Diagnosis

If you suspect that you're being bitten by bedbugs, immediately inspect your home for the insects. Thoroughly examine crevices in walls, mattresses and furniture. You may need to perform your inspection at night when bedbugs are active.

Look for these signs:

  • Dark specks. Typically found along mattress seams, these specks are bedbug excrement.
  • Empty exoskeletons. Bedbugs molt five times before becoming adults. These empty skins are pale yellow.
  • Rusty or reddish stains. You may find small smears of blood on your bed sheets where you accidentally crushed a bedbug.

Treatment

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 (Cortaid)
  • 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 several 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. Empty the vacuum after each use.
  • Laundering. Washing and drying items in a dryer on a high setting will kill bedbugs in clothing or linens.
  • 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.

Preparing for your appointment

Most bedbug bites require no medical treatment. Talk to your doctor if you experience an allergic reaction to the bites or if you develop a skin infection after scratching the bites.

What you can do

You may want to prepare a list that includes:

  • A detailed description of your symptoms
  • History of recent international travel
  • History of recent hotel stays
  • All the medications and supplements you take

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor will carefully examine your bite sites and ask questions about the types of insects you might have been exposed to recently.

Feb. 10, 2015
References
  1. How to find bed bugs. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www2.epa.gov/bedbugs/how-find-bed-bugs. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
  2. Do-it-yourself bed bug control. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www2.epa.gov/bedbugs/do-it-yourself-bed-bug-control. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
  3. Protecting your home from bed bugs. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www2.epa.gov/bedbugs/protecting-your-home-bed-bugs. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
  4. Bed bug frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
  5. Elston DM, et al. Bedbugs. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
  6. Introduction to bed bugs. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www2.epa.gov/bedbugs/introduction-bed-bugs. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
  7. Bed bugs are public health pests. United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www2.epa.gov/bedbugs/bed-bugs-are-public-health-pests. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.