Although the effects of bed bug infestation are relatively minor - they don’t transmit diseases - the list of “annoyances” they bring could still include sleep loss, even anaphylactic shock and asthma.

Where people gather, bed bugs follow suit. And the word ‘bed’ that precedes bug is quite misleading because people get the impression these critters only live or thrive in beds. They don’t.

According to pest control resource website Pest World, bed bugs are good ‘hitchikers.’ They can turn suitcases. cracks, beddings and shoes easily into a home as long as they can squeeze their bodies into something and get lost from sight.

These bugs likewise find electrical switch plates, picture frames, secondhand furniture and even folds in the bed perfect hiding places. They are especially common in urban settings, where people are very mobile and carry them unknowingly.

Bed bugs have six legs and an antennae, and their colour ranges from mahogany to red-brown although some are colourless (nymphs). Regardless, they are flat and oval when starved, but swollen and elongated when fed - and they feast on human blood.

They come out at night to feed - usually for 5-10 minutes then hide for 5 to 10 days at which time they digest their meal and lay eggs, which can reach more than a hundred.

Bug bites

Parents used to recite a nursery rhyme - ‘sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite’ as they put their kids to sleep. And it is fair warning because their bites can either be itchy or leave a burning sensation or worse, could take several days to appear after being bitten.

They may not carry diseases, but their bites - usually found on exposed areas when sleeping - could lead to secondary infection.

Healthline describes the bites as “blisters or hives” appearing at the bite sites. The bites may come in a line or are clustered, whereas flea bites are typically located at the lower part of the extremities - in the legs or ankles - while mosquito bites are quite far from each other. Bed bug bites may appear as red and swollen.

Usually, bed bugs leave black dots (their droppings) or red smears - and these are likely signs bedbugs are near.

Health risks

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) noted that bed bugs can trigger a set of allergic reactions, asthma attacks and anaphylaxis cases , that latter of which is rare.

In Scientific American, it is pointed out that the skin sheddings that bugs leave behind can contribute to asthma, a condition wherein the airways are inflamed and lead to coughing, wheezing, tightness of chest and shortness of breath. The ACAAI noted that bugs becoming airborne could likewise trigger asthmatic attacks.

Those with allergies can experience intense forms of the symptoms. Some may also experience anaphylaxis which could result to tightness of the throat or may have trouble breathing.

Loss of sleep can also result because of being preoccupied with the thought of having crawling critters nearby. Some people, however, may not even feel a bed bug’s bite.

An antihistamine will reduce the itch and burning sensation, while ice packs help numb the skin to prevent the urge to scratch.

Prevention

Preventing a bed bug nest formation has a lot to do with precautions such as inspection of things carried/used during a vacation from some other place, checking of bedsheets for signs of an infestation (black dots, blood spots), and visual inspection of potential hiding places.

Another precaution is to be vigilant in bringing home a second-hand furniture without full inspection for bed bug presence.

Getting rid of them fully would require chemical treatment, or a pest control professional’s help as bed bugs often hide well. MIMS

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