Bedbugs

Young man sitting on edge of bed scratching head, portrait

Bedbugs are a parasite that feeds on the blood of living creatures, primarily mammals. A number of adverse health effects occur after being bitten by the parasite which includes rashes and allergic reactions.  In some cases an allergic reaction may require professional medical attention. Because the bites are very similar to many insect bites, making a certain diagnosis is often difficult. Furthermore, the bites themselves have been proven to occur fourteen days after the initial bite which makes pinpointing the source even trickier. Although bedbugs are not known to cause disease, they are considered a nuisance due to the itchiness their bites tend to manifest and the lack of sleep caused by their incessant presence in one’s bed if not identified.

Causes

A bedbug infestation is caused by introducing the species to a new environment, such as one’s home. While bedbugs cannot fly, they can move rather quickly across floors, walls, and ceilings.  The female bedbug can lay hundreds of eggs with each egg being roughly the size of a dust particle.  Immature bed bugs called nymphs undergo five cycles of shedding before reaching maturity. It is after each shedding that nyphms require feeding. The mobility of bedbugs relies on traveling on other creatures which can then transport the bed bugs to a new location with a potential food source. Various means of mobility include but are not limited to being transported by pets, a visiting person’s body or luggage, previously infested items like furniture, clothing, or backpacks, and nearby dwellings that are easy for the insects to travel from. For this reason it is very important to be cautious of second-hand or refurbished purchases, and to never retrieve a mattress or couch from the curb.   It has also been found that the insects can travel on wild fling animals such as birds or bats. This implies that they can reach a potential victim from a vast distance.

Signs

It is important to acknowledge the physiology of a bedbug bite.  The saliva of these insects contains an antiseptic which often prevents a victim from being able to feel that they were bitten. While the physical sensation may be absent, there are primary indicators of a bite on the body which can be used to identify a bedbug bite. Less overt symptoms include anxiety and insomnia. Although each individual reacts differently, an almost sure sign is a slightly swollen and red area on the skin that usually takes form a few days after being bitten – these are similar to mosquito or flea bites. Moreover, waking up with itchy spots one didn’t have the night or previous nights before also indicates that one has been bitten. This is evidenced by bloodstains on sheets and pillowcases.  Most importantly, if one cannot distinguish whether they have a general bite/rash or an illness caused by bedbugs, a trained medical professional can make an accurate diagnosis.  A diagnosis can indirectly indicate that there is a bed bug infestation in one’s home. Itchiness will typically be accompanied by red swellings which are the manifestation of a bedbug bite.

Cures

While bedbugs do not pose a serious medical threat to the health of people in one’s home, they do compromise the well being of those dealing with them on a nightly basis. There are plenty of over-the-counter antiseptics and lotions that can be applied to the skin to alleviate the symptoms. Antihistamines can also be taken to prevent further allergic reaction to the parasitic bite which can be both prescribed and sold over-the-counter. As of yet there is no formal treatment for a bedbug bite beyond alleviating the symptoms associated with the parasitic organism. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends preventing an infestation in the first place, i.e. knowing the causes and taking preventative measures, as the tried and trusted method for avoiding the illness.