Bedbugs are the insects that feed on warm blooded animal, majorly on human blood for survival. They are present in beds from home, hotels and hospitals mainly, but can also present in sofa, carpets, wooden chairs, cushions, etc. Their bites can cause of numerous health impacts such as skin rashes, bruises, psychological effect and allergic symptoms.
The symptoms may take a few minutes to days to be visible and generally itchiness is there. Some may also experience weakness or even fever. Majorly the uncovered areas of the skin get affected. Though these bites are not dangerous and vanishes within few days.
Typically the insects from two species are the prime cause of these bites namely, Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus. Among these the first one is the common bedbug and the later one is found in the tropical regions. They don’t have wings so rely on other insects and birds to get transmit from one place to another and can crawl also.
Generally the infestation is due to lack of hygiene and they can be present in your personal items, especially after a long journey, if you are bringing a second-hand furniture that is infested or can transmit from one infested item or place to another within one room or house. The most obvious sing of the presence of bedbug is, the unexplained skin rashes that usually occur after every night.
The presence of eggs under or around the bed which can look like tiny pale poppy seeds. The excretion of bedbug is brown to black colour liquid that is either absorbed by the material or form a crystallized bead structure. A colony of bedbugs may produce an odour similar to that of a coriander plant.
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What do bedbugs and bedbug bites look like?
- They are visible to naked eye. An adult bedbug filled with blood looks like red to brown in colour. It may leave reddish spot on bed sheets when crushed.
- They are flat, oval and reddish brown in colour having size of about an apple seed which ranges between 1-7 mm and nocturnal mostly.
- The eggs and eggshells are too small about 1mm in size and are pale white to light yellow in colour.
A bug can differ upon their feeding status:-
- Not recently fed – it will look like about 4.5-5mm, long, dark brown to black in colour, flat and oval insect with legs.
- Just before eating – flat disc with legs
- After eating– it inflates and elongates. Its body colour start becoming more red-brown from black – brown.
- During digestion – slight puffy and dark reddish brown in colour.
The bug also differs during different developmental stage and commonly bedbug has seven stages–
- Egg – about 1 mm in size, usually laid in clusters.
- First stage larva – 1.5 mm long, take blood meal then molts.
- Second stage larva – 2mm long, take blood meal then molts.
- Third stage larva – 2.5 mm long, take blood meal then molts
- Fourth stage larva – 3mm long, take blood meal then molts
- Fifth stage larva – 4.5mm long, take blood meal then molts
- Adult – after 5 molting stages the nymph finally develops into adult male or female insect. The male take blood meals for several weeks while the female feed on the blood diet and lay five eggs per day.
The physical difference between an adult and nymph is attributed as –
|1||Colour||Dark red brown to black||Pale white to yellow|
|2||No. of legs||6||6|
|3||No. of antennae||2||2|
|5||Length||4.5 to 7 mm (about an apple seed)||2 to 5.5 mm (larger to a poppy seed)|
|6||lifespan||6-12 months (in ideal temperature)||40 days when well fed (after 40 days the nymph hatch to adulthood)|
Life cycle of a bedbug is hard to remember, but if you know what you are looking for, it is easy to get rid of.
Causes of BedBugs Infestations
The bed bugs infestation can occur in many
- They generally require a host to transmit from one place to another and can, therefore can be transmitted by birds, small insects, small rodents, humans, etc.
- The empty house spaces easily get caught by the bedbugs as uncleanliness, moist environment and dark places are most suitable for their survival.
- If you have visited already infested place and are precautious about carrying one with you to your house space along with suitcases, boots, clothes etc.
- They also get along with the second hand furniture or used mattresses or clothes.
- They can even travel from room to room or apartment to apartment through holes or wires and pipelines.
- They seek their human host by sensing the body heat and the presence of carbon-di-oxide, so don’t use unhygienic, dusty public places.
What are the symptoms to look for?
The bedbug secrete an anaesthetic liquid before it bite, therefore suck blood in a painless manner. You may not happen to know during or immediate after it bites you, but the signs and symptoms may appear after an hour or can take several days.
- The most common affected area is uncovered skin. Pruritic, erythematous and maculopapular lesions are common findings of bedbug bite.
- The lesion cab be from 2mm in diameter to as large as 2 cm.
- Response vary from person to person, some experience white and puffed blisters along with sever itching that can lasts for several days.
- The systemic infection from bedbug is very rare but can develop into secondary lesions due to scratching or any other skin infection also happen along with bite lesions.
- Before drawing blood, they release a salivary protein that act as blood thinning agent as well, which can leave a central spot of bleeding for few seconds.
- It usually happens in row of 3 bites as when interrupted they come back and bite again 1 inch away from previous bite, known as “breakfast, lunch and dinner” sign.
Allergies – Due to the injected saliva in the host skin, if the bug fed on same human for over a period, his/her body will become more sensitive to the chemical its saliva contain and later develop an allergic response known as anaphylaxis. In some patients with asthma it can also cause asthmatic attack due to the effect of air-borne allergies and in some other scenarios a person can also feel difficulty in breathing, swelling of the throat and the mouth, fever, chills, dizziness, confusion, wheezing, etc.
Psychological – a person can also be mentally affected as can develop delusional parasitosis, if develop an obsession with bedbugs. It can also cause sleeplessness, anxiety, stress, chronic attacks if the infestation is serious.
Due to continuous blood drawn from the body the chronic infestation can also cause anaemia.
