off, 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. Below are some of these common symptoms of bed bugs below to help you identify whether you have bed bugs or not.
If you’re reading this page wondering if you have bed bugs, then I’m betting you’ve spotted some bites…
However, just seeing bites is not a very reliable indicator of bed bugs (see below for ways bed bug bites are different to other insect bites).
Conversely, not seeing bites is also not a very reliable indicator that you don’t have bed bugs! Many people often wonder why they’re bitten to death by these critters while their partner or friend remains bite-free. Do they have some magical repellent properties? No…the fact is that while many people who are bitten by bed bugs see evidence of those bites, some lucky people are not affected by the bites and therefore don’t see any bites.
While you might think those people who don’t react to bed bug bites are seriously lucky, the fact is that for them, a bed bug infestation is much harder to catch. Often, they’ll have had bed bugs multiplying in their home and throughout their mattress and bed for weeks before they even notice (through one of the other bed bugs symptoms listed here). When they do notice finally, usually they’ll have to do a ton more work and spend a lot more money (e.g., in hiring a professional exterminator) to get rid of the infestation.
What do bed bug bites look like?
If you do see bed bug bites on your skin, you’ll find that they typically manifest themselves as small bumps (sometimes flat and sometimes raised). Many people experience redness, swelling and itchiness around the affected areas.
Where can you find the bed bug bites?
Common areas to find these bites are on your face, neck, arms and hands, although bites on other body parts are also normal.
How similar are bed bug bites to other insect bites?
Unfortunately, bed bug bites are similar to many other insect bites (or even to skin allergies!) so it’s often difficult to distinguish between them. However, there are 2 signs that may help you identify whether you have bed bug bites rather than bites from another insect (although these signs are definitely not fail-proof!). (In fact, even doctors and those who deal with bed bugs for a living have trouble distinguishing bed bug bites by sight, so please do not rely on just this one symptom along to reach a diagnosis.)
2 ways to distinguish bed bug bites from other insect bites:
(1) Bed bugs usually appear as three bites in a fairly straight line (this is often known as the breakfast, lunch, and dinner bites).
(2) Two puncture marks on the skin (one puncture to inject the numbing agent and one puncture to suck up your blood).
The photo below shows you how bed bug bites can look.
photo credit: Richard Thomas
Of course, seeing just 1 bed bug by itself could mean that you brought home one lone insect by accident (through bumping into a traveler, your bags or clothes touching something or someone that was infected). And if it was a male bed bug, then you won’t have anything to worry about, although since it’s pretty much impossible to know, I would suggest doing a treatment plan just in case.
However, if you do see bed bugs in your home, then you probably have a large infestation as it’s rare to be able to spot them crawling around.
Can you catch bed bugs to determine whether you have them?
Yes, you can definitely set traps to catch bed bugs (especially near your bed or where you sleep). There are special bed bug 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. I’ve also seen some plastic devices that can be attached to your bed that can help catch them.
Clearly, if you catch bed bugs, then it’s a very good sign that you have an infestation that you need to deal with immediately.
Looking for stains on your sheets and mattresses is something you should do whenever you go into a new hotel room. This check takes just 1 minute and can save you a ton of money and trouble. In particular, check the corners of the mattress – if you see any sorts of reddish or brownish stains, let the management know immediately.
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. This is another easy sign to look for when you first enter a new hotel room.
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. As I cautioned above, many people find a few bites in the morning and suddenly become convinced they have bed bugs. They then start washing all their clothes, throwing away their bed sheets, buying pointless bed bug sprays, and generally freaking out for no reason. Often they end up finding that it was an allergy or else mosquito bites.
Another common story I hear over and over again is when people are convinced they have bed bugs (because they find a few bites during the night), then they wash their clothes and vacuumed their place, and no more bites. So, they go around telling everyone that they had bed bugs but got rid of them through just doing laundry and vacuuming. This is the sort of myth that gets spread that doesn’t help those people who actually suffer from bed bugs.
So, I strongly encourage you to make sure that you have bed bugs before you undertake a thorough treatment regime, because you can’t tell if the treatment was successful unless you can accurately determine whether or not you have bed bugs.
I’ve put up a whole post on bed bugs signs, but if you really want to know whether you have bed bugs or not, consider hiring a sniffer dog or getting a device such as the Climbup Detector to catch a bed bug.
The Best Natural Bedbug Spray – Nontoxic and Effective
What Kills Bed Bugs?
Bed Bugs Treatment Plan
Bed Bugs Home Remedy
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