Bed Bugs: What You Need to Know
- Hi, I’m Dr. Jorge Parada, medical advisor for the National Pest Management Association.
- Today, I’m going to talk about bed bugs and the bites that they leave behind.
- Bed bugs have made a comeback and are now widespread throughout the United States and the world, so it’s important to understand how they can affect our health.
What Are Bed Bugs?
- Bed bugs are pests that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts.
- They are most active at night when we are sleeping and emit a steady stream of carbon dioxide.
- Bed bug bites are painless because the bugs inject an anticoagulant (blood thinner) and an anesthetic to numb the area while they feed. This usually takes 5-10 minutes.
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
- The most common symptom of a bed bug bite is the bite itself, which can turn into a large, raised, itchy welt.
- If the welts are scratched, they can become infected.
- People who are repeatedly bitten may have a more exaggerated skin reaction because their skin becomes sensitized to the bites.
- However, about 30% of people do not have any reaction at all and may not even realize they were bitten.
- For those who do have a reaction, the bites can range from tiny puncture wounds to large red raised welts.
- The bites are usually noticed upon waking up, but in some cases the reaction may take up to two weeks to develop.
- Bed bugs are often found in a row on the skin and are typically on exposed areas such as the face, neck, hands, legs, or arms.
- These bites can take 3-6 weeks to fully heal. If there is an infestation present, new bites may appear even as the older ones disappear, so there may be bites in various stages of evolution at the same time.
Complications and Treatment
- The most common complaint with bed bug bites is itching.
- Topical steroid creams and oral antihistamines can provide relief for severe itching.
- It’s important to clean the bite sites with soap and water and avoid scratching to prevent infection.
- If a secondary infection occurs, consult your physician for treatment with antibiotics as appropriate.
- Bed bug bites can look similar to other insect bites, so it’s important to see a doctor to confirm if the bites are from bed bugs or something else.
- A qualified pest professional can help confirm if an infestation is present in your home.
- Thank you for watching this episode of Health Checks.
- For more information on bed bugs, visit pests.org.
How do you know if you have bed bugs?
Signs of a bed bug infestation include finding actual bed bugs, their eggs, or molted skin, as well as bites on your skin that are in a line or cluster and occur primarily on exposed areas such as the face, neck, hands, and arms.
How do you get rid of bed bugs?
Getting rid of bed bugs can be a challenging and time-consuming process, and it is usually best to hire a professional pest control company to handle the treatment. The process may involve a combination of chemical and non-chemical methods, such as heating, freezing, and vacuuming.
How do bed bugs spread?
Bed bugs can spread through contact with infested objects, such as furniture, clothing, or bedding, as well as through personal contact with an infested person. They can also be carried into a home through luggage, backpacks, or other personal items after staying in a hotel or other location that has an infestation.
Can bed bugs transmit diseases?
Bed bugs do not transmit diseases to humans, but their bites can lead to secondary infections if they are scratched and not properly treated. It is important to keep the bite sites clean and avoid scratching to prevent infection.
How do you prevent bed bugs?
To prevent bed bugs, avoid bringing infested objects into your home, carefully inspect used furniture and other items before bringing them into your home, and check for signs of an infestation when staying in hotels or other places where you may be at risk. It is also helpful to regularly inspect and vacuum your home, especially in areas where bed bugs are known to hide, such as around the edges of mattresses, behind headboards, and in crevices in furniture.