Pathogenic infections– although they directly cannot cause any pathogenic infections but the punctures it does can be a pathway for infectious agents to enter. Due to scratching the bacterial skin infection occur more frequently. The bedbugs also have capability to carry pathogenic agent or can come through one as they always require agent to transmit.
Detection of BedBugs Bites
There is no specific diagnosis for such a bite or skin rashes. The bugs are parasitic in nature but it not always live on host. Once it finished feeding, it follow the chemical trail and join back its colony in hidden space. This behavioural living of bedbugs make it more difficult to spot it easily. The common practice that can be employed for detection are –
- Observe pattern – although it is difficult to distinguish bedbug bites from other arthropods bites but you can still look for a patter known as “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner” bites which occur in a liner pattern of three consecutive bites.
- Physical examination – you can also physically check the Sleeping environment for any sigh or eggs or bugs.
- Smell– The colony of bugs produce a sweet coriander like smell, so if the bugs are not visible and you have large living space, the smell can be easily detected by dogs specially.
Treatment for Bedbugs Bites
The bedbug bites gets better within one to two weeks. Still some remedies can be done to help relief the symptoms
- See a doctor if rasher are burning and are too itchy
- Apply prescribed steroids, infected person can consume oral anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory such as diphenhydramine, cetirizine, loratadine, etc.
- You can also use some pain reliever and can have doctor to prescribe medicine accordingly in case of co-infection or allergy.
- For mild symptoms, you can also use cold compression to relieve swelling
- For burning sensation and itching a paste of baking soda and water can be a good remedy at home.
Prevention of Bedbugs Bites
It is difficult to get rid of bed bugs once infested as they feed once in every 5-10 days and can survive upto 70 days without feeding. The best way to get rid is taking precautions before they infest your living space.
- Travels should check their every baggage, shoes, and clothing before leaving the visited place.
- If they had visited an infested area, then before entering the house leave the belongings in separate room for one day at least and change the clothes outside the house.
- If visiting a new area, examine that area well before opening the suitcase and belongings over the bed.
- For protecting the living space the additional preventive measure can be sealing the cracks
- Vacuum home beds, sofa, carpets, and cushions once every month to eliminate the dust and infested bugs.
How to get rid of bed bugs?
Bed bugs use to appear all over the world, but in ancient times due to the use of DDT and vacuum cleaner their growth rate was limited.But nowadays they are resistant to most of the chemicals and therefore the use of de novo chemical treatment and physical method is necessary. In case, if you spot bed bugs in your home deal patiently as anxiety and hurry can worsen the situation. Some treatment that may be used include,
- Vacuum – this method can be used to reduce the severity of infestation. The carpets, beds and all the other necessary infested objects were vacuumed though a vacuum cleaner which is attached to a sealed plastic bag. This plastic bag should be discarded properly to avoid the re-infestation. As it cannot penetrate the small spaces and cracks, this process cannot eliminate the bug’s harbourages completely.
- Starving– you can also put the infested things aside in an isolated place to avoid the further spreading and to starve the insects in the infested objects to get rid of them. It is a long process as the bug once eaten can survive upto 70 day without a blood meal.
- Freezing and Thawing – clothes can be washed in hot water at 60 degree temperature and then immediately transferred to cold water having temperature of about -20 degree Celsius. For non-washable objects steam can be employed of deeply penetrate and eradicate the bugs or instead the temperature camber can be used to put the infested objects, where the temperature can be increased enough upto 60 degree and then after some time it can be lowered to -16 degree Celsius accordingly.
- Insecticides – due to the increases resistance to insecticides the use of pyrethroids is not effective enough as it is used in 80 to 90 % of the insecticides that are commercially available. The insect bombs or foggers are also not that effective as they cannot penetrate the harbourages of bugs even.
- Diatomaceous earth – it’s a dust like powder that contain diatoms. Once the bugs came in contact with diatomaceous earth, the diatoms present in it cuts the exoskeleton of the bugs cause them to dehydrate and ultimately die. Since no chemical reaction is involved, it is likely to impossible for bugs to acquire resistance. Once the earth layer is wet it became ineffective and can be removed easily and a new layer can be applied.
FAQs related to BedBugs Bites
A bed bug looks different during its different stages of life, eggs of bed bugs looks like poppy seeds and are about 1mm in size and usually occurs in colony. Then it turns into the larval stage which is known as nymph which is 2 to 5.5 mm in length and pale yellow to white in colour. This stage stays for about forty days and after five consecutive moulting the larva gets develop into adult which is about 4.5 to 7 mm in length and red -brown to black in colour.
Although it is difficult to find the bug’s harbourages, therefore the most can be done is to look for physical examination in sleeping area, in the dark places, between the cracks, look for red – brown spots on the bed sheet, and some other methods mentioned above in details. Usually the bed bugs live in harbourages and produce coriander like sweet smell which can easily be recognized.
It is very difficult to distinguish between the bite-marks given by bed bugs or some arthropods or insects as it all develops skin rashes, maculopapular lesions, but the one identity you can look for is “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner” pattern which is like three consecutive bite marks in a row. The bed bugs cause these as when gets interrupted during feeding the return and feed about 1 inch above the prior mark.
Although it is likely impossible to get rid of the bed bugs completely, yet some effective measures are vacuum cleaning, freezing, heating, and isolating the infested objects, use of insecticides and diatomaceous earth. Among which the use of insecticides are least effective as most bugs are resistance to most of the commercially available insecticides and using diatomaceous earth is most effective as this does not involve any chemical interaction therefore no resistance can ever be developed.