Are Bedbugs Contagious?

What Are Bedbugs?

Bed bugs spread easily, but are not contagious, person-to-person. They live in a person's bedding, clothing, luggage, and furniture. These items spread the infestation where they travel.
Bed bugs spread easily, but are not contagious, person-to-person. They live in a person’s bedding, clothing, luggage, and furniture. These items spread the infestation where they travel.

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, brown, oval-shaped insects that feed on blood. Their bites cause itching and irritation in humans. Bed bugs are considered to be a public health pest, but they do not transmit or spread disease. 

What Are Symptoms of Bedbugs?

Symptoms of bed bug bites include: 

  • Red, itchy bite marks that happen while sleeping 
  • Bite marks may occur on the face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and other body parts
  • Bite marks can take up to 14 days to appear
  • Bed bugs feed at night and their bites are may not be felt or noticed until redness and itching occur

Other signs of a bedbug infestation include:

  • The appearance of bed bugs in the folds of mattresses and sheets
  • Bed bug exoskeletons after molting
  • Rust–colored blood spots on mattresses or furniture
  • Sweet, musty odor

What Causes Bedbugs?

Bed bugs are small and hide easily, and they are typically carried from place to place during travel. Bed bugs can enter a home undetected through luggage, clothing, used furniture such as beds or sofas, and other household items. They tend to live in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards and bite people during the night.

Are Bedbugs Contagious?

Bed bugs are not contagious in that they cannot be transmitted from person-to-person. However, bed bugs can hide and live in a person’s bedding, clothing, luggage, and furniture. When these items enter a home or are transported to another area, they can transport the bed bugs with them. 

How Are Bedbugs Diagnosed?

Bed bug bites can be diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination. A doctor will ask about the presence of bed bugs in the home. Signs of bed bugs in the home along with bite marks are usually sufficient to make a diagnosis. 

Bed bug bites can resemble other skin conditions, and if the patient has seen no signs of bed bugs in the home, a doctor may do tests to rule out other causes of the bite marks.


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What Is the Treatment for Bedbugs?

Bed bugs infest objects such as mattresses and furniture, so there are no medications or shampoos to treat them in humans. The infestation needs to be treated. 

Treating a bed bug infestation is complex and it can take weeks to months to completely eliminate them from the home, and it often involves the use of pesticides. Extensive infestations may be best taken care of by a pest management professional. 

Treatment for bed bug bites is aimed at relieving symptoms and includes: 

  • For severe allergic reactions
    • Antihistamines
    • Corticosteroids
    • Epinephrine (adrenaline) 
  • For infection 
    • Excessive scratching can lead to sores and infections
    • Antiseptics to prevent infection 
    • Antibiotics to treat infection 
  • For itching
    • Antihistamines
    • Corticosteroids

Home remedies to treat bed bug bites include:

  • Washing bites with soap and water to prevent skin infection and help reduce itching
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) corticosteroid cream to relieve itching

How Do You Prevent Bedbugs?

To prevent bed bug infestation:

  • Inspect mattresses in hotel rooms for bed bugs before sleeping
  • Check used furniture such as beds, couches, and other furnishings for signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them into the home
  • Use protective covers for mattresses and box springs to eliminate hiding places for bed bugs
  • Eliminate bed bug hiding places by keeping the home clean and free of clutter
  • Vacuum frequently 
  • Use care when in shared laundry facilities
    • If you have an infestation, bring items to be washed in plastic bags, and use new bags for clean clothing when done
    • Use the dryer on high heat to kill bed bugs
  • Multi-family home residents should keep their units isolated by installing door sweeps and sealing cracks and crevices

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