Despite their role in an adorable bedtime proverb, bedbugs are pesky little pests. They sneak into your bed, your furniture, even your carpet, and while you sleep or watch TV, they bite you. The next morning, you’re left wondering why you’re red and itchy.

Bedbugs are small, flat, oval-shaped insects. They do not have wings and rely on humans to carry them from one place to the next. Bedbugs are a reddish-brown color and can be between 1 and 7 millimeters.

They feed on blood from humans or animals, and they’re most active at night, feeding on their victims while they sleep.

Some people will not experience a reaction to a bedbug bite at all. Those that do experience symptoms of a bite are likely to experience one or more of the following:

  • a bite with a red, swollen area and a dark red center
  • bites in a line or grouped together in a small area
  • blisters or hives at the bite site

Bites can happen anywhere on the body. Most commonly they occur on areas of skin that are exposed while sleeping, such as the face, arms, legs, and hands.

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Bedbug bites don’t always appear immediately after you’re bitten. They sometimes take a few days to begin causing symptoms.

It should also be noted that bedbugs don’t come out to feed every single night. In fact, they can go several days without eating. It may take a few weeks to notice that your bites are part of a larger pattern.

Bedbug bites are often very itchy. You may experience a burning sensation on the skin several days after you’ve been bitten. You won’t feel the bugs bite you because they excrete a tiny amount of anesthesia into your body before they bite.

If you scratch the bite, you may cause a secondary infection that can lead to swelling and bleeding.

Unless you know you have a bedbug infestation or that you slept in an infested bed, you may not know to consider bedbugs as a possible cause of your mysterious bites.

If you react to their bites, they may become slightly swollen with an itchy, irritating red center. When this happens, they visually resemble mosquito or flea bites in their earliest stages. However, bedbug bites can appear in small groupings or in a straight line.

Mosquito bites are more sporadic. Flea bites remain very small and are typically located on your legs or ankles.

Good news: Unlike many other biting bugs, bedbugs do not transmit diseases when they bite you.

The biggest problem bedbug bites pose is that they are likely to cause a skin infection around the bite site as a result of excessive itching and scratching. You may also be more likely to experience insomnia as a result of worrying that you will be bitten again.

If you are allergic to a bedbug’s bite, you may experience more dramatic symptoms. The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction to a bedbug bite include engorged bite marks, painful swelling and burning at the bite site, and in rare cases, an anaphylactic response.

If you suspect that you have bedbug bites, it’s important to look into the matter. Waiting for more bites prolongs the problem. Bedbugs were once rare, but in recent years, there’s been a surge in population.

Bedbugs are most common in facilities that have a lot of people, a lot of turnover, and close quarters. However, they can also come into your home if brought there. Listed below are the places that most commonly have bedbugs:

  • hotels
  • hospitals
  • homeless shelters
  • military barracks
  • college dorms
  • apartment complexes
  • business offices

Bedbugs like to hide where you sleep. If you find bites and suspect bedbugs, search around for them. You may not see the bugs themselves, but you might see tiny black dots (their droppings) or red smears, signs they’ve been biting you.

Most common hiding sites for bedbugs in your home:

  • bed frame
  • headboard
  • mattress
  • box springs
  • pillows
  • bed skirts
  • in the crevices and seams of furniture
  • in carpeting at baseboards or under furniture
  • in curtains or other fabrics

Bedbugs are more annoying than they are dangerous or deadly. The symptoms of a bite typically disappear in one to two weeks. Use an anti-itch cream to keep yourself from itching the bite.

Take an antihistamine to help reduce the itching and burning. Ice packs can help numb the skin and reduce your urge to scratch. Use an antiseptic cream or lotion if you get an infection.

If you find bedbugs in your home, call your landlord or pest control company to have your home treated. Getting rid of bedbugs yourself is hard, and you may prolong infestation if you do not get professional treatment.

Bedbugs can hide for several months without feeding, so getting a professional treatment can help you make sure you’re getting rid of the blood-sucking pests completely.