Bedbugs

ExitCare ImageBedbugs are tiny bugs that live in and around beds. During the day, they hide in mattresses and other places near beds. They come out at night and bite people lying in bed. They need blood to live and grow. Bedbugs can be found in beds anywhere. Usually, they are found in places where many people come and go (hotels, shelters, hospitals). It does not matter whether the place is dirty or clean.

Getting bitten by bedbugs rarely causes a medical problem. The biggest problem can be getting rid of them.  This often takes the work of a pest control expert.

CAUSES

  • Less use of pesticides. Bedbugs were common before the 1950s. Then, strong pesticides such as DDT nearly wiped them out. Today, these pesticides are not used because they harm the environment and can cause health problems.

  • More travel. Besides mattresses, bedbugs can also live in clothing and luggage. They can come along as people travel from place to place. Bedbugs are more common in certain parts of the world. When people travel to those areas, the bugs can come home with them.

  • Presence of birds and bats. Bedbugs often infest birds and bats. If you have these animals in or near your home, bedbugs may infest your house, too.

SYMPTOMS

It does not hurt to be bitten by a bedbug. You will probably not wake up when you are bitten. Bedbugs usually bite areas of the skin that are not covered. Symptoms may show when you wake up, or they may take a day or more to show up. Symptoms may include:

  • Small red bumps on the skin. These might be lined up in a row or clustered in a group.

  • A darker red dot in the middle of red bumps.

  • Blisters on the skin. There may be swelling and very bad itching. These may be signs of an allergic reaction. This does not happen often.

DIAGNOSIS

Bedbug bites might look and feel like other types of insect bites. The bugs do not stay on the body like ticks or lice. They bite, drop off, and crawl away to hide. Your caregiver will probably:

  • Ask about your symptoms.

  • Ask about your recent activities and travel.

  • Check your skin for bedbug bites.

  • Ask you to check at home for signs of bedbugs. You should look for:

  • Spots or stains on the bed or nearby. This could be from bedbugs that were crushed or from their eggs or waste.

  • Bedbugs themselves. They are reddish-brown, oval, and flat. They do not fly. They are about the size of an apple seed.

  • Places to look for bedbugs include:

  • Beds. Check mattresses, headboards, box springs, and bed frames.

  • On drapes and curtains near the bed.

  • Under carpeting in the bedroom.

  • Behind electrical outlets.

  • Behind any wallpaper that is peeling.

  • Inside luggage.

TREATMENT

Most bedbug bites do not need treatment. They usually go away on their own in a few days. The bites are not dangerous. However, treatment may be needed if you have scratched so much that your skin has become infected. You may also need treatment if you are allergic to bedbug bites. Treatment options include:

  • A drug that stops swelling and itching (corticosteroid). Usually, a cream is rubbed on the skin. If you have a bad rash, you may be given a corticosteroid pill.

  • Oral antihistamines. These are pills to help control itching.

  • Antibiotic medicines. An antibiotic may be prescribed for infected skin.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Take any medicine prescribed by your caregiver for your bites. Follow the directions carefully.

  • Consider wearing pajamas with long sleeves and pant legs.

  • Your bedroom may need to be treated. A pest control expert should make sure the bedbugs are gone. You may need to throw away mattresses or luggage. Ask the pest control expert what you can do to keep the bedbugs from coming back. Common suggestions include:

  • Putting a plastic cover over your mattress.

  • Washing and drying your clothes and bedding in hot water and a hot dryer. The temperature should be hotter than 120° F (48.9° C). Bedbugs are killed by high temperatures.

  • Vacuuming carefully all around your bed. Vacuum in all cracks and crevices where the bugs might hide. Do this often.

  • Carefully checking all used furniture, bedding, or clothes that you bring into your house.

  • Eliminating bird nests and bat roosts.

  • If you get bedbug bites when traveling, check all your possessions carefully before bringing them into your house. If you find any bugs on clothes or in your luggage, consider throwing those items away.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have red bug bites that keep coming back.

  • You have red bug bites that itch badly.

  • You have bug bites that cause a skin rash.

  • You have scratch marks that are red and sore.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

You have a fever.