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Florida Dermatologist FAQ’s: How do you know if you have been bitten by bed bugs?


Bed Bugs Bites

Bedbugs are detected in two ways. The first one is the appearance of bites on the body. But these are quite similar to other insect bites and can become visible days after being bitten.

More conclusive evidence of an infestation includes finding the signs of bedbugs in the sleeping environment.

The patient will typically perform their own self-diagnosis. However, they might see a dermatology specialist because of unexplained bite marks or a skin infection due to scratching.

Dermatologists at the PH Dermatology Cancer and Laser Surgery Center receive patients from Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Brandon, Tampa, Spring Hill, Riverview, Florida, and nearby areas for advanced and innovative skin care solutions.

Self-Checks/At-Home Testing

It is hard to distinguish bedbug bites from those of fleas, mosquitoes, or other insects. A person will likely not feel bedbugs biting as they inject an anesthetic and anticoagulant upon biting.

The bite marks may develop one to 14 days after being bitten. Similar to mosquitoes, bedbug saliva can cause an allergic response in the area of the bite. Some people do not have a reaction, others have a mild one, while some can have significant inflammation.

The bite marks may be in a cluster, straight line, or a random pattern. A classic pattern is three bites in a line, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bed bugs are not picky eaters in terms of location, and any exposed skin will do. However, they will not necessarily go farther than they need to. Most bites are usually located on the hands, feet, and face.

A typical response for the initial time that a person is bitten is a red, itchy bump, which may possibly have a central blood dot. Repeated bites cause the body to respond in different ways, and the bites can form blisters or wheals.

Differential Diagnoses

Most people don’t go to see a doctor for bedbug bites. But the bites can be similar to other rashes or may develop into a skin infection from scratching. These factors may prompt a person to visit a doctor.

The patient should be prepared with a timeline of their symptoms. They should note any travel they have undertaken, any new furniture, bedding, or mattresses as well as create a list of their meds and supplements. It is also a good idea to bring images of any suspicious specs found on the furniture or bedding.

The doctor will undertake a physical examination and take the patient’s medical history. This is often sufficient to make the diagnosis and eliminate other potential causes. Some diagnoses that the doctor will consider due to the bite reactions are as follows:

Mosquito, flea, chigger, tick, or spider bites

These can appear very similar in appearance to bedbug bites. It may not be possible for a physician to identify the difference.


Scabies refers to a parasitic mite that is spread by skin-to-skin contact. It lays eggs beneath the skin, and an itchy rash occurs when the larva hatch.


Head and body lice can cause scratching, with swollen or infected scratch marks.

Other considerations include:

  • Eczema
  • Antibiotic reaction
  • Food allergy
  • Fungal skin infection
  • Hives
  • Chickenpox

Environmental Diagnosis of Bedbug Infestation

In case a person is not sure whether what they find are traces of bedbugs, they may want to engage a professional pest control specialist to determine whether or not they have bedbugs in their home and what areas might be infested.

PH Dermatology Cancer & Laser Surgery Center, led by board certified dermatologists, provides advanced dermatology treatments to patients in Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, Spring Hill, Florida and surrounding communities. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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