Chances are, you or someone you know has had a run-in with bed bugs. It might have happened in a scrupulously clean bedroom. Or maybe it was a hotel room, office or college dorm. In the February issue of Scientific American entomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky explains how, after a lengthy absence, bed bugs are staging a comeback. The good news is scientists are intensively studying these insects, and their insights suggest novel ways of detecting the bugs and eradicating infestations. Some of those potential solutions are a long way off, however. In the meantime the best bet is to avoid bringing bed bugs home in the first place. I called Haynes to ask him how to do that and what to do if one suspects an infestation (eek!), among a bunch of other practical-minded questions.

Before you run off and buy every cream the pharmacy stocks, you’ll want to confirm that the marks are actually from bed bugs. Even if they match the description – round, red marks that may bump, swell, itch, and/or burn – the marks could be allergic reactions to food or fabric, irritations from a rough material, or bites from another pest like mosquitoes or carpet beetles.


As mentioned earlier, applying insect repellent at bedtime will probably not deter bed bugs from biting. When working in severely infested dwellings, there may be some benefit to spraying tops and bottoms of shoes with DEET-based repellents. Those working in bed bug-infested environments may also want to hot wash or run clothing, etc. through a dryer upon returning home or to the office.    

Bedbug bites typically are stealthy and not felt by the host. This is because they inject a numbing substance into the skin along with an anticoagulant agent to prevent blood from clotting at the feeding site. Itchy, red bites on the skin may be the first sign you've been bitten. Bites are most common on the arms and shoulders, and the bites often occur in straight rows, as pictured here.


Encasing mattresses is one of many good parts of a solution, but it doesn't get rid of the infestation. There are going to be other bugs away from the mattress, hiding nearby. What mattress covers are good at is entombing the sometimes large number of bed bugs that can live on a mattress. And because the covers tend to be uniform in color and don't have a lot of seams that the bugs can hide in, it's easier to see the insects.
Bedbugs can live in any area of the home and use tiny cracks in furniture as well as on textiles and upholstered furniture as hiding places. They tend to be most common in areas where people sleep and generally concentrate in beds, including mattresses or mattress covers, box springs, and bed frames. They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as commonly as cracks and crevices associated with the bed frame and mattress. Other sites where bedbugs often reside include curtains, edges of carpet, corners inside dressers and other furniture, cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed), and inside the spaces of wicker furniture.
Zonalon and Prudoxin (doxepin) are topical creams that can be prescribed for relief from itching. The active ingredient in these products is a topical tricyclic antidepressant and seems to work against itching by reducing histamine. Histamines are chemicals your body produces in response to injury or when having an allergic reaction. A prescription-strength cortisone cream may also help. In some cases, a prescription antihistamine will be given. 
Bed bugs usually bite people at night while they are sleeping. Hungry bed bugs may also feed during the daytime, especially if this is when the occupant normally sleeps. They feed by piercing the skin with an elongated beak through which they withdraw blood. Engorgement of the bed bug takes roughly three to 10 minutes, but because the bite is painless, the person seldom realizes they are being bitten. Bed bugs normally do not reside on people like head or body lice do; instead, immediately after feeding, bed bugs crawl to a secluded location to digest their meal. Symptoms after being bitten by bed bugs vary from person to person. Many develop an itchy red welt within a day or so of the bite. Others have little or no reaction. Sometimes the reaction is delayed days or even weeks after the actual bite occurs, which can make it difficult to determine where or when bites actually occurred. Studies conducted in bed bug-infested apartments suggest about 30 percent of people do not react even when bitten repeatedly over time, and there is still higher incidence of non-reactivity among the elderly. Unlike flea bites, which occur mainly around the lower legs and ankles, bed bugs feed on any skin exposed while sleeping (face, neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, etc.). The welts and itching are often wrongly attributed to other causes, such as mosquitoes. For these reasons, infestations may go a long time unnoticed, and can become quite large before being detected. 
I dealt with these creatures for over 7 months. thought I was going crazy. 3 doctors- allergist-GP, dermatoligist. was treated for scabies as well. every day 2-3 new bites. some days none. i did the diaclamateous earth- alcohol- website bed bug kikkers. Finally, I actually saw 3 in a box. then i called an exterminator- for bedbugs. showed him the box he came 4 times – every sat for a month. something to do with how they reproduce. luckily this was a good man and he charged 300.00 and guaranteed it. i ripped out the carpet- the baseboards- everything in my room. only saw maybe 20 bugs in total. he said i had been treating them so that was why there were so few. Finally they are gone- 2 months now. I was the only one getting bitten- my husband did not until the very end and not nearly like me. The drs do not know for sure what the bites are when we go. and when we traet ourselves we kill them… but they hatch and are not gone. Had I known i would have gladly paid the 300 in the 1st place as these things nearly made me crazy. Just my story

Chances are, you or someone you know has had a run-in with bed bugs. It might have happened in a scrupulously clean bedroom. Or maybe it was a hotel room, office or college dorm. In the February issue of Scientific American entomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky explains how, after a lengthy absence, bed bugs are staging a comeback. The good news is scientists are intensively studying these insects, and their insights suggest novel ways of detecting the bugs and eradicating infestations. Some of those potential solutions are a long way off, however. In the meantime the best bet is to avoid bringing bed bugs home in the first place. I called Haynes to ask him how to do that and what to do if one suspects an infestation (eek!), among a bunch of other practical-minded questions.
We recently moved to Chicago into an apartment building. AFTER signing the lease the landlord told us that he sprayed for bed bugs every 3 months…I guess I thought this was precautionary? It wasn’t. I am apparently allergic to these bites, my husband & son, thank god, are not affected. So far nothing helps me with the itch for more than a minute but I just found this sight so hopefully something will work. We have bug bombed and bug sprayed with no luck. Washing everything helps for maybe a day? Tonight we sprayed bleach ALL OVER our mattress and attacked it with a blow-drier. Also, I’ve slathered myself in baby oil per a post here.

