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Dirk M Elston, MD
Stephen Kells, PhD
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Ted Rosen, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Bedbugs are obligate blood-feeding insects that may infest human dwellings and may induce local skin reactions in humans (picture 1A-E). The management of bedbug infestations consists of measures to eradicate bedbugs to prevent future bites.

A bedbug bite most often appears as a small punctum without a surrounding inflammatory reaction; however, some individuals develop pruritic, inflammatory local skin reactions. Asymptomatic bedbug bites do not require treatment. Topical corticosteroids or oral antihistamines can improve pruritus when needed.

The clinical features, diagnosis, and management of bedbug infestations will be reviewed here.


Bedbugs (also written "bed bugs") are true bugs of the order Hemiptera. All insects within this order have wings that are half membranous and half sclerotic. In bedbugs, the membranous portion of the wing is vestigial, and only the non-functional sclerotic portion of the wing is visible.

Bedbugs belong to the family Cimicidae. Cimicids commonly infest human, bird, and bat habitats. As parasites, Cimicids are unique because they are obligate blood feeders but do not remain on the host to complete their life cycle. Rather, they move to adjacent areas and hide in the surrounding habitat. Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus are the two bedbug species that most commonly affect humans.


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Literature review current through: Jul 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 05, 2015.
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