Could we have bed bugs?
July 20, 2008 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Could we have bed bugs?

My wife has a bug bite on her that looks like a bed bug bite. It's two bumps in a red area with splotches of red (possibly from scratching).
It's turning purple.
So, could we have bed bugs? She didn't find any on our mattress, hasn't been bitten since she found this one a couple of days ago, and I wasn't bitten at all...
What else could cause this characteristic type of bite?

Let me mention that we live in Hoboken which is just across the river from NYC which is well known for bed-bugs.
posted by spacefire to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
It could be bedbugs. But if it only happens once and never happens again, then there's no problem, right? So it might be too early to get worried about it.

The turning purple part isn't typical, however.

Has she been out in the woods lately?
posted by winston at 6:20 PM on July 20, 2008

Check your sheets for tiny red blood spots, which come from bed bugs getting squished when you shift in bed at night.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:32 PM on July 20, 2008

There's some useful info in this NY Times piece.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:37 PM on July 20, 2008

Often, women are bitten first, so you not being bitten doesn't necessarily mean anything.
posted by Airhen at 7:18 PM on July 20, 2008

Fleas? I thought I had bedbugs, but I'm pretty sure it was squirrel fleas. If that makes you feel any better.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:28 PM on July 20, 2008

In my unfortunate experience, bedbugs bite in a row leaving two to four distinct bumps. This is because bedbugs are crawlers (can't fly) and when one spot drys up they just take a few steps to a new one. But I think this same sort of thing can happen with common spider bites which hardly pose the infestation/nuisance threat of bedbugs.

Here's a helpful brochure about bedbugs from an organization in Boston.
posted by jk252b at 8:36 PM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Once we were worried about this (we lived in Brooklyn). After a lot of research and carefully inspecting our mattress, we tried this: 1. we moved the bed away from the wall and put a perimeter of carpet/rug tape around the bed and around the bottom of the bedposts. The reason being that the bed bugs are supposed to get stuck in this carpet tape as they try to crawl into your bed. Often they don't live in your bed but in the wall near your bed. However, if you have a wooden or fabric covered bed frame they could be nesting in that. 2. Sleep with a flashlight and sometime between 2 and 4 am (their prime feeding time), wake up and with as little motion as possible lift the bedcovers and turn on the flash light. If you have them you should them then.

After a week of this and only catch a cockroach on our carpet tape we concluded we didn't have bed bugs. Later we noticed something buzzing around our bedroom. It seemed to be some kind of biting fly.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 8:46 PM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's the season for biting insects, so I wouldn't be too hasty to blame bed bugs when it could be anything else, especially anything that flies. Bed bug bites do, unfortunately, look like most other bites, but can often appear in lines of three or four bites. If you see that frequently, be concerned. Unless you only had, say, a single bed bug, you'd expect to get more bites than you've seen, too. I suppose that some people don't react to them, but a pair of bites in several days sounds more like a mosquito or fly than anything else, especially if the bites are somewhere that'd be exposed.
posted by Schismatic at 9:01 PM on July 20, 2008

Yeah, bedbugs are a very specific sort of nasty. If all you've found are a couple bug bites, it could literally be anything. "looks like a bedbug bite" doesn't really mean anything - just do a google image search on bedbug bites, and you'll see that they take many different forms.

I'd say keep an eye on your bed and sheets for evidence. Check every couple days or so. If you start to see more bites, call an exterminator. Otherwise, no need to panic.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:32 PM on July 20, 2008

FYI, not everyone is allergic to bed bug bites so both of you could be bitten but only one of you could display obvious bite marks/swelling.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:23 AM on July 21, 2008

I'd inspect the bed frame carefully, but it could be anything. I got a big purple mark once from what turned out to be a spider bite.
posted by meta_eli at 5:29 AM on July 21, 2008

I agree with meta_eli that it could be a spider bite. She should wash and clean it carefully, and apply neosporin or something along those lines. She should go to a doctor immediately if it looks like it is getting infected, or if it starts to get swollen, or feels hot. I got cellulitis from a spider bite and that can be very serious and requires antibiotics. She should be careful if it looks purple as that could be the start of cellulitis (the link I posted above includes photos of what that can look like). If it seems like she might be getting cellulitis, then she needs to go to a doctor ASAP, as in right away, don't wait till tomorrow.
posted by gudrun at 6:42 AM on July 21, 2008

I Just went through something similar with my girlfriend. She got bit a few times, I never did. We compared bug bite photos online and checked the sheets and under the mattress, even moving the bed out from the wall for a few nights.

A few days later I killed a very plump and bloody mosquito and the problems stopped.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:58 AM on July 21, 2008

If it doesn't happen again, and you don't see any bugs or stains on the mattress (blood stains or dark brown blotchiness around the tufts), I would say it's probably not bed bugs. A bed bug bite looks no different from a mosquito bite, or any other type of bug bite, really. Since it's summertime I'd assume it was a spider or mosquito unless and until it happens again. Definitely be vigilant, but I wouldn't do anything drastic yet.
posted by lampoil at 8:17 AM on July 21, 2008

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