How to Treat Bed Bugs and Their Bites – Cleveland Clinic

Bed bugs. Do these two words make your skin tingle? Most likely they do. These tiny pests, while harmless, tend to cause panic wherever they appear.

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Fortunately, with a little knowledge and some reasonable precautions, you and your family can protect yourself and your family.

Family Doctor Sarah Pickering Beers, MD offers some pointers on how to identify, treat, and prevent these pesky little intruders. It provides answers to frequently asked questions – from what bed bug bites look like and how to treat them, to what to do if you have a bed bug in your home.

What signs of bed bugs should I look out for?

Bed bugs are usually flat, reddish brown, and about the size and shape of an apple core. They often look brown before eating and then take on a reddish hue afterwards. Rough but true.

Bed bugs usually only jump on people when they are feeding. The rest of the time they hide. They tend to hang in crevices and crevices in your furniture and ceilings, e.g. B. between the cushions of a couch or a chair or between a mattress and a box spring bed.

“You often see signs of bed bugs without seeing the bugs yourself,” says Dr. Pickering Beers. “For example, you can see small blood stains on your sheets or pajamas. Also, look for black or rust-colored stains – these are bed bug droppings – on your clothes and bedding. These are the most likely signs of an infestation. ”

How can I tell a bed bug bite apart from other insects like fleas?

It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

“The position of the bites on your body is definitely the first indicator,” says Dr. Pickering Beers.

“If the bites are only on the ankles or lower legs, it is most likely fleas as they are often found in carpets and can only jump that high. Bed bug bites, on the other hand, can appear anywhere on exposed parts of the body and often appear in a linear pattern, as a series of multiple bites in a row, ”she adds.

They will most likely catch you sitting or lying down, and so the bites can happen anywhere on your body.

Bed bug bites often have a small bloody spot or a reddish bruise in the middle. They’re usually slightly larger than flea bites, but much of this can depend on an individual person’s response to a bite and how much inflammation occurs around the center of the bite.

What should I do if I think I was bitten by a bed bug?

“Start by keeping the bite clean. Wash it daily with soap and water to prevent and cure infection, ”says Dr. Pickering Beers.

Wash and change your sheets, including your comforters or duvet covers, and vacuum your mattresses and furniture pillows to keep them from repopulating or re-infesting.

The bites are often itchy, so she recommends using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or other anti-itch cream if necessary.

Bed bug bites usually heal within a week.

“It’s important to look out for signs of infection,” advises Dr. Pickering Beers. “If the bite becomes more red, swollen, has a discharge, or becomes tender, you should see a doctor.”

Can bed bugs transmit disease to people or pets?

Bed bug transmission of diseases to humans or pets is not known. Although the bed bugs themselves don’t spread disease like some other insects – like ticks, for example.

People can get bed bugs from hotels and travel. How can I protect myself?

Start with a visual inspection of the room when you first arrive. Make it a habit to pull back the sheets and see if you see bugs, blood stains, or brown stains on the sheets or mattress.

It is also a good idea to store your luggage on a luggage rack or some other location away from the bed. Don’t put your suitcase on the bed or a chair because if there is a problem with bed bugs, they could get in your luggage and come home with you.

Put your dirty clothes in a plastic bag and store them high, like on a closet shelf, rather than on furniture or the floor. As soon as you get home from a trip, immediately wash all of your travel clothes in hot, soapy water and dry them on high heat.

How else do bed bugs get into my home?

You should also be careful when purchasing used items from flea markets or resale stores – such as used clothing, furniture, bedding, and fabric toys.

To prevent these items from spreading existing bed bugs, immediately wash them in hot, soapy water and place them back in the dryer on the highest setting. (If it’s an item you can’t put in the washing machine, put it in the dryer on the highest setting for 20 minutes to kill any bed bugs that are present.)

Used furniture is risky if it is widely available, so make sure you do a thorough visual inspection before bringing it to your home. It may also be possible to remove and wash or replace older fabrics.

I think my home has an infestation, what can I do?

Start by vacuuming the areas where bed bugs are hiding, washing fabrics and surfaces in that room with hot water and baking soda, a steam cleaner, or other deep cleaning tools that both clean on contact and vacuum and remove the bugs and eggs.

“Most likely, you’ll need to contact an exterminator. Of course, a qualified exterminator can definitely tell you whether you have bed bugs and discuss your treatment options, ”says Dr. Pickering Beers.

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