Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy but do not usually cause other health problems.
Check if it's bedbugs
Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.
Signs of bedbugs include:
- bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping like the face, neck and arms
- spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
- small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)
Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.
A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is also possible but rare.
How you can treat bedbug bites
Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.
Things you can do include:
- putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
- keeping the affected area clean
- not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
- antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you're unable to sleep
See a GP if:
- the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
- the redness around the bites is spreading
You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.
How to get rid of bedbugs
- contact your local council or pest control service – it's unlikely you'll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides
- wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes
- put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)
- clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early
- do not keep clutter around your bed
- do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first
- do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you've come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs
Page last reviewed: 20/01/2019
Next review due: 20/01/2022