What Symptoms Occur with Bed Bug Bites?
The most common reaction to a bed bug bite seems to be none at all: only 30% of people bitten will react. Most often, if someone complains of a symptom, it is an itchy rash. These symptoms generally resolve within a week. If faced with repeated bites, the intensity of the reaction may increase.
In very rare cases there may be a systemic reaction, much like the anaphylaxis seen in a severe allergy, with serious consequences including difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and shock. This may require evaluation by a doctor, hospitalization, and intensive supportive treatment.
There is little evidence that the bugs can spread communicable diseases. In fact, there have been no studies that demonstrate bed bugs are able to acquire, maintain, and transmit any type of infection.
Aside from the nuisance, an important consequence may be mental distress. There may be feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, and even insomnia.
How Should I Treat Bed Bug Bites?
In general, the treatment of bed bug bites depends on the symptoms and their severity. The itchy rash can be treated with over-the-counter allergy creams or even prescription medications. If the areas become infected, antibiotics may prove to be necessary.
As mentioned above, with severe anaphylactic reactions hospitalization may be required.
These treatments have varying results, and may be unnecessary as most bed bug bites improve within one week's time on their own.
How Can I Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Eradication of bed bugs is difficult due to insecticide resistance, lack of effective products, and health concerns.
First, the bug should be properly identified. There should be a thorough inspection of likely infested areas. Various chemical and nonchemical measures can be undertaken, likely requiring expert assistance from an exterminator.
As any chemicals are applied to your sleep environment, you will want to use those that are relatively safe. Sometimes vacuuming, heat, or steam may be effective. It may be necessary to throw out infested furniture.
No repellents are completely effective, and the high cost of eradication may be prohibitive, so avoidance is best.
It may be advisable to inspect new environments, especially hotels or similar locales, prior to exposing yourself or your belongings. Also avoid bringing some second-hand items into your home, such as used furniture or mattresses.
By being more aware of our sleep environment, and avoiding exposure, we can be ensured that we follow that simple nighttime entreaty: "Night, night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite."
Goddard, J. et al. "Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) and Clinical Consequences of Their Bites." JAMA. 2009;301(13):1358-1366.