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Article Type: Blog

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Signs to Look Out for as Local Cases Rise

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The Manchester community has recently seen an increase in bed bug cases. Here’s what you should know about the health risks they pose, and what to do if you suspect you may be dealing with bed bugs.

What are Bed Bugs?

The common bed bug is a small, reddish-brown bug with a flat, oval-shaped body that feeds on the blood of humans and animals. As nocturnal insects, these pests are most active at night, but can still be active in the day as well. They get their name because they’re most active when humans are sleeping soundly in bed. But just like humans, if they’re hungry they’ll wake up and get something to eat no matter the time of day. And unfortunately, keeping a light on won’t drive them away. These nocturnal nuisances are about one quarter-inch long (roughly the size of a small apple seed) and are sometimes misidentified as cockroaches.

Thankfully, bed bugs are unable to fly or jump — they typically travel by moving quickly (about one meter per minute) over surfaces such as floors, walls and ceilings. Compared to most other insects, bed bugs are actually quite slow to reproduce. A female bed bug makes one egg each day, which takes about ten days to hatch and another five to six weeks for the bug to develop into an adult. 

Scientists who study the notorious bloodsuckers debate just how long exactly they can live without a meal, but evidence suggests that bed bugs can only survive at room temperature about two to three months without eating any blood. As cold-blooded creatures, it is possible for them live for up to a year in chillier climates as their metabolism slows down, but it’s also not as likely. Because these tiny vampires are cold-blooded, they don’t like heat. That means they come close enough to get a meal from humans but prefer not to hang around our clothes, close to our body heat. Instead, they usually travel by hanging out on luggage, backpacks, shoes and other items farther away from our bodies. 

Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs can cause anxiety, sleepless nights and secondary infections, but there have been no reported cases of the pests transmitting disease to humans. That being said, they do carry human pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and more. There have been three cases of bed bugs containing drug-resistant MRSA, but there have been no reported cases that the bugs actually transmit disease of any kind to humans. The most common medical concern resulting from an infestation is limited to the itching and inflammation caused by bites the themselves.

Bedbug Signs and Symptoms

Bites from these tiny pests look like little red bumps similar to mosquito bites. Symptoms present differently in everyone, but they can include localized allergic reactions, itchy red welts and localized swelling. One sign that you have an infestation on your hands is being able to see the bugs in mattresses or other furniture. Look carefully at seams, creases, tufts or folds of mattresses, underneath chairs, or between cushions throughout your home.

Telltale signs to look out for include:

  • Dark spotting and staining, which is the dried excrement of the bugs 
  • Eggs
  • Molted skins of maturing nymphs
  • Occasionally a sweet, musty or “buggy” smell
  • Rusty or reddish spots of blood
  • The bugs themselves

Most of the time, the physical signs of a bed bug infestation include dermatological symptoms. But your health care provider should also acknowledge, monitor and (when appropriate) treat the significant psychological stress that dealing with these difficult bugs can have. Often, people report feeling Insomnia, fatigue, stress, social isolation, anxiety and persistent crawling sensations on the skin — even after elimination. Although it appears that infestations are common, people still associate bed bugs with unsanitary conditions, which can cause embarrassment and make people avoid getting help.

What to Do When You Have Bed Bugs

The cost of getting rid of these pests is significant and can cost thousands of dollars that patients didn’t plan to spend. Unlike most other pests, it usually takes multiple trips by pest management companies to effectively spray homes, as well as getting rid of mattresses, furniture, clothing and more, which can make costs associated with clearing the infestation begin to mount.

In most cases, your doctor will be able to diagnose you by simply looking at your bites. In some cases, the bed bugs will be present on your body, clothes or environment and they can identify them that way, as well.

Because bed bugs can be so easy to transmit, patients who suspect (or confirm) an infestation are asked to come in at the last time slot of the day, so they can be seen by a health care provider immediately. Additionally, this reduces the potential for infesting other people sitting in the waiting room. 

If you suspect you’ve got a bed bug infestation on your hands, make an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible to find relief. Be sure to let them know on the phone that you’d like to be seen regarding a bed bug infestation so they can schedule you at the appropriate time and expedite you through to be seen as soon as you arrive. You can also visit an urgent care or hospital, should you need more immediate help. The skilled providers at AdventHealth are by your side as you deal with this stressful situation. For more information about bed bugs, call 606-599-4080 or click here to make an appointment.

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