Do Bed Bugs Itch and Can You Feel Them Crawling on You?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on December 23, 2017
    Last Updated: December 23, 2020

With all the news about bed bug infestations popping up everywhere, you may be justifiably paranoid about whether these tiny invaders have made it into your home, school, or workplace. They could be lurking anywhere, and yes, they are extremely tiny, so how do you know if you have them?

Can you feel bed bugs? Do bed bugs itch? That’s exactly what you’ll find out in this article.

This is the place to learn whether you can feel bed bugs crawling on you. You’ll get information about whether bed bugs and their bites cause you to feel itchy. You’ll also get helpful tips for dealing with skin reactions from bed bugs.

Check out what I’ve learned from dealing with these pests below.

Can You Feel Bed Bugs Crawling On You?

Bed bugs have survived for many, many years by being elusive. Hiding is what they do best, and they tend to stay out of sight, despite living in close quarters with people. In fact, their main defense mechanism is to only come out to feed when humans are unlikely to be aware of them.

Bed bugs are not nocturnal, per se, though they tend do to come out at night. They actually come out whenever they think they can get a safe meal, and that’s usually when their hosts (us) are sleeping.

Additionally, these insects are quite tiny. They’re only about the size of a grain of an apple seed or a lentil.

Basically, they are little ninjas that specialize in sneaking onto your body when you won’t notice them. You may not be asleep when they crawl on you. It could be when you’re in class concentrating on learning, when you’re sitting in your office chair in front of your computer at work, or when you’re relaxing on the couch in the evening.

The bottom line is you are extremely unlikely to feel it when bed bugs crawl on you.

Bed bugs and clothes

Yes, the light-footed bed bug can crawl on you without you noticing. That being said, you don’t need to worry about bed bugs living on your body or in your hair. Also, you don’t need to worry about them hiding in the clothes you are wearing.

Bed bugs can hitch a ride with people, but usually they crawl into a shoe, bag, or pocket while you’re traveling from one place to another. They do not live on their hosts, however, and will find a place to get off you as soon as you settle in somewhere else. They are not likely to feed on you while you are in motion.

Bed bugs in hotels

The most likely way that bed bugs get into clothes is in your luggage. If you’re staying at a hotel, or even transporting your suitcase or bag in an infested vehicle, the bugs may crawl inside. To prevent this from happening, don’t lay your luggage on the bed when you arrive in a hotel room.

Instead, put your luggage as far from the bed as possible, preferably in the bathroom (where bed bugs are unlikely to hang out). Then, perform a thorough inspection of your hotel room, especially the bed area, but also nearby furniture and decor, looking for signs of bed bug activity like molted skins and black specks of waste. You probably won’t see any bed bugs moving around unless you stumble upon their hiding spot (they may have several).

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Wherever you may pick up bed bugs, it is possible for them to continue living in clothes at your house. It’s not a favorite hiding place, but it is possible if you leave cluttered piles of clothing on the floor.

Bed bugs do not care whether your home is clean or dirty; they will form a colony in anyone’s home, but you do give them more hiding places if your home is not tidy. That, of course, makes it easier for them to establish colonies and more difficult for you to get rid of them.

Do Bed Bugs Make You Itch?

If you’re wondering whether the feeling of bed bugs crawling on your skin makes you itch, the answer is no. Just having a bed bug on you will not make you itch, unless you notice it and have a psychological reaction. In that case, it’s just your mind tricking you into thinking that your skin itches.

As mentioned, bed bugs are so tiny, that it’s unlikely you would feel them moving on your skin at all.

If you’re extremely itchy all of the time and are worried you have bed bugs crawling over you, you may have another problem, such as scabies.

My Favorite Bed Bug Treatment Products

While getting rid of bed bugs without buying any additional products can be done with very small infestations, I believe that by purchasing just a few additional products, you’ll be so much better equipped, and will be able to stamp out an infestation before it gets worse. Below is my list of essential products.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer Spray Treatment, 24oz Kills Bed Bugs on Contact with Residual Protection, Natural & Non-Toxic, Child & Pet Safe. Recommended for Home, Mattresses & Furniture.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer Spray Treatment, 24oz Kills Bed Bugs on Contact with Residual Protection, Natural & Non-Toxic, Child & Pet Safe. Recommended for Home, Mattresses & Furniture.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer – One of the best bed bug sprays that I’ve yet to personally use. Not only does it have a reported 100% kill rate against live bed bugs in controlled tests, but it’s also child and pet friendly. This product can be used against both light and heavy infestations, and most importantly, it’s laboratory tested and completely chemical-free.

