Symptoms and Signs of Bedbugs (Bed Bugs)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 2/2/2022

Doctor's Notes on Bedbugs (Bed Bugs)

Bedbugs are small blood-sucking parasites that are reddish-brown color, flat, oval-shaped, wingless, and are approximately 4-5 mm in length. Bedbugs anesthetize the skin so that their bites are initially painless. Bedbug bites can occur on any exposed part of the body. Minutes to days after the initial bite symptoms of localized itching and/or reddish-colored skin lesions may appear to be flat or a raised bump. Some individuals can experience intense itching. In addition, some people develop anxiety and insomnia from bedbug bites because they emerge from bedding to seek a blood meal when a person is sleeping. Other individuals have more intense skin reactions if they become allergic to the bite while a few others may develop serious systemic allergic reactions.

The cause of bedbug bites is the bedbug needing a blood meal. Bedbug bite lesions fade away after 1-2 weeks. Bedbugs do not transmit diseases with their bite.

What Are the Treatments for Bedbugs?

Bedbugs can be killed, but the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) suggests you first be sure your methods are safe, effective, and legal. The EPA suggests both non-chemical and/or chemical methods:

  • Heat treatments: Place clothes in a hot dryer or use a portable heat chamber.
  • Steam clean (wet or dry) with a diffuser that heats at least to 130 F.
  • Cold treatment: Seal items in a bag, and place in a freezer at least 0 F for 4 days.
  • Pesticides (EPA-registered pesticides that are effective against bedbugs; use as stated on the labels): Retreatment may be necessary as resistance may occur.
  • Hire a reliable pest control professional.

Reinspect treated areas and items after 7 days as some eggs may still be viable and hatch, needing a retreatment.

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REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.