What are bed bugs?
The scientific name for bed bugs is Cimex lectularius. They are small, brownish red, flat bugs. They can live for months without feeding.
The physical symptoms of bed bugs are the presence of bug bites. However, some people do not react to the bug bites and may not notice them. Others may have a stronger allergic reaction to them that may require medical attention. Most people do not notice the bug bites until a few days after they occur because the insects inject an anesthetic, a substance that induces insensitivity to pain, before biting.
Bed bugs spread by traveling on items from infested areas. They often travel in clothing or suitcases, but can also travel on furniture, boxes, or linens.
There are many ways you can lower the risk of getting bed bugs:
- Inspect used items before bringing them into your home
- Inspect hotel rooms, especially the mattress and behind the headboard before bringing your luggage in
- Use a protective cover on your mattress
- Vacuum frequently
Who can get it?
Anyone can get bed bugs. Getting bed bugs is not related to the cleanliness of your environment. They have been found in luxurious hotels, at movie theaters, and on airplanes, all of which are cleaned regularly. They gather where people sleep, hiding during the day, and coming out at night to feed.
Diagnosis for bed bugs
There are a few different way you may notice the presence of bed bugs:
- Small red and brown stains on sheets or mattress (crushed bed bugs)
- Dark spots the size of a punctuation mark period (bed bug excrement)
- Small pale yellow husks (eggshells and shed skins)
If you think you have bed bugs make sure to check in the places bed bugs like to hide, such as:
- Seams of furniture
- Behind picture frames
- Corners of drawers
- Where the ceiling meets the wall
- Behind the headboard
Treatments for bed bugs
The best way to get rid of bed bugs permanently is to work with a pest control professional to come up with a plan that combines home remedies and professional pesticide solutions.
Here are things you can do at home to help bed bugs stay away:
Wash and dry clothes and bedding in temperatures of at least 120 degrees
Heat is one of the best ways to kill bed bugs. Pest experts use professional heating elements to kill bedbugs. You can also use a steam cleaner with a diffuser to kill bed bugs hiding in fabrics and baseboards.
Vacuum frequently - at least a few times per week
Vacuuming can suck up bed bugs but it doesn't kill them. Make sure to seal the vacuum bag or trash bag with tape and immediately throw out in the garbage outside of your house.
Freeze items you can not heat or launder
Heat kills bed bugs and so does prolonged exposure to cold temperatures of zero degrees Fahrenheit. You can freeze items like electronics that do not have LCD screens, pictures, books, shoes, and toys. Place the items in a sealed plastic bag prior to freezing and make sure to freeze items for at least four days straight.
In order to keep bed bugs at bay, you need to be vigilant. Keep checking to see if your efforts have worked. If any bed bug eggs are present after treatment, they can come back, so vigilance is key. Experts recommend checking at least once a week for a while after the primary infestation is gone.
Bed bugs are a nuisance for most people. However, some people who have allergic reactions to bed bug bites may need medical treatment for the bites. Getting bed bugs doesn't mean you or your home are dirty. You can get rid of bed bugs with the help of a professional using pesticides, and at-home treatment with vigilance.
What causes bed bugs?
Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects. They usually survive on the blood of other creatures. Bed bugs live usually in the cracks and crevices of beds. When they sense that a person is asleep, they move towards them and feed on their blood. Bed bugs can also be found in sofas, mattresses, chairs, sheets, blankets, suitcases, cardboard boxes, cluttered areas, and other similar furniture items.
The most common causes of bed bugs are described below:
- Population: As bed bugs live on human beings, it is logical that with the growth in the human population, bed bugs will also increase.
- Travel: Travel is one of the most common causes of bed bugs. This includes airplanes, buses, trains, and ships. Usually, bed bugs reside on the seats and may crawl on an individual or their belongings. Then these bugs may travel to their houses.
- Hotels/Motels: When an individual moves into a hotel or motel, there is an increased risk that bed bugs may crawl on them or their belongings and move with them.
- Urbanized living: Urban cities have increased travel frequency and houses may be closer to each compared to rural ones. This gives bed bugs a better opportunity to spread from one place to another.
- Secondhand furniture: Bed bugs can often be introduced to a property when an infested piece of furniture is brought into a home or business. Likewise, rented furniture can also have bed bugs. Bed bugs may survive for many months without a blood meal.
What does a bed bug bite look like?
The bite of a bed bug looks like a cluster of red spots. They are painless at the start but later may become reddish welts.
- The red spot may be much darker in the middle. Bites will eventually produce itchy red bumps and welts on the surface of the skin.
- The bites spots are itchy, and due to the scratching, you may get a bacterial infection.
- These bites may be often arranged in clusters or in a line which may indicate the path the bed bug took while it kept biting.
- Bed bug bites are normally located on the exposed areas, such as the face, arms, hands, and neck of individuals.
Bed bugs feed on humans and other warm-blooded hosts to survive and reproduce. They find a host by detecting carbon dioxide emitted from warm-blooded people or animals. They respond to warmth/moisture. To feed, they penetrate the skin of the host and inject a salivary fluid that contains a blood thinner to help them obtain blood.
How does a bed bug bite affect an individual’s health?
Below are common health issues an individual may develop due to bed bugs.
- Stress: Individuals may become stressed out or frustrated living in a bedbug-infested household. These bugs may spread quickly and may damage bed sheets and curtains apart from constant biting on the body. Living in a stressful environment for long periods of time can lead to a lot of emotional anxiety, which may then lead to health problems. Emotional anxiety may impact on our immune system and its ability to fight off antigens, making us more prone to all kinds of infections. Stress can also increase heart rate and blood pressure, as well as affect our digestive system. All these combined can increase the risk of catching harmful diseases.
- Infection: Bed bug bites can be very itchy, leading to the strong urge to scratch it until the itch goes away. Small open wounds from continuous scratching may lead to bacterial infection if left untreated.
- Allergic reaction to bites: As per research, 70% of the people could have allergic reactions due to continuous bites, which may sometimes lead to life-threatening situations.
- Disturbed sleep: Repeated exposure to bed bugs and numerous bites may lead to never-ending itch, and the thought of crawling bugs around is bound to keep anyone up all night. This may lead to fatigue, which in turn will affect efficiency in completing daily activities.
- Anemia: Serious infestation by bed bites can cause blood loss and cause anemia.
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How to treat a bed bug bite?
Symptoms of bed bug bites may be relieved by the following measures:
- Apply a steroidal anti-itch cream that contains Hydrocortisone, Cortisone, or topical anesthetic that contains Pramoxine for pain relief and Diphenhydramine for itch control.
- Use calamine lotion to dry out the rash.
- Take oral antihistamine allergy tablets and pain relievers like Ibuprofen to control the symptoms.
IMAGESBrowse our medical image collection of allergic skin disorders such as psoriasis and dermatitis and more caused by allergies See Images
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Patient Care: "Bed Bug Bites: Everything You Need to Know-But Were Afraid to Ask."
Pests: "How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs."
United States Environmental Protection Agency: "Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control."
United States Environmental Protection Agency: "Protecting Your Home from Bed Bugs."
University of Minnesota: "Using Freezing Conditions to Kill Bed Bugs."
University of Minnesota: "Vacuuming To Capture Bed Bugs."
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