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Symptoms and questions on bedbugs and bites

A female has bedbug bites on her back.

Source: iStock

What are the symptoms and signs of bedbug bites?

Bedbugs bite and suck blood from humans. Bedbugs are most active at night and bite any exposed areas of skin while an individual is sleeping. The face, neck, hands, and arms are common sites for bedbug bites. The bite itself is painless and is not noticed. Small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin are the most common sign; redness, swelling, and itching commonly occur. If scratched, the bite areas can become infected. A peculiarity of bedbug bites is the tendency to find several bites lined up in a row that may appear as itchy welts after scratching. Infectious-disease specialists refer to this series of bites as the “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” sign, signifying the sequential feeding that occurs from site to site. In some people, the bites can take several days to develop. The signs may become apparent up to 14 days after the bite has occurred.

Bedbug bites may go unnoticed or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other types of rash or skin conditions, since the signs of bedbug bites are difficult to distinguish from other bites or skin conditions. Bedbugs also have glands whose secretions may leave musty odors, and they also may leave dark fecal spots on bed sheets and around places where they hide (in crevices or protected areas around the bed or anywhere in the room).

Researchers have not conclusively proven that bedbugs carry or transmit diseases. However, health researchers have suggested that bedbugs may be possible vectors of American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) in areas where this disease is endemic, but they have not conclusively proven this.

A doctor examines a patient's arm for bedbug bites.

Source: iStock

What is the treatment for bedbug bites?

Typically, no treatment is required for bedbug bites. If itching is severe or if an allergic reaction to the bites occurs, topical steroid creams or oral antihistamines may be used for symptom relief. Secondary bacterial infections that develop over heavily scratched areas may require antibiotics.

What are home remedies for bedbug bites?

Home remedies for bedbug bites include anything that relieves and controls itching, such as cool compresses, oatmeal baths, or a paste made of baking soda and water. Home remedies can also include over-the-counter medications to combat itching, such as antihistamines.

A man checks his box springs and under his mattress for bedbugs.

Source: iStock

How do I detect a bedbug infestation in my home or in a hotel?

Check to see if you can identify the rust-colored fecal stains, egg cases, and shed skins (exuviae) in crevices and cracks on or near beds. A sweet, musty odor is sometimes present. You should also look at other areas such as under wallpaper, behind picture frames, in couches and other furniture, in bedsprings and under mattresses, and even in articles of clothing. While fecal stains and skin casts suggest that bedbugs have been present, these do not confirm that the infestation is still active. Observing the bedbugs themselves is definitive confirmation that an area is infested. You may require professional assistance from a pest-control company in determining whether your home has a bedbug problem.

QUESTIONS

An exterminator sprays a bedroom for bedbugs.

Source: iStock

How do you get rid of bedbugs in your home?

Getting rid of bedbugs is not an easy process, and most cases of bedbug infestation will require bedbug control treatment by a pest control expert or exterminator. Bedbugs can survive for up to a year without feeding, so they may persist even in unoccupied rooms.

A variety of low-odor sprays, dusts, and aerosol insecticides help with bedbug control. People must apply these insecticides to all areas where the bugs are observed as well as hiding places or spaces where they may crawl. The pest control firm can help you determine if an infested mattress can be disinfected or must be discarded. Since beds cannot readily be treated with insecticides, it’s often necessary to discard infested mattresses and beds.

A pest control expert may recommend certain forms of deep-cleaning such as scrubbing infested surfaces with a stiff brush to remove eggs, steaming or heat treatment, diatomaceous earth treatments, pressurized carbon dioxide snow, dismantling bed frames and furniture, filling cracks in floors, walls, and moldings, encasing mattresses within special bags, or using a powerful vacuum on cracks and crevices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a thorough guide to methods for bedbug control in the reference listed at the end of this article. Long-term control of bedbug infestations requires diligence and a combination of non-chemical methods and pesticides.

A person seals their mattress with a bedbug-prevention casing.

Source: MedicineNet

What is the prognosis for bedbug bites?

The majority of bedbug bites are not serious and heal completely. The only known serious consequences are severe allergic reactions, which have been reported in some people after bedbug bites.

Can You Prevent Bedbug Infestations and Bedbug Bites?

Avoidance of infested areas is the method for prevention of bedbug bites. Recognition of bedbug infestation and proper treatment of affected rooms (usually with the help of a pest control operator) is the best way to prevent bedbugs in the home. Prevention tips can include sealing your mattress in a bedbug-prevention casing can be beneficial.

Sleeping with the lights on has not been shown to be effective in preventing bedbug bites. Conventional insect and tick repellents are also not useful against bedbugs, so one should not try to avoid being bitten by using insect repellent at night.

For those concerned about bedbug infestations in hotels, an important tip is that you can inspect any hotel room for the presence of the telltale signs of bedbugs. It is important to check the mattress and headboard, and luggage racks. In hotels, keeping your suitcase away from the bed and on a luggage rack can help prevent bedbugs from infesting your luggage. When you return home, inspect your luggage and put clothes immediately into the washer. While washing clothes in hot water does not kill bedbugs, drying clothes at a high temperature can eliminate them.

At home, do not store luggage under your bed. Ideally, luggage should be stored in a basement or garage. Other tips you can take to reduce the chances of bedbugs infesting your home include removing clutter, vacuuming frequently, and keeping belongings separate when taken to school or work.

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