What is a Bed Bug?
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are a species of blood sucking parasites, that get their name from their tendency to infest bedding. These red/brown arthropods are mostly active at night, and leave a rash consisting of small, itchy, red dots, that are often arranged in a line, or cluster. This rash is difficult to distinguish from other insect bites, does not always appear following a bite, and is only rarely severe. Repeated exposure to bed bugs can sensitize the skin to their bites, and can result in the appearance of bullous (fluid filled) lesions – a sign of an allergic reaction.
Don’t be too Concerned
Bed bug bites are not serious, and do not cause any long-term damage. There are no known diseases spread by bed bugs, and the greatest risk bed bugs carry is that the wounds they leave might become infected, much as any open wound may become infected.
If an infection occurs, it can be easily treated by topical antibiotic cream. The uncomfortable itching these bites cause, may be treated with a topical corticosteroid such as hydrocortisone or an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine.
However, the most important “treatment” for bed bugs is to eliminate the infestation. This can be achieved through the use of pesticides, such as dichlorvos, pyrethroids, and malathion. Before you use any pesticide, be sure that it is approved for use with any infants or pets in the house.
Putting bedding in the dryer at high heat can remove the infestation from sheets and blankets, but to be effective ALL sleeping material must be treated, including the mattress, and in some cases carpeting and clothing as well. Fully eradicating a bed bug infection without professional help is challenging.
Spotting a Potential Infestation
Bed bugs, which were nearly eradicated in developed countries, are becoming more common. It is theorized that this is due to the development of pesticide resistance. These parasites are more common in beds that are shared, such as those found in hostels and hotels. Unfortunately, it is difficult to visually inspect a bed for bed bugs. Large infestations, however, can be spotted by the appearance of small black fecal spots and a characteristic smell.