Bed bugs cannot live on your body. They may prefer to live near their host, not on them. Bed bugs gravitate toward people who remain inactive (e.g. sleeping) long enough to provide a blood meal. As per research, they may stay or hide 5-20 feet away to feed blood. Once the blood-feeding is complete, bed bugs may usually retreat to their hiding spots to digest the blood. Bed bugs lack the body shape and legs that are required to clamber, and they naturally prefer to live around their host, not on their skin or other parts. They prefer open areas of the skin to feed rather than living on them. After a bed bug feeds, it swells up into a red balloon to almost three times its normal size; hence, bed bugs cannot survive on a human body or live discreetly while swelled up to that level.
Where do bed bugs hide?
Bed bugs live usually in the cracks and crevices of beds. When they sense that a person is asleep, they move toward 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.
How do bedbugs survive?
Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects. They usually live on the blood of other creatures for their survival and breeding. Bed bugs usually 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 and respond to warmth/moisture. To feed, they penetrate the skin of the host and inject a salivary fluid that contains an anticoagulant to help them obtain blood.
Do bed bugs cause any health issues?
Even without disease transmission, bed bugs are known to affect health in ways that may become serious. Few common health issues due to bedbugs include:
- Blood loss: Many bites over time can cause significant blood loss and potential anemia. Depending on the stage of the bedbug, they may feed for as little as 3 minutes or as long as 10-15 minutes. They prefer to feed at night on exposed areas such as the hands, neck, arms, and face. Heavy rates of feeding have been known to cause significant blood loss and eventually lead to anemia and other complications, especially in children.
- Allergic reactions: As per research, 70% of people may have allergic reaction bed bugs, which may sometimes lead to life-threatening situations. Allergies to their droppings and remains may cause asthmatic attacks in susceptible people. Allergies to the bite, caused by bed bug saliva, can trigger hives, rashes, itching, and burning.
- Infection: Bedbug bites can be very itchy, leading to a strong urge to scratch it until the itch goes away. A few patients develop severe systemic reactions including trouble breathing, severe infections, and difficulty breathing. Because bedbugs often bite in the middle of the night during sleep, people scratch them, leading to flesh wounds in the morning. Small open wounds from continuous scratching may lead to germs and bacterial infection if left untreated. Scarring can occur and persist for months or longer.
- Emotional and psychological effects: Some people have been known to respond to bedbug infestations with insomnia, fear, stress, anxiety, and even paranoia. Sometimes, they become too distressed to sleep due to the fear of being bitten, and the lack of sleep can sometimes trigger depression and emotional anxiety.
How to treat a bedbug bite?
Bed bugs may be treated at home; however, in severe cases, it may need immediate medical attention:
- Bite sites should be washed with soap and water.
- A steroidal anti-itch cream should be applied that contains hydrocortisone or cortisone.
- Calamine lotion may dry out the rash.
- Oral antihistamine or allergy tablets may control swelling and rash caused by the bites.
- Topical anesthetic that contains pramoxine for pain relief and diphenhydramine for itch control may be used.
- Pain relievers that contain ibuprofen or naproxen may also be used.
- If wounds have pus, topical application of antipruritic agents such as paroxime, doxepin, or corticosteroids such as triamcinolone may be helpful.
- Sites that appear to be secondarily infected may benefit from topical mupirocin or systemic antibiotics as appropriate.
- Systemic allergic reactions to bedbug bites may be treated with intramuscular epinephrine, followed by antihistamines and corticosteroids when appropriate.
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