Bed bugs infestations can be treated by pesticides (make sure it specifically treats for bed bugs) or call a professional. Clean laundry and bedding by washing in hot water and drying with high heat. Steam cleaning can be effective, but be sure to check for bugs in a week or two. Concentrate in the areas they like to hide such as the seams. Bed bugs are sensitive to heat, so putting your mattress in a tight plastic bag and leaving it in the heat for several days can kill adults and the eggs. Vacuum your mattress and the areas around it. Be sure to immediately empty the vacuum cleaner and throw it out. If your mattress is infested, you may also consider getting a new mattress, but be sure to take care of the rest of your home so that your new mattress doesn’t get infested.


I was in europe and have always been healthy and felt fine the 2 months while there, on my drive back home I started itching my arm and didn’t think much of it. During the next few days to weeks the itching turned into welts that itched like crazy and got bigger and harder within hours. The redness would then extend out apx. the size of a 50 cent piece that would form a small scab in the middle as it would heal. Then it would heal , but the next few welts would appear in different places. They would start off as itchy flat red circles that would quickly become firm and red. I sometimes would also feel stings all over . I’ve had this problem now for over a month. One dr. told me I had mites, another said I had bed bugs. I have small scars all over my body now. I used the all over cream 4 nights ago that is supposed to kill mites. The itching is still there but not quite as bad today and yesterday. I’ m going for a third opinion tomorrow. I never knew that itching can keep me from working or actually doing anything else except for keeping calamine lotion beside me and rubbing it on me every 10 minutes. Good luck to all of you that are dealing with the same nightmare.


Most bites will have a small clear area in the center surrounded by redness that may or may not be raised. People tend to become more sensitive and have larger reactions after each episode. Reactions can include itch, swelling, rash and wheals (large round red area on the skin). Severe reactions can cause skin blisters and trouble breathing, although these reactions are very rare. 
First, make sure that the suspected bugs are bedbugs, because other insects or arthropods such as a carpet beetle, scabies mite, a bat bug, louse, or other bugs may be mistaken for bedbugs. If there is confirmation of a bedbug infestation, several measures can be taken to help control or eradicate the infestation, using both nonchemical and chemical (insecticides) methods. It can take several weeks to months to achieve complete eradication of a bedbug infestation, and it may take several treatment cycles to completely eliminate them. In many cases, it will be necessary to hire a pest control service in order to implement a comprehensive extermination strategy.
Bed bug bites occur most frequently while you’re asleep. As bed bugs bite they inject their victims with an anesthetic (as well as an anticoagulant), numbing the area and making it very rare for someone to wake up when bitten. Bites normally take a day or two to appear, although depending on your individual reaction they may be more visible sooner.

The bites are on my arms and my legs (below my knees). I was wondering if someone could give me advice on how I can heal the old bites that I scratched till they bled. They have been healing but its quite slow and some seemed to have scarred. I’m getting tired of people at my high school asking about the bites on my arms and I hate that I can’t wear anything like shorts, skirts and dresses without them being visible.


Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that only feed on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep. They are reddish-brown in color, about 1mm to 7mm in size, and can live for several months without a blood meal. Bed bugs are not known to spread diseases, but their presence can cause itching and loss of sleep. Excessive scratching can increase the chance of secondary skin infections. Bed bugs are found all over the world and the cleanliness does not determine the presence of bed bugs.
A number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best. Sleep needs vary from individual to individual and change throughout your life. The National Institutes of Health recommend about 7-9 hours of sleep each night for older, school-aged children, teens, and most average adults; 10-12 for preschool-aged children; and 16-18 hours for newborns. There are two stages of sleep; 1) REM sleep (rapid-eye movement), and 2) NREM sleep (non-rapid-eye movement). The side effects of lack of sleep or insomnia include:

Just because you can't see bed bugs, does not mean that they are not still there. Bed bugs are rarely seen in the day, out in the open or on the surface of beds or chairs. They have been described as champions of hide-and-seek. So, it is not uncommon to miss the bed bugs altogether. Bed bugs love to hide in the cracks and crevices associated with mattresses, cushions, bed frames and other structures, which is why it is very important to look for telltale symptoms of bed bugs and signs of an infestation, such as shed skins and specks of blood or feces on linens, furniture, mattresses and other areas where the bugs might be hiding.
People don't often consider bed bugs until they've left their mark. The appearance of flat, red welts in zigzag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans. Bed bugs can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don't spread diseases to humans, their bites are quite irritating and scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.
×