Studies conducted using the treatment showed an impressive kill rate of 83% within just 30 minutes after application, and 98% within the first four hours, leading on to an eventual mortality rate of 100% over time.

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover

SureGuard Mattress Encasement – It’s thick, durable, and is certain to help stop bed bugs of all sizes from getting to, or from, your mattress.

The protector prevents bed bug transportation by using SureSeal technology, and by using an extremely fine zipper that not even bed bug nymphs can impregnate.

Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

In my experience, the best and most effective bed bug traps are usually the ones that are designed to work in the simplest of ways. I’ve used the Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps extensively and I find they do the job better than any other trap I’ve tried. You also get a very generous 8 interceptors per pack.

Simply place them directly underneath the bed/table/chair legs you’re trying to protect, and watch the bed bugs fall into the traps time and time again with no chance of escape.

ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service

ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service

ZapBugg Bed Bug Heater – Specially designed to kill all stages in the bed bug life cycle, including eggs, without the need to purchase expensive pest control heat treatment solutions.

Simply place infested items into the ZappBug heater and it will automatically reach the all-important bed bug killing temperature, so you can be sure the items will come out free from all life stages of bed bug once the process is complete.

Large and small versions are also available.

Do Bed Bug Bites Make You Itch?

Now, if you’re talking about bed bug bites, that’s a different matter. The bite of a bed bug can most certainly make you itch. Their bites affect everyone differently though. Often, it takes many days after the initial bite before the bite marks show up and start itching. For some people, the bites never itch, or even show up – and that makes it even more difficult to recognize the presence of bed bugs.

Bed bug bite itchiness tends to increase with continued exposure to the pests. That means you may not notice the first time you are bitten, but subsequent feeding sessions from the bugs get itchier and itchier. The bites look a lot like mosquito bites and often rise into red welts.

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs actually inject an anesthetic into bite wounds, and that is why they don’t itch at first. It takes a while for the anesthetic to wear off and you begin to feel the itchiness.

Ways To Stop Your Skin From Itching

Scratching bed bug bites is absolutely the worst thing you can do with them. If you scratch them, the skin becomes irritated and will likely itch even more. Additionally, you create tiny cuts in your skin when you scratch, and that can lead to an infection. If your skin gets infected, you’ll suffer even more than just being itchy (and you could need a trip to the doctor for antibiotics).

The first thing you should do when you notice the bites is to wash them with soap and water. Keep them clean every day. This will help them to heal faster and prevent infection.

For most people, the irritating itching can be relieved with standard over the counter itch treatments. You can use a baking soda paste or topical hydrocortisone ointment. Applying a paste made from aspirin and water can also help relieve some of the inflammation in the bite marks. Calamine lotion and aloe vera gel are other soothing options for itch relief.

If you are allergic to bed bug bites, then you may develop an additional allergic reaction. This could cause your skin to break out in a rash and get itchier, even in places where you were not bitten. If this happens, you’ll want to take an oral antihistamine and continue topical treatments.

Bed Bug Bites

In severe allergic reactions, seek medical treatment. That includes symptoms such as difficulty breathing, change in heartbeat patterns, a swollen tongue, fever, or blisters on the skin.

If you have trouble with not scratching the itch, try preventing methods, like covering the bites with bandages or wearing gloves.

Another factor to consider is how often you will be bitten. Bed bugs do not feed just once and then leave you alone. If they are in your home, you are going to continue getting bitten. That means that until you get the infestation under control, you may need to see a dermatologist to help with repeated attacks on your skin.


There’s your answer to whether bed bugs itch. You won’t feel them crawling on you, though your skin may crawl at the thought of them. Their bites definitely can cause an intensely annoying itch, though. Just treat the bites as you would other skin irritations, and keep your hands off them.