Bed bugs are tiny insects that usually live near where people sleep, regardless of the cleanliness of the room.

The bugs hide in small crevices like bed frames, mattress seams, or cracks in the walls. At night, bed bugs come out to feed on blood. When they do this, itchy bite marks can form.

While a bed bug bite usually causes itching and irritation, bed bugs do not appear to spread diseases.

 Bed bug bites also rarely need medical attention—exceptions include allergic reaction to the bite or a bed bug bite that leads to a skin infection.

What Does a Bed Bug Bite Look Like?

Some people don’t have any reaction to bed bug bites and so will not develop bite marks. Most times, though, bed bug bites appear as welts on the skin. The welts are similar in appearance to a mosquito or flea bite—slightly swollen and red.1

The bites may appear at random places on your body.1 But usually, bed bug bites appear in clusters. Each cluster will have three to five bites in a zig-zag formation.

Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

You won’t actually feel it when a bed bug bites you. Once the bite mark develops, it will typically cause itchiness and irritation.

The itchiness may make sleeping difficult. And so, insomnia—which is trouble falling or staying asleep or getting good-quality sleep—may be a symptom of bed bug bites.1

Excessive scratching may lead to a skin infection. Symptoms of a skin infection include a bed bug bite that feels tender or that oozes pus.2

Having bed bug bites might also lead to anxiety as you worry about getting bitten or the infestation.

How To Treat Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites will usually heal on their own in a week or two.

In the meantime, there are several things you can do at home to reduce the itch and prevent infections, including:12

  • Keep the area clean by washing the bites with soap and water. 
  • Apply antiseptic ointments to prevent infections.
  • Take over-the-counter antihistamines to reduce itching.
  • Apply over-the-counter corticosteroid ointments to relieve itching.
  • Avoid scratching the site.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

You should visit a healthcare provider about your bed bug bites if it seems you have developed an infection or allergic reaction. Signs you should go to a healthcare provider include:

  • Blisters
  • Bites that are tender or that have a substance oozing from them
  • Red or swollen skin
  • Hives

Your healthcare provider may recommend a prescription antihistamine for the itching or antibiotics for infections. If you’re having a severe allergic reaction, they might inject an antihistamine, corticosteroid, or epinephrine (adrenaline).

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