District of Columbia Lead-Safe and Healthy Homes Hub

Health Topics Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs

bedbugs

Bed bugs are small and wingless insects that feed upon the blood of warm-blooded animals. Hatchling bed bugs are the size of a sesame seed, while adults are around a quarter of an inch long. Bed bugs are oval in shape and flat. Bed bugs can range from white to tan to brown to burnt orange. They are not known to carry any diseases.

Bed bugs feed at night when their hosts (animals and humans) are asleep. When they feed, they inject a tiny amount of saliva into the skin, which can cause allergies or desensitization over time. If you are bitten by a bed bug, refrain from scratching the area, which can lead to greater irritation or infection.

1 Where do bed bugs live?

Since they are flat creatures, they can conceal themselves in the cracks and crevices of a room or within furniture. They can be found in bed frames, mattresses, or box springs. They can also appear in spaces that are cluttered. Folds and creases in bed sheets, as well as curtains are common places for bed bugs to reside.

2 How do bed bugs enter a home, how do they spread?

Due to their size, bed bugs can hide in luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes, and other objects when they are moved between different homes or apartments. Newly bought used furniture that is used has the greatest risk of carrying bed bugs and their eggs. Therefore, you should carefully inspect any used furniture before bringing it into your home because bed bugs can survive for many months without food.

These insects can also enter your home by wandering between adjoining apartments through cracks and holes in the wall.

3 How can I tell if my home has bed bugs?

One clear indicator of bed bugs is if you or your family members complain about bites that occur while sleeping. Another characteristic of bed bugs is if you see dark brown or reddish fecal spots around areas where bed bugs would typically live. Finally, in strongly infested areas, you may smell a peculiar odor.

You can also hire professional help to determine whether or not you have bed bugs in your home.

4 Are there bed bugs in my hotel?

The best way to avoid bed bugs in your hotel is to not book a room in a hotel with recent reports of bed bugs. You can find which hotels have bed bugs by searching in the Bed Bug Registry.

  • If your hotel is listed as having bed bugs, pay attention to the date of the last report of bed bugs. The hotel may have cleared up the problem since the last report.
  • Look around the room to check for evidence of bed bugs
  • Get proof of the bed bugs – take a picture with your cell phone and show the hotel manager

If your hotel does not have bed bugs but you suspect an infestation, don’t leave your clothes on the carpet or on the chairs. Hang them up in a closet far away from the bed. Also, keep your suitcase off of the floor and bed, and use a metal suitcase rack if possible.

5 What should I do if I find bed bugs?

  • Search for signs of bed bugs
    • Carefully inspect the bed frame, mattresses, and other furniture for signs of bugs and their eggs
  • Reduce clutter in order to limit hiding places for bed bugs
  • Thoroughly clean the infested rooms
    • Scrub all surfaces in order to remove eggs
    • Dismantle and clean bed frames and furniture
    • Use a powerful vacuum on cracks and crevices
  • Fill in cracks in floors, walls, moldings
  • Encase mattresses in special bags, which prevents bugs from feeding and kills them over time
  • Use appropriate pesticides
    • Apply to all areas where the bed bugs are observed as well as the spaces where they can crawl or hide
    • Do not apply any pesticide to mattresses or other surfaces that come in contact with the skin
  • Throw away furniture that cannot be cleaned.
    • When disposing of furniture, try to make sure it is locked within a dumpster or immediately taken away to a landfill or waste facility
    • Beds cannot usually be treated with insecticides, and thus may need to be thrown out if infested

6 How can I prevent bed bug bites?

  • Don’t bring a mattress home that has been used by unknown sources
  • Wash your bedding regularly, and with hot water
  • Hang clothing in the closet farthest away from the bed

7 What are some symptoms of bed bug bites?

  • Small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin of the face, neck, hands, or arms
  • Redness, swelling, and itching
  • Several bug bites lined up in a row

8 How are bed bug bites treated?

Bed bug bites are treated with antihistamines and corticosteroids in order to reduce allergic reactions and inflammation. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if a bacterial infection occurs.