Painful or itchy marks on your skin may be bug bites, a rash, or a skin condition. You can check your bed and bedding for signs of bedbugs or contact a doctor for a diagnosis.

If you have red and itchy spots on your skin, you may worry you’re dealing with bedbugs. But the bites can be difficult to identify unless you find evidence of the insects in your home. They can resemble other insect bites or several skin conditions.

No test can specifically diagnose a bedbug bite, but a doctor may be able to help you identify them by ruling out other conditions like hives or a fungal infection.

Keep reading to learn how to identify a bedbug bite and tell them apart from other insect bites and skin conditions.

A note on skin color

Bug bites and rashes can look different on different skin types. Generally speaking, they are pink or purple on skin of color and red on lighter skin.

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You can have bedbug bites even if you do not see the bedbugs or feel their bites. But you may be able to find signs of bedbug infestation. Bedbug bites can also look similar to other bug bites.

Most bedbugs that bite humans are reddish-brown with a flat, oval-shaped body. They’re usually about 1 to 7 millimeters (mm) long, have six legs and don’t have visible wings.

Identifying bed bug bites on humans

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Bedbug bites generally run in a line on exposed parts of the body, such as the face, arms, hands, or neck. Getty Images.
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Bedbug bites on the legs. Iurii Stepanov/Shutterstock

Bedbug bites tend to look similar to other insect bites. The bites are very itchy and smaller than a quarter-inch across. In lighter skin, the bites usually appear red. On skin of color, they can look faint-pink or purplish and turn deep brown the longer they remain on the skin.

They can also develop into large weals (itchy, fluid-filled bumps) larger than 2 inches, especially if you are allergic to them.

Bedbug bites typically occur on parts of your body that are exposed while you sleep. This includes the following:

  • face
  • neck
  • arms
  • hands
  • feet

Bite marks often appear in the “breakfast, lunch, dinner” pattern — a line or zigzag of three or more bites.

How bedbugs infest a space

Bedbugs usually infest the area around where people sleep. They are commonly found in:

  • hotels
  • shelters
  • cruise ships
  • busses
  • trains
  • offices
  • cinemas

Traveling increases the risk of bedbug infestation, as you can unintentionally carry them home in your luggage. They tend to hide within 8 feet of where people sleep.

The easiest way to know that your bites are from bedbugs is to find evidence of them in your home. Signs of bedbugs include:

  • reddish or rust-colored stains on your sheets or mattress from crushed bugs
  • tiny dark spots from bug feces
  • specks of blood on your bed or upholstery
  • finding eggs that are about 1 millimeter in size
  • shed exoskeletons
  • a sweet and musty odor

Where bedbugs hide

Bedbugs are most active at night when they feed. During the day, they like to hide in tight crevices. Some places they commonly hide include:

  • in seams of chairs and couches
  • between cushions and in the folds of curtains
  • around the edges of drawers
  • in electrical outlets
  • under loose wallpaper
  • at the corner of the wall and ceiling
  • in small cracks in your bed or furniture

When to call a doctor

If you notice your bites after traveling, searching for bedbugs might be impossible. In this case, you may want to call a doctor. A doctor may be able to identify bites visually or rule out other potential skin conditions.

It’s also a good idea to contact a doctor if:

  • you develop a fever
  • your bites become swollen
  • your bites blister over

Bedbug bites can closely resemble several other types of bug bites. The following bugs are known to be active at night.


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A brown widow spider bite can look similar to other spider bites, with the local skin reaction usually limited to redness and swelling. Systemic symptoms are often noticeable and can include muscle spasms, nausea, and headache, among others. Photo:
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A brown recluse spider bite in the early stage. Tannbreww4828, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many types of spiders are more active at night than during the day. Getting bitten by a spider in your sleep is fairly uncommon. Spiders generally bite only when they feel threatened.

Most types of spiders have toxic venom. The majority don’t have strong enough venom to cause serious harm to humans and only cause minor injury.

