Bedbugs are small, brown, wingless parasites that feed off blood. Even though they cannot fly, they are not easily seen, as they are less than a quarter-of-an-inch (half a centimeter) long and often hide during the day. While bedbugs prefer to bite humans, they will also feed from other mammals if necessary.
Bedbugs get their name from the fact they often live in unsanitary mattresses and bedding, but they can be found in other places such as carpets and cracks in walls. Although they are often found in dirty accommodation where poor sanitation is a problem, bedbugs have been known to travel in a person's clothing or luggage to other locations.
One sign of bedbugs is finding spots of blood in or around beds. Bedbugs typically leave tiny, itchy bites in orderly rows on a body. Some may notice that rooms that have many bedbugs have a sweet smell.
Bedbugs are mainly prevented by good sanitation and frequent cleaning, such as regular housecleaning and washing of bedding. As bedbugs are found worldwide, travelers abroad should also be watchful for signs of infestation. Travelers in rustic or less-developed areas can reduce their chances of being bitten by staying in reputable, well-maintained accommodations that appear clean. Travelers can also reduce chances of an infestation at home by washing all clothing and luggage upon returning home.
Bedbugs can leave itchy bites that typically heal over a few days. The itch common to the bites can usually be solved with a variety of common bug-bite remedies. A doctor should be consulted in more serious cases.
Bedbug infestations can be difficult to eliminate, as the pests can hide in a number of places. Mattresses and carpets suspected to contain bedbugs can be thoroughly vacuumed to remove the pests, with mattresses then being covered and left in a sunny place for as long as possible. Bedding and clothing can be washed thoroughly in hot water. However, professional pest control should also be considered, especially in larger or repetitive cases.