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Bedbugs Overview

A bedbug is a small, blood-sucking parasite that feeds on mammals and birds. Bedbugs belong to the insect family Cimicidae, and although there are several different species, the most common species associated with human infestations are Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus. There has been a recent resurgence in bedbug infestations worldwide, particularly in developed countries, including the United States.

Adult bedbugs are reddish brown in color, flat, oval-shaped, and approximately 4-5 millimeters in length. Immature bedbugs (nymphs) may be translucent or light tan in color. Bedbugs are often more red in color after feeding. Bedbugs are attracted by warmth, and they generally feed during the night, often just before dawn. They tend to feed every five to 10 days, though they can survive without feeding for several months. Bedbugs pierce the skin and inject saliva which contains anesthetics and anticoagulants into the host which often make their bites painless initially. After feeding on the host's blood for several minutes, bedbugs will retreat to their hiding place. They will generally try to remain within close range of their warm-blooded host. Affected individuals may feel and see the consequences of the bedbug bite sometime afterward. Though bedbug transmission of human diseases is theoretically possible, it has not yet been definitively established.

Picture of an adult bedbug
Picture of an adult bedbug
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2015

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Bedbugs:

Bed Bugs - Initial Symptoms

What were the initial symptoms and signs of your bedbug bites?

Bedbugs - Prevention

What prevention measures do you use to avoid getting bedbugs bites?

Bedbugs - Experience

Please describe your experience with bedbugs.

Bedbugs - Treatment

How did you treat your bedbug bites?

What do Bedbug Bites look like?

The first sign of bedbugs may be red, itchy bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows of bites, unlike some other insects that leave bites here and there.

Bedbugs do not seem to spread disease to people. But itching from the bites can be so bad that some people will scratch enough to cause breaks in the skin that get infected easily. The bites can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.

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