Bedbug Bites

Bedbugs are tiny insects, about the size of an apple seed. They are reddish-brown and slightly flattened and oval. They feed on human blood, often at night while people are sleeping. Bedbugs are attracted to the warmth of your body, and also to your breath. Unlike some other parasites, they can live up to a year without eating. They don’t have wings and don’t jump. But they are fast crawlers.

Bedbugs are not dangerous and don’t often spread disease. But an infestation should be treated as soon as possible by a professional pest control company.

Bite symptoms

The symptoms of bedbug bites can be different for each person. Bites can be found anywhere on your body. But they are more common on skin that is exposed. Look for these symptoms from one to several days after the first bite:

  • Itching

  • Red rash, which can start small and get larger

  • Hives, red swollen marks (welts), or raised red itchy areas (wheals). These may be in spots or cover a large area.

  • Small, firm, flat bumps

  • Blisters

  • Cluster of bites in a line, or in a curved or zigzag row

  • Allergic reaction

  • Skin infection from scratching the bites

Where bedbugs hide out

Bedbugs can be found in almost any place you spend time, both at home and away from home. This includes hotels, buses, trains, ships, nursing homes, and apartments. Bed bugs can be carried from place to place in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, and folded clothes.

Bedbugs can be in clean or dirty places. Because of their size and shape, bedbugs can get into small places where you wouldn’t think to look. They tend to be found mostly in furniture, furnishings around the home, clothing, and cracks and crevices. Here are some areas where they can be found:

  • Beds and mattresses, especially in the seams

  • Joints of bed frames, or the headboard

  • Sheets and blankets

  • Couches, fabric-covered chairs, and other furniture with fabric

  • Rugs, especially along the edges

  • Luggage or boxes

  • Clothing

  • Behind wall decorations, pictures, mirrors, and smoke alarms, and in electric outlets

How to find them

Bedbugs are most active at night and are big enough to be seen. But they also may leave some traces:

  • Black spots (feces) on a bed mattress, especially around the seams

  • Blood spots on the sheets

  • Shells they may have shed

Home care

  • Bite symptoms often go away on their own in 1 to 2 weeks.

  • To help prevent infection, avoid scratching the bites.

  • To relieve itching and swelling, use an over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone ointment or cream

  • If you need more relief, put an ice pack on the bites. Use the ice pack for up to 20 minutes at a time. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.

  • If you have many bites or severe itching, take an OTC oral antihistamine. Follow the directions on the package.

  • If a bite becomes infected, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. This may be a pill you take by mouth. Or it may be a cream you put on your skin.

  • If you were bitten in your home, talk with a licensed pest-control company. Bedbugs don't live on you. They live in cracks in your house. The company can inspect your home and help you get rid of the bugs safely.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your provider

  • Signs of infection in the bites, such as swelling, redness, and pain that gets worse, warmth in the area, or drainage from the bites

  • Signs of allergic reaction, such as hives or a spreading rash

Call 911

Call 911 if any of the following signs of a severe allergic reaction occur:

  • Throat itching or swelling

  • Wheezing, or trouble breathing

  • Trouble swallowing

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