Bedbug Bites: Not Dangerous but Painful

Bedbug bites on woman's back
jcarillet / Getty Images

If you've seen bedbug bites in person or a photo, they can be scary—with the worst cases looking like a series of angry rashes from head to toe. Those sleeping in the same room with bedbugs will quickly find that they can add more bites to your collection every night.

Bedbug bites are itchy, ugly, and frustrating. But are they dangerous?

When bedbugs bite a person, they inject a chemical that acts as an anesthesia in the area of the bedbug's bites; as a result, you likely won't feel a thing while the bugs are feasting on blood, which explains why you can have multiple, even hundreds of bedbug bites and not wake up.

However, unlike mosquitos, bedbugs do not carry and spread diseases through their bites, so there is not the risk of getting a serious illness from being bitten. Of course, these bites are beyond annoying, and an infestation should be taken care of as soon as possible.

Varying Chemical Sensitivity

People vary in sensitivity to the chemical injected when bedbugs bite, and the amount you suffer is unique depending on your body's reaction.

Some people are very allergic to the chemical, and break out in a rash. The rash—and possibly raised welts that might appear in each spot that received bites—may last as long as a few weeks before completely clearing up.

Most people will only get the raised welts that disappear after a few days. It's important not to scratch these bites, which can expose your skin to infection and, in turn, lead to complications like scarring.

Treat the bedbug bites by washing with soap and water and then applying ice, or use a topical cream or oral antihistamine to relieve the itching. If symptoms appear like tender skin, the bite feels hot or starts oozing yellow, white or greenish goo then see a doctor for something prescription-strength.

Bedbug bites and the accompanying rash are not contagious, although you may get a lot of strange looks from people. Victims of bedbug bites report the reaction from friends and family to their appearance and their subsequent paranoia about bedbugs is the worst part of the ordeal.

Finding Bedbugs

Bedbugs do not spread disease by their bites, and you can also be assured that a bedbug infestation, whether in your house or a hotel, is not caused by dirt. Bedbugs can live in perfectly clean environments, as long as they have a live host to bite.

Bedbug bites usually happen in groups of three, and you'll rarely find a single bite. However, since bites look different on everyone, it's generally hard to pinpoint a bug bite as from a bedbug unless you see groups of bites.

If you're staying in a hotel or concerned that there might be a bedbug in your house because you've woken up with several bites on your body, check your bites against some images online then check your bedding for small, red bugs.

The bugs may be found in a bed—look for reddish or black streaks on sheets—but they can also live in carpets, floorboards, wallpaper, and within the tiny cracks and crevices throughout a room.

If found when traveling, change rooms immediately. At home, it is best to call in a professional exterminator. 

Was this page helpful?