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Man sitting on a sofa bed

Bed Bugs

Have you ever gone to bed feeling fine, only to wake up the next morning with itching bites on your skin? It could mean you encountered bed bugs during your sleep.

These tiny insects have been plaguing humans for thousands of years. They are small reddish-brown color, and about the size of an apple seed. They feed on our blood during the night. Their tiny eggs are laid in the cracks and crevices in our homes, with newborns emerging a few days later.

Prior to the 1950s most people had a high level of awareness about bed bugs and took precautions. Whenever they left home they were careful to prevent bringing bed bugs back with them. For example, if someone stayed in a hotel they would check the room for bed bugs before using it. They would be careful to check before placing a purse or jacket on an empty seat at the movies.

But bed bugs have not been much of a problem for the last fifty years, so we don’t worry anymore about placing our purses and jackets on an empