The bites do not usually require medical treatment. Secondary bacterial infection of the skin may develop in areas that become irritated due to prolonged scratching. Topical antibiotic creams or ointments may relieve symptoms of a secondary infection. Antiseptic lotions may also be beneficial. If you've had an allergic reaction to the bedbug bites, your doctor may recommend oral antihistamine medications or corticosteroids.
Bedbugs are a species of insect known as cimex lectularius (literallycimex is Latin for bug and lactularius is Latin for bed). There is a second common species of bedbugs known as cimex hemiptera. These are known as the tropical bedbugs, staying within 30 degrees of the equator. There are published reports, many without supporting evidence, that each of the common bedbug species has chemically different saliva. Some researchers, however, have found no difference in the reactions caused by each species.
Mechanical approaches, such as vacuuming up the insects and heat-treating or wrapping mattresses, are effective. An hour at a temperature of 45 °C (113 °F) or over, or two hours at less than −17 °C (1 °F) kills them. This may include a domestic clothes drier for fabric or a commercial steamer. Bed bugs and their eggs will die on contact when exposed to surface temperatures above 180 degrees and a steamer can reach well above 230 degrees. A study found 100% mortality rates for bed bugs exposed to temperatures greater than 50 °C (122 °F) for more than 2 minutes. The study recommended maintaining temperatures of above 48 °C for more than 20 min to effectively kill all life stages of bed bugs, and because in practice treatment times of 6 to 8 hours are used to account for cracks and indoor clutter. This method is expensive and has caused fires. Starving them is not effective as they can survive without eating for 100 to 300 days, depending on temperature. One expert recommends not trying to get rid of bed bugs exclusively on one's own.
Checking beds for bed bugs was a common practice long ago, especially while traveling. Travelers today should consider doing the same, preferably before unpacking. This would entail examining the bed sheets and seams of the mattress and perhaps box spring for signs of bed bugs, especially along the head (pillow end) of the bed. Experts also remove and check behind headboards since this is a frequent hiding place for bed bugs in hotels. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves.
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.