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.
Bedbug bite reactions are self-limited and typically resolve within one to two weeks without intervention.15 There is no evidence that any treatment alters the natural history of bedbug dermatitis.8 If pruritus is present, nonprescription topical antipruritic preparations containing the active ingredient doxepin, or intermediate potency corticosteroids may be beneficial. Mupirocin (Bactroban) and/or systemic antibiotics should be considered in the treatment of superinfected bites.8
Bedbugs are found in temperate and tropical climates worldwide. The insects are most commonly found in living quarters where their host resides. Bedbugs generally hide in the seams and crevices of bed mattresses and box springs, bed frames, headboards, upholstery, old furniture, closets, and in spaces underneath baseboards or behind loose wallpaper. Clutter and disarray also provide additional hiding places for bedbugs. Bedbugs may be transported from one location to another via luggage, furniture, clothing, and used mattresses. Although they are often associated with unsanitary living conditions, bedbug infestations also occur in clean, well-maintained living quarters, including five-star hotels and resorts. Bedbug infestations have been increasingly reported in hotels, dormitories, homes, apartments, nursing homes, cruise ships, shelters, jails, and hospitals. There have been several cases in the U.S. involving litigation because of infestations of bedbugs, and thus bedbugs are considered a public health pest by several agencies.
Bedbug bites, like all insect bites, can become infected through excessive scratching, as underneath the fingernails lies a host of bacterial pathogens. If your bites become infected, they will appear red and swollen, feel tender and may drain pus. Typically there will not be a fever unless a substantial area of the skin is involved. If you experience any of these symptoms, you must seek medical attention as it points to a secondary infection. Your physician may prescribe antibiotic therapy or, if the infection is mild, an antiseptic medication that you can buy without a prescription.
Unlike those of other insects, bed bug bites may sometimes appear in tight lines of multiple, small, red marks where multiple bed bugs have fed along an exposed area. Bed bug bites can cause itchiness. Initially, a victim may detect a slight burning sensation. The burning area then develops red bumps, known as papules or wheals (rash). In extreme cases, bites may swell dramatically or turn into blister-like skin inflammations.