Bedbugs and Kissing Bugs

Topic Overview

Bedbugs and kissing bugs are flat, brown, wingless insects that reach about 1 in. (2.5 cm) long. These bugs get their name because they are often found around the mouth.

The bugs hide in beds, floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day. Like mosquitos, they feed on blood, so at night they come out to find animals or people. They can live for 4 to 6 months without feeding.

If you have bedbugs or kissing bugs, you may have:

  • Patches of itchy bites around your mouth. The bites may swell and look like hives. The itching may last a week.
  • Red, bumps or blisters on your hands or other parts of your body.

It is not common to have an allergic reaction, but it can happen.

Home treatment can help stop the itching and prevent an infection. You can:

  • Wash the bites with soap to lower the chance of infection.
  • Use calamine lotion or an anti-itch cream to stop the itching.
  • Use an ice pack to stop the swelling.
  • See your doctor if you think the bite may be infected.

You also need to treat your house to get rid of the bugs. You can:

  • Wash, vacuum, or clean all furniture and bedding. Be sure to vacuum cracks in wood doors or floors where bugs may hide.
  • Put small things in a dark plastic bag and leave it outside in the hot sun for 2 to 3 days.
  • Wash clothes in hot water and dry them on the hot cycle of the clothes dryer.
  • Spray the house with an insecticide. Check with a garden or hardware store for the right spray.

When the bugs are gone, be sure to keep your house and bedding clean to prevent the bugs from coming back. If you are cannot get rid of the bugs, you can call an insect control company for treatment choices.

Credits

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Sean P. Bush - Emergency Medicine, Envenomation Specialist
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Updated January 26, 2010

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