The public has been reminded that pharmacists can provide support and treatment for bedbug bites, as concern about the creatures spreads through the country.

The NHS website directs people to seek help from a pharmacist if they are concerned about a bedbug bite and that pharmacists can support with mild steroid creams and antihistamines to ease symptoms, where appropriate.

In addition, it states that patients should see a GP if the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist, or if the pain or swelling around the bites is spreading, as they may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.

Infected insect bites are one of the seven common conditions that pharmacists will be able to treat, including by supplying antibiotics, under the proposed Pharmacy First scheme in England which is expected to come into force this winter.

Meanwhile, community pharmacist Thorrun Govind shared in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that pharmacists can help with treatment for bedbug bites.

She told The Pharmacist that antihistamines, including those that cause drowsiness, such as chlorpheniramine (Piriton) could help with itchy bites preventing sleep, and that a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone could help ease inflammation.

‘The main thing is to avoid scratching them, to avoid infection, you’ve got to keep that area clean, cooling the area with a damp clean cloth can help to reduce itching and swelling,’ she added.

Pharmacists could also suggest lifestyle advice to people concerned about bedbugs, she noted, such as hoovering and cleaning to check for bedbugs, checking luggage and clothing before bringing them indoors, freezing affected bedding and clothing in plastic bags for three to four days, or hot washing and tumble-drying clothing at 60 degrees.

She added that it was also important to encourage people not to keep clutter around their bed and be aware about any second-hand furniture that could bring bedbugs into a home.

In addition, Ms Govind warned people to be wary of small brown spots on bedding or furniture that could be bedbug faeces.

The concern around bedbugs in the UK comes as reports surfaced of bedbug infestations in Paris during the city’s recent Fashion Week.

London mayor Sadiq Khan told the PoliticsJoe website this week that bedbugs were a ‘real source of concern’.

‘People are worried about these bugs in Paris causing a problem in London,’ he said.

He added that Transport for London was taking steps to ensure that public transport and the Eurostar were regularly cleaned.

‘For a variety of reasons, we don’t think those issues will arise in London, but no complacency from TFL,’ Mr Khan said.

Responding to reports of a surge in bedbug infestations in Luton, a council spokesperson told The Pharmacist that according to the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, pest-control figures ‘suggest the UK is facing a significant rise in bedbug infestations’, with a reported 65% increase year-on-year from 2022 to 2023.

They added that locally, Luton council had seen ‘a much smaller increase’, with 86 calls relating to bedbugs for the year ending September 2022/23, compared to 81 in 2021/22, and 15 calls this September compared to 12 in September 2022.

The UK Health Security Agency clarified that although unpleasant, bedbugs are not known to spread disease and there is no known infectious disease risk from bedbug bites.

It pointed to advice from the British Pest Control Association on how to prevent and get rid of bedbugs and from the NHS on treating bedbug bites.

It also said that people experiencing bedbug infestations should contact their local authority environmental health team.