Spider bites may cause the following symptoms:

Unlike bedbugs, spiders don’t feed on blood. Spider bites are more likely to be isolated, while bedbug bites are often clustered together.


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Mosquito bites cause raised, itchy welts. They typically don’t appear in a line or pattern. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mosquitos use their long tube-like mouth to penetrate your skin. Many types of mosquitos are more active at dusk and night than during the day.

Although mosquito bites usually aren’t serious, mosquitos can carry deadly diseases like:

Mosquito bites leave an itchy welt that looks like a pimple. It usually goes away in a few days.

Although mosquito and bedbug bites can look similar, mosquito bites are more likely to be in a random pattern and are larger in size than bedbug bites. Bedbug bites are more likely to be in a straight line or zigzag.


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Mite bites are typically small. Photography courtesy of J. Pledger/CDC
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An oak mite bite generally doesn’t have specific traits of identification. Oak mites are microscopic, so they can’t be seen by the naked eye. Getty Images.

Mites are small insect-like critters that often live on animals like birds and rodents. Mite bite symptoms can vary but generally include:

  • a rash
  • hard or inflamed bumps that are red on light skin or dark purple or brown on skin of color
  • itchiness
  • swollen skin

Mite bites are tiny and don’t create a noticeable puncture like most other bug bites.


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Flea bites tend to occur on the feet, ankles, or lower leg. Source: Getty Images.

Your chances of getting bit by a flea are greater if you have pets or sleep with your pets in the bed.

People often mistake flea bites for bedbug bites. Both types of bites are usually itchy and are found in lines or clusters. Fleas typically target your:

  • feet
  • legs
  • armpits
  • elbows
  • knees

If you notice bites on your upper body or around your face, they’re more likely to be bedbug bites.

Some common insects that bite people include:

  • Lice: These insects typically live on the hair on your head and bite your scalp. Symptoms of lice bites include extreme itchiness and the presence of sores. You may also find lice eggs, or nits, on individual hair strands.
  • Scabies: These are a small type of mite that spread by sharing clothing or bedding. Scabies generally cause a rash and intense itching that worsens in the evening.
  • Ticks: Ticks tend to bite warm and moist parts of your body, like your armpits or groin. Ticks can remain on your skin for more than a week after biting.
  • Chiggers. Chiggers are members of the arachnid family. They live in tall weeds and grass, berry patches, and wooded areas. Only the larvae bite humans. They tend to choose warm, moist areas of the body. When the chigger falls off, you are left with bumps that appear reddish on lighter skin and pink or purple on darker skin. You may notice a bright red dot in the center. The bumps may look like welts, blisters, pimples, or hives.

Several types of skin conditions can resemble bedbug bites.


Hives are red bumps or welts that form on your skin due to an allergic reaction. The bumps are usually raised and extremely itchy. They can be red, purplish, or skin-colored.

If the marks on your skin get larger or spread to another part of your body quickly, they may be hives.

Fungal infection

Fungal infections usually target the moist parts of the body like:

  • your feet
  • your genitals
  • under your breasts

A fungal infection can cause an allergic reaction that leads to an itchy and bumpy rash on another part of your body.


Miliaria, more commonly known as heat rash, is a common skin condition caused by inflammation or blockage of a sweat duct.

It’s most common in newborn babies and people living in hot, tropical climates. Symptoms can vary but often include itchy bumps that appear clear, white, or red.

Dermatitis herpetiformis

Dermatitis hepetiformis is a rare autoimmune skin condition. It causes itchy blisters and redness on lighter skin and purplish coloring on skin of color.

The majority of people with dermatitis also have celiac disease.

The condition is most common on your:

  • knees
  • elbows
  • buttocks
  • scalp
  • lower back

Bedbug bites can look similar to other insect bites or skin conditions. The best way to know if you’re dealing with bedbugs is to look for evidence of the bugs in your home.

If you think your bites may be from bedbugs but can’t find any evidence of them in your home, you may want to talk with a doctor.