“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”, is a common saying before people go to bed. However bed bug numbers are on the rise and they are getting to be harder to treat so more and more people are finding their homes infested.
Are you are waking up with itchy bites and not sure if they are bed bug bites or fleas? Need help in dealing with them? This article aims to show you how to tell whether you have bed bugs, fleas or other nasty invaders and then how to get rid of the little blighters.
- 1 What Are Bed Bugs exactly?
- 2 Do Bed Bugs Bite?
- 3 What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
- 4 What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
- 5 Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
- 6 What Are The Signs Of Bed Bugs?
- 7 How Do You Get a Bed Bug Infestation?
- 8 How Do You Avoid Getting a Bed Bug Infestation?
- 9 Effective Home Remedies for Bed Bug Rashes
- 10 Itch Relief Creams and Lotions
- 11 Anti-Histamines For Treating Bed Bug Bites
- 12 How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites
- 13 Don't let the bed bugs bite... Bite them back!!
What Are Bed Bugs exactly?
Bed bugs are a parasitic insect that feeds entirely on blood. There are many different types, but most types of bed bug only feed on humans when their preferred victim is not available to them, such as poultry and cattle. However Cimex lectularius is the one you are most likely to find as they specialise in feeding on human blood. Bed bugs only live for about 1 year, but they reproduce incredibly fast – one adult female can produce hundreds of eggs in her lifetime.
Bed Bugs are also very hardy – they can live for several months without eating and can withstand a wide range of temperatures from nearly freezing to as much as 50 degrees celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) for short periods.
Bed bugs were very prevalent prior to the 20th century but with the invention of DDT and other changes to the way we live their numbers in the western world declined significantly. However as they evolved to become more resistant to pesticides and we discovered the adverse health effects of these treatments their numbers have grown rapidly since the 1990s according to the University of Kentucky.
Do Bed Bugs Bite?Yes they do.
Bed bugs have have mouth parts that latch on with suction and then saw through the skin. To avoid detection they inject saliva with anticoagulants and painkillers. Most of the problems we have with bed bugs are caused by these chemicals rather than the bites themselves.
To counter these chemicals our bodies produce Histamines as our defence. A side effect of these is the itchiness, but the reactions can be much more dramatic if your body over-reacts. Our reactions to bed bug bites ranges from no reaction at all (about 20%) through to extreme allergic reaction which requires urgent medical attention – ie call 999 immediately!
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
The symptoms usually do not appear right away, the bites will be visible after several days. You will see small reddish bumps, grouped together on your face, neck, arms or shoulders. The bites will become itchy after a couple of days. People who have sensitive skin may experience severe itchiness and a burning sensation in the surrounding bite area. In most people the rashes will subside after a week or so without any medical treatment.
A single bed bug bite usually produces a swelling with no red spot after the swelling subsides. However bed bugs follow paths laid down by other bugs to find their food, so often many feed in a small area of skin. When many bugs feed on a small area, reddish spots may appear after the swelling subsides.
You can usually tell the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites as flea bites are usually found on a person’s legs and ankles. Bed bug bites are usually grouped together and they are usually found on the upper parts of one’s body, including the face and neck.
Your skin can get even more irritated if exposed to sweat, chlorinated water, warm water, etc. If you see blisters on your skin, go to your doctor right away. Allergic reaction is not very common, but it is possible. If you experience any sign of allergic reaction, speak to your GP.
However, while itchy and uncomfortable, you will be relieved to know that bed bugs are not as dangerous as many other parasites. Yes, they are annoying, and yes, they can cause skin irritation, but they have not been shown to spread any serious diseases unlike fleas or ticks. The main danger is that bed bug bites can cause an allergic reaction for some people which can be severe and require medical attention.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bugs are brownish or reddish with flattened oval-shaped bodies that are segmented. They are often mistaken for other insects like carpet beetles or small cockroaches.
Young bed bugs (nymphs) start out translucent light brown in colour, but as they grow, their colour changes to a deeper brown. The translucent bodies of the young bed bugs that just after they feed they appear bright red from the blood they are filled with!
How Big Are Bed Bugs?
Adult bed bugs can grow to some 5mm in length and up to about 3mm in width.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
Bed Bugs live in the crevices in beds and bedding, closets, wall cracks behind skirting boards etc. – anywhere warm and near a food source, ie us in our bedrooms!
What Are The Signs Of Bed Bugs?These bugs are generally nocturnal and feed during the night as people are easier to feed on when they are sleeping. They always return to their nesting areas during daylight hours to help prevent discovery, predation and to mate. This nocturnal behaviour means it is unlikely you will see them running around, but they are living creatures and leave behind other evidence such as:
- When changing your sheets look out for small rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
- Also keep an eye out for bed bug excrement which usually looks like dark spots about this size • and may bleed on the fabric in the same way a marker would.
- Eggs and eggshells, which are about 1mm long and white
- The pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow
- And of course keep an eye open for any live bed bugs.
So if you notice any of these on your bed or even on the walls close to the bed, it is likely you have a bed bug infestation.
How Do You Get a Bed Bug Infestation?
You can find bed bugs almost anywhere that is warm and dry, e.g. your office, shops, hotels or your gym. They naturally find their way into small, warm crevices including luggage or other personal belongings, they can sometimes even be hiding on the clothes you are wearing! Once there they hitchhike back to your home and then find their way to somewhere that is warm, protected and has easy access to their food…namely you!
In an environment like this a single fertile female bed bug in a friendly environment with a good source of blood can lay several eggs a day and hundreds in her life-time. These very quickly hatch and breed and before you know it, you have an infestation.
How Do You Avoid Getting a Bed Bug Infestation?To avoid bed bugs you should regularly wash your pillow cases and sheets in hot water and dry on a high heat setting for at least 20 minutes and try to prevent sheets draping on the floor or carpet when on the bed itself.
Unfortunately, because bed bugs have such thin bodies they can hide in the skirting boards, in between the floor boards and in any small crack or crevice in your bedroom. So a good strong vacuum will not always clear every bed bug from the room.