Beware of Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs have been making headlines in recent years as they've made their presence known from dorm rooms to five star resort hotels. The small non-flying parasitic insects feed on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Flat and oval shaped, they are about the size of an apple seed.

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Where do bed bugs come from?
The pesky bugs are found all over the world and are more prevalent in underdeveloped countries. They have migrated to the U.S. in recent years, and according to the Centers For Disease Control, their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found. Bed bugs are carried unknowingly on furniture, luggage and other materials, so infestations are more severe in motels, apartments and areas where there is a high amount of human traffic.

Mostly found close to areas where people sleep, bed bugs are transported from place to place as people travel and they are experts at hiding during the day in seams of mattresses and any cracks or crevices close to beds. They are most active at night.

What are the health risks?
Fortunately, bed bugs do not transmit diseases, however their bites can cause itching, insomnia and anxiety. In severe cases scratching excessively can lead to a secondary skin infection that requires antibiotics. Some people can have an allergic reaction that requires medical attention. People who travel frequently or who share living and sleeping areas where other people have recently slept are at a higher risk of being bitten or spreading bed bugs.

How do you know if you've been bitten?
Bed bugs generally leave bite marks on the face, hands, neck and arms while people are sleeping. When they bite, they inject an anesthetic and anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing that they have been bitten, and often bite marks can take up to 14 days to develop. The bite marks are similar to a mosquito bite and leave a slightly red and swollen area that can feel itchy.

Removing the bugs is not an easy process, and if a mattress has been infested it usually needs to be throw away. Washing bedding in hot water can usually kill the bugs, and placing plastic coverings around mattresses and pillows can prevent infestations. Often a professional pest control company is the only way to get rid of an infestation.

Bed bug bites are painless and usually, no treatment is required, however steroid creams and antihistamines can help relieve symptoms. An infection that develops from excessive scratching may require antibiotics.


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