They look innocuous enough and their bites are small and relatively painless, but bed bugs can become a real nuisance if you allow their presence in your home to go unchecked.
These blood-sucking insects spread quickly. Their bites can become infected or cause allergic reactions. According to a pair of studies, bed bugs have the potential to carry and transmit the parasites that cause Chagas disease. This ability has only been demonstrated in the laboratory, though.
Read on as we explore the symptoms of bed bug bites and how to treat them. We’ll also help you work out if you’ve got a bed bug problem at home, so you can stop those pests before they get really out of hand.
About Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are very small, oval-shaped insects. They are about 5-7 mm in length with flat, reddish-brown bodies. Even though they can crawl around very quickly, bed bugs can’t fly.
Their only food source is animal blood, including that of humans. They tend to come out at night. This is when they bite the exposed skin of their victims while they sleep, defenseless and unaware.
Where Can You Find Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs exist all over the world, in the most developed countries as well as the least developed ones.
For many years after World War II, they became much less prevalent, especially in the United States. This was thanks to the introduction of DDT and other synthetic insecticides. In recent years, bed bugs have been making a comeback in the United States. This is due to increased international travel, trade, immigration, and insecticide resistance.
Bed bugs live in clean environments as well as dirty ones. They are more likely to inhabit crowded areas than sparsely populated ones, though. Bed bugs are considered a major household pest. You can find them anywhere in your home and anywhere that humans live and sleep, including hotels. As their name implies, you’re more likely to find them in and around beds, including the mattress, bedding, and frame.
They can also live in the cracks and other small spaces in your household furniture and fittings (carpets, curtains, etc.) or in any other little nooks in your house (like in the wallpaper). Since they can survive for months at a time without feeding, bed bugs can live in vacant homes as well as in occupied ones.
How Do Bed Bugs Spread?
Bed bugs spread to different locations in the home by crawling. Because they hide and deposit their eggs in items of clothing and furniture, they can contaminate multiple rooms or even entire buildings when items are moved from one place to another. Furniture, luggage, folded linens, and other transported items can all spread bed bugs to new homes and buildings.
How Can I Detect Bed Bugs?
If you’re want to know if you have bed bugs, look for a certain musty odor, which is a product of their gland secretions. They can also leave small, dark spots (which are actually their feces) in and around bed linen and any other places they hide.
Bed bug bites are another sign that you might have bed bugs. The bites alone are not unique enough to determine if you have a bed bug infestation, though. You may need to employ the assistance of professional pest control services to confirm whether bed bugs are present in your home.
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
As we’ve seen, bed bugs feed on human blood and are most active at night. They’ll happily bite any areas of your skin that they find exposed, including your face, hands, neck, arms, and legs. Bed bug bites are painless and can easily go unnoticed. They also have certain features that can help you tell them apart from the bites of other insects.
The most common sign of bed bug bites is the presence of very small red bumps on the skin, which can be flat or raised. You’ll often find several of them lined up in a zigzag pattern caused by the bed bugs moving from site to site while feeding. You might also experience swelling, redness, or itching. Because of this, it’s quite easy to mistake bed bug bites for flea bites, mosquito bites, or simply a rash. Flea bites are typically concentrated on the lower legs while bed bug bites appear higher on the body, though.
Bed bug bites will often take a few days to develop. The first signs and symptoms may not appear until up to 14 days after the initial bite. Because they’re itchy, scratching bed bug bites can lead to irritation around the bite site and even infection. According to infectious disease specialists, bed bugs may also be carriers for certain dangerous diseases, including Chagas disease or American trypanosomiasis. This hasn’t been proven conclusively, however.
How to Treat Bed Bug Bites
For the most part, bed bug bites don’t require any special treatment. If the itching is particularly severe, you can use anything that relieves or controls itching, such as over-the-counter medications like topical steroid ointments or antihistamines. In the case of secondary bacterial infections that occur in heavily-scratched places or an allergic reaction, you may need to get a prescription from antibiotics from your doctor.
How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?
By and large, bed bugs bites aren’t particularly serious and will heal on their own if given enough time. Generally, bed bug bites will heal within one to two weeks.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
That’s all well and good, but as the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” The best way to treat bed bug bites is to stop them from entering your home to begin with. Keep your house clean by vacuuming frequently, keeping your living spaces free of clutter, and so on. Another good idea is to seal your mattress off using a special cover that will keep bed bugs from infesting it.
When traveling, keep your luggage away from any hotel beds you sleep in. If possible, you should try to store your suitcase on a luggage rack. You definitely don’t want to accidentally take any stowaways home with you. As soon as you get home, throw all of your travel clothes in the washer. Don’t keep your luggage under or around your bed at home either. It’s best to store it in the garage or basement.
If bed bugs have already taken over all or part of your home, the first step should be to avoid any areas that you know are infested. You’ll need to call in the professionals as soon as possible to treat the affected rooms.
Generally, conventional insect repellents and other DIY treatments aren’t effective when it comes to bed bugs. They’ll recommend deep-cleaning, scrubbing infested surfaces, pulling apart your furniture and bed frames, filling in cracks, covering your mattress with a special bag, deep vacuuming in cracks, and so on.