What are bedbugs and kissing bugs?
Bedbugs are flat, wingless insects about 0.25 in. (0.6 cm) long. Kissing bugs are brown, wingless insects that are about 0.75 in. (2 cm) long. Bedbugs range in color from almost white to brown. They turn rusty red after feeding. Kissing bugs are dark brown or black with red or orange spots along the edge of their bodies. Like mosquitoes, bedbugs and kissing bugs feed on blood from animals or people.
Bedbugs get their name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses. Kissing bugs get their name because they are often found around the mouth. Both kinds of bugs usually hide during the day and are active at night when they feed. They can go for weeks without feeding. See a picture of a bedbug.
Bedbugs do not seem to spread disease to people. Kissing bugs can carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease, but this is not common in the United States. But itching from the bites can be so bad that some people will scratch enough to cause breaks in the skin that get infected easily. The bites can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Where can you find bedbugs and kissing bugs?
Bedbugs are found worldwide. Kissing bugs are found in warm southern states of the U.S., and in Mexico and central and South America.
Bedbugs are most often found in hotels, motels, hostels, shelters, and apartment complexes where large numbers of people come and go.
Because bedbugs and kissing bugs hide in small crevices, they can come into your house on luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes, and other objects. The bugs can hide in beds, floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day.
How do you know if you have bedbugs or kissing bugs?
The first sign of bedbugs may be red, itchy bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows of bites, unlike some other insects that leave bites here and there.
Kissing bugs can cause patches of itchy bites around your mouth. The bites may swell and look like hives. The itching may last a week.
Look also for these other signs:
How can you treat bug bites?
Home treatment can help stop the itching and prevent an infection. You can:
How do you get rid of bedbugs and kissing bugs?
To get rid of the bugs:
If you can't get rid of bedbugs or kissing bugs yourself, you can call an insect control company for treatment choices. Make sure that the product the company uses has been shown to be effective against the bugs you are trying to get rid of.
When the bugs are gone, be sure to keep your house and bedding clean to prevent the bugs from coming back.
Other Works Consulted
- Hwang SW, et al. (2005). Bed bug infestations in an urban environment. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 11(4): 533–538.
- Steen CJ, Schwartz RA (2008). Arthropod bites and stings. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2054–2063. New York: McGraw-Hill.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||October 15, 2011|
Last Revised: October 15, 2011
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