Bedbugs are small, flat, reddish-brown bugs about the size of an apple seed. They
can be found all over the world. Bedbugs hide during the day in or around beds and
crevices in chairs, couches, curtains, rugs, dressers, and even in cracks of walls
and floors and behind wallpaper.
They come out at night to find food, which in their case means blood. Bedbugs have
a special ingredient in their saliva (spit) that keeps blood from clotting while they
feed, typically at night in areas where people sleep. After their blood meal, bedbugs
don't stay on a person for long. Instead, they hide nearby, often in clothing or luggage,
allowing them to spread when belongings move to another location.
What Are the Signs of Bedbugs?
A person does not usually feel the actual bedbug bite. Afterward, the bite will
feel itchy. Bedbug bites look like little red bumps (similar to mosquito bites) and
they can sometimes happen in a line on the body. The bites are mainly on areas of
skin that are exposed while sleeping.
Bedbugs are a nuisance, but they don't spread germs
How Do People Get Bedbugs?
Some people believe that a dirty room will bring bedbugs, but this is not true.
Bedbugs can live anywhere as long as they have food. If a room is cluttered, it helps
them to hide. But clutter itself won't attract them.
Bedbugs are commonly seen in places that have a high guest turnover, such as hotels,
hospitals, or nursing homes. But they can be found in many other places, such as on
public transportation, in apartment buildings, and in dorms. They travel from place
to place on clothing, furniture, and luggage.
How Do I Know if It's Bedbugs?
Bedbug bites can look similar to other bug
bites, like mosquito bites or chigger bites.
To know it's bedbugs, it's important to find the bugs themselves. Look at bedsheets
and mattresses for little spots of blood, rusty-looking stains (crushed bugs), or
black dots (bugs' poop). You might see live bugs around the seams or tags of mattresses
and box springs, or in cracks of bed frames and other furniture. They can even hide
in books, carpet edges, and electrical outlets.
How Are Bedbug Bites Treated?
If you think you've been bitten by a bedbug, wash the bites with soap and water.
Calamine lotion, an anti-itch cream, or cool compresses can help with the itching.
In some cases, an antihistamine by mouth can ease itching. Bites clear up in 1–2
Don't scratch a bedbug bite. Doing so can cause a skin infection, such as impetigo
and, rarely, cellulitis.
If an infection does happen, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat it.
How Can I Prevent Bedbugs?
If your home has bedbugs, don't feel bad. Bedbug infestations are common. These
tips can help:
Keep your home uncluttered so bedbugs won't have places to hide.
Change your sheets once a week and vacuum floors regularly.
If you find bedbugs, wash all bedding and clothing in hot water and dry on a hot
Use a mattress cover that's labeled "anti-allergy" or "anti-dust mites" to help
prevent bugs from getting into your bedding, and to more easily see them if they are
Because you're most likely to encounter bedbugs while traveling, it's wise to plan
ahead. Some websites let travelers search for bedbug infestation reports by city (and
sometimes by hotel), so do a little research before you leave home.
At your destination, do a bedbug check of every room before settling in. If you
find any signs of bedbugs, ask for other rooms and inspect them too. If you still
see signs of bedbugs, find another place to stay.
Keep luggage off the floor and beds in hotel rooms. Use the luggage racks most
hotels and motels provide or put suitcases on a table or desk. Hang up clothes whenever
possible, and when you get back home, dump dirty clothes right into the washing machine.
Be careful when you buy used clothing or furniture from garage sales or thrift
stores. Always inspect them for bedbugs. Also, don't grab a discarded couch or other
upholstered furniture off the street corner. They might have bedbugs hiding in the
fabric. In fact, that might be why the previous owner got rid of them!
If you've been in a place known to have bedbugs, make sure to wash your clothes
with hot water when you return home. If you can't wash your clothing right away, put
it in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it.