Even with their featuring in an age-long bedtime saying (don’t let the bed bugs bite!), bed bugs are annoying little pests. They sneak into your bed, your furniture, even your carpet, and while you sleep or watch TV, they bite you. The next morning, you’re left wondering why you’re red and itchy.
Bed bugs are troublesome household pests. They’re sneaky, hard to find, and can pose potential health risks to one and one’s family. Bed bugs are a type of insect that crawls out, usually at night to feed on human blood. The effects of a bed bug bite include skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic symptoms. Bed bug bites may lead to skin reactions ranging from invisible to noticeable blisters, and symptoms may take between minutes to days to appear. There are usually straight lines of multiple bites, usually in multiples of three, and some persons may feel tired or even have a fever. The areas of the body normally affected are the uncovered parts like the arms, face, and legs, and itchiness is also common.
Bed bug bites are caused primarily by two species of the insect, cimex: Cimex lectularius (the common bed bug) and Cimex Hemipterus. Their sizes range from 1 to 5 mm and they spread by crawling between nearby locations or by being carried within personal items. Bed bugs multiply quickly, and in just six months, a few can turn into a full-on infestation of 13,000 or more! Isn’t that scary? That’s why early detection is critical to breaking the bed bug life cycle before they become a bigger problem.
While a bed bug is feeding on a person, they’re unlikely to notice. Most people are asleep when they get bitten. Also, before a bed bug draws your blood, it excretes a tiny amount of anesthesia that prevents you from feeling the bite. You only get to notice red, hard, swollen and itchy welts and feel a burning, itchy sensation, when you wake up. Such sneaky little things!
Although the preferred host for bed bugs is humans, bed bugs have been found to also feed on other animals, such as poultry, mice, rats, canaries, dogs, and cats if necessary. They normally feed at night but may feed in the daylight in rooms that are not used at night. They do suck blood from their host with piercing mouth parts but the bite is painless, thankfully.
The good thing is, unlike many other biting bugs, bed bugs do not transmit diseases when they bite you. Phew, what a relief! The biggest problem a bed bug bite poses is that it is likely to cause a skin infection around the area bitten due to excessive itching and scratching. This is due to the fact that the skin may become irritated or inflamed due to the salivary fluid injected by the bed bugs. A person may also be more likely to experience insomnia as a result of worrying that they will be bitten again.
Usual Hiding Sites
Bed bugs are not attracted to dirt and grime; they are attracted to warmth, blood and carbon dioxide. However, clutter offers more hiding spots. Most common hiding sites for bed bugs in the home are in the bed frame, headboard, mattress, box springs, pillows, in the crevices and seams of furniture, under furniture, in curtains or other fabrics. Asides the home, bed bugs are common in places that have a lot of people and close quarters. Some of these places are hotels, homeless shelters, military barracks, hospitals, college dorms, and even business offices.
How Are Bed Bug Bites Treated?
Bed bugs are more annoying than they are dangerous or deadly. The symptoms of a bite usually disappear in a week or two, but for persons with extra sensitive skin, it may be as long as three weeks. One could use an anti-itch cream to keep from itching the bite. You could also take an antihistamine to help reduce the itching and burning. Ice packs can help numb the skin and reduce the urge to scratch.
There is also the option of washing the area bitten with soap and water. This will help prevent a skin infection and help reduce itchiness. After this, if the bites itch, you could apply a corticosteroid cream to it. You can get a weak form of this medicine without a prescription at your local drugstore as stronger corticosteroids require a prescription.
In the event that you suspect an infection, use an antiseptic cream or lotion before you contact your doctor for further treatment.
How do I Prevent Bed Bugs from Entering my Home?
You could be wondering how to prevent bed bugs from getting into your home. To prevent bringing bed bugs to one’s own home, travelers are advised to immediately wash any clothing or bedding used on trips. This is to prevent any infestation. If you buy already used furniture, inspect all the items before bringing them into your residence; this cannot be overemphasized. Also, remember to never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture into your home.
Reactions often become brisker after multiple bites due to possible sensitization to the salivary proteins of the bed bug. The skin reaction usually occurs in the area of the bite which is most commonly the arms, shoulders, and legs as they are more frequently exposed at night.
Serious infestations and chronic attacks can cause anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Development of refractory delusional parasitosis is possible, as a person develops an overwhelming obsession with bed bugs. Talk about a bed bug induced hallucination.
A number of other effects may ensue from either the bite of the bed bugs or from their exposure. Anaphylaxis from the injection of serum and other nonspecific proteins has been rarely documented. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that if left unattended to, could be deadly. The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, insect stings, medications, and latex. Also, due to each bite taking a tiny amount of blood, the chronic or severe infestation may lead to anemia.
A bacterial skin infection may occur too, due to skin break down from scratching. Systemic poisoning may occur if the bites are numerous. Exposure to bed bugs may trigger an asthma attack via the effects of airborne allergens, although evidence of this association is limited. The bite itself may be painful, thus resulting in poor sleep and worse work performance.
Eliminating bed bugs from the home is often difficult, partly because bed bugs can survive up to a year without feeding. Repeated treatments of a home may be required, and these treatments may include heating the room to 50 °C (122 °F) for more than 90 minutes, frequent vacuuming, washing clothing at high temperatures, and the use of various pesticides.
Thus to properly get rid of bed bugs, it is advised to get professional help as this is usually required. Pesticides are usually necessary to kill bed bugs and their eggs, but using these on or near your bed can be hazardous to your health. To complicate matters, many regular pesticides and foggers do not kill bed bugs because bed bugs have developed a resistance to the active ingredients in these products. You wouldn’t want to take chances as missing just one pregnant female bed bug can cause a re-infestation with over 300 adults and 1000 new eggs in three months. It thus takes a bit of knowledge and expertise to know what will work and get these things out.