Here’s how to know if you have bed bugs, plus an easy treatment for itchy bed bug bites. The most common sign of bed bugs is bites on your body, which cause itchy welts and often appear in a zigzag pattern.
I thought getting rid of bed bugs involved sprays with toxic chemicals, so I was happy to find an easy, homemade, nontoxic bed bug trap on the University of Florida’s website. The bed bug trap will also work on dog or cat beds, and won’t harm your pet’s health.
How do you know if you have bed bugs?
Before you worry about getting rid of bed bugs, let’s find out if you actually have them! But I suspect you do. Why else would you search the internet for “signs of bed bugs”? I also suspect they’re disrupting your sleep. Not to mention your emotional health, because bed bugs can cause extreme anxiety and disrupt sleep.
The 4 Biggest Bed Bug Signs
Bites on your body
You don’t see bed bugs on your sheets, pillows, bedding, or mattresses because they’re itty bitty. You might mistake your bed bug bites for spider bites, mosquito bites, or even flea bites. Sometimes people even mistake bed bug bites for skin conditions such as an itchy rash, hives, or chickenpox. Below, I offer a few ways to treat bed bug bites.
Bites from bed bugs don’t usually require serious medical attention, but they can cause a great deal of anxiety and sleepless or restless nights. The next three signs of bed bugs are from dermatologists who are experienced in helping people treat bed bug bites.
If you have a large number of bed bugs, you may see the actual critters on your bedding. Most people, however, only see signs of bed bugs – such as smell and specks of blood.
The smell – a less obvious sign of bed bugs
When I was working at Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, I met my first bed bug sniffing dog. Buddy came in every three months to check out every inch of the building. He even smelled our purses, clothes, and file cabinets in the offices. If he smelled bed bugs, he’d sit down – that was the sign bed bugs were present.
You don’t necessarily need a dog to sniff out bed bugs – you might be able to smell them yourself! Bed bugs give off a sweet, musty smell because they produce chemicals to help them communicate. Not everyone will notice this sign of bed bugs, especially if they’re sniffing their own bedroom.
Go into your bedroom and take a deep sniffy smelly breath. If you notice a sweet, musty smell, you may have a heavy bed bug infestation. If you don’t smell bed bugs, you may only have a couple of critters sleeping with you. Good thing they don’t snore.
Tiny black specks – a third sign of bed bugs
The easiest to spot sign of bed bugs is specks of blood on bedding, mattresses, or upholstered furniture such as couches and headboards. Look at your blankets, sheets, and mattress pads. Check the mattress and box spring. Are there specks of blood anywhere, especially near the seams? Bed bugs! Also, if you see tiny blackish specks on the bedding, mattress, headboard, or beneath couch cushions, don’t get too close. It could be bedbug excrement.
The final sign: bed bug exoskeletons and eggs
Bed bugs have an outer shell that they shed and leave behind. Do you see shell-like remains on your bedding, mattress, mattress pad, or beneath couch cushions? Those are the exoskeletons of bed bugs.
And, after mating female bed bugs lay white, oval eggs in the cracks and crevices of mattresses and sofa cushions. So gross! These are tiny – a bed bug is only about the size of an apple seed.
Can you see bed bugs?
You won’t see many bed bugs crawling on your mattresses or bedding – they run and hide really fast. But if you do see a bed bug move, it’ll look like he’s flying or jumping because he can crawl quickly. Bed bugs cannot actually fly or jump; they can only crawl.
How to Treat Bed Bug Bites
An article on the signs of bed bugs would not be complete without treatments for bed bug bites!
Bed bugs bites can be extremely itchy, so it’s important to treat the itch to prevent scratching. Scratching can cause a skin infection. To treat bed bug bites at home, wash the bites with soap and water. This will help prevent a skin infection and help reduce itchiness.
If your bed bug bites itch, apply a corticosteroid cream to them. You can get a weak form of this medicine without a prescription on Amazon or your local drugstore – one of the best, most soothing bug bite treatments is Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream.
Stronger corticosteroids for treating serious bed bug bites require a prescription from a doctor or dermatologist. If you have bed bug bites that are infected or blistered – or if you’re experiencing an allergic skin reaction (red skin, swollen bites, or hives) – see a board-certified dermatologist for bed bug treatment.
Bedbug bites usually heal and go away within a week or two.
What say you about bed bug signs or treatments?
I welcome your comments below. I have to confess – I’ve been tossing and turning in the middle of the night lately, feeling like I have bugs crawling on me. I’m not sure if you can feel bed bugs crawling on you, or if tossing and turning is a sign of a bed bug infestation? I doubt it, because my bed bug research only uncovered the signs I discussed in this article. Maybe my dogs brought fleas to bed. Gross.
Next, I’ll write an article on building a trap for bed bugs. Stay tuned…
Source: How to check for bed bugs from the American Academy of Dermatology.