Bedbugs are small, reddish-brown parasitic insects that bite the exposed skin of sleeping humans and animals to feed on their blood. Although bedbugs aren't known to spread disease, they can cause other public health and economic issues.
About the size of an apple seed, bedbugs hide in the cracks and crevices of beds, box springs, headboards, bed frames and any other objects around a bed. The risk of encountering bedbugs increases if you spend time in places with high turnovers of nighttime guests — such as hotels, hospitals or homeless shelters.
If you have bedbugs in your home, professional extermination is recommended.
It can be difficult to distinguish bedbug bites from other insect bites or rashes. In general, the sites of bedbug bites usually are:
Some people have no reaction to bedbug bites, while others experience an allergic reaction that can include severe itching, blisters or hives.
If you experience allergic reactions or severe skin reactions to bedbug bites, see your doctor for professional treatment.
Bedbug infestations may be linked to:
Bedbug infestations usually occur around or near where people sleep. They hide in the cracks and crevices of:
They can also be found:
Bedbugs can move from one site to another by traveling on items such as clothing, luggage, furniture, boxes and bedding.
Bedbugs can crawl about as fast as a ladybug, and can easily travel between floors and rooms in hotels or apartment complexes.
Bedbugs don't care if their environment is clean or dirty. All they need is a warm host and plenty of hiding places.
Bedbugs are more common in crowded lodgings that experience high turnover in occupancy, such as:
If you suspect that you're being bitten by bedbugs, immediately inspect your home for the insects. Thoroughly examine crevices in walls, mattresses and furniture. You may need to perform your inspection at night when bedbugs are active.
Look for these signs:
The itchy red spots associated with bedbug bites usually disappear on their own within a week or two. You might speed your recovery by using:
If you develop a skin infection from scratching bedbug bites, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
Once your symptoms are treated, you must tackle the underlying infestation. This can be difficult because bedbugs hide so well and can live several months without eating. Your best bet may be to hire a professional exterminator, who may use a combination of pesticides and nonchemical treatments.
Nonchemical treatments may include:
Some professional exterminators use portable devices to raise the temperature of a room to a lethal temperature. All stages of bedbugs can be killed at 122 F (50 C). In some cases, you may have to throw out heavily infested items such as mattresses or couches.
Most bedbug bites require no medical treatment. Talk to your doctor if you experience an allergic reaction to the bites or if you develop a skin infection after scratching the bites.
You may want to prepare a list that includes:
Your doctor will carefully examine your bite sites and ask questions about the types of insects you might have been exposed to recently.
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