Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The itchy red spots associated with bedbug bites usually disappear on their own within a week or two. You might speed your recovery by using:

  • A skin cream containing hydrocortisone
  • An oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

If you develop a skin infection from scratching bedbug bites, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Treating your home

Once your symptoms are treated, you must tackle the underlying infestation. This can be difficult because bedbugs hide so well and can live for months without eating. Your best bet may be to hire a professional exterminator, who may use a combination of pesticides and nonchemical treatments.

Nonchemical treatments may include:

  • Vacuuming. A thorough vacuuming of cracks and crevices can physically remove bedbugs from an area. But vacuum cleaners can't reach all hiding places.
  • Hot water. Washing clothes and other items in water at least 120 F (49 C) can kill bedbugs.
  • Clothes dryer. Placing wet or dry items in a clothes dryer set at medium to high heat for 20 minutes will kill bedbugs and their eggs.
  • Freezing. Bedbugs are also vulnerable to temperatures below 32 F (0 C), but you'd need to leave the items outdoors or in the freezer for several days.

Some professional exterminators use portable devices to raise the temperature of a room to a lethal temperature. All stages of bedbugs can be killed at 122 F (50 C). In some cases, you may have to throw out heavily infested items such as mattresses or couches.

Feb. 16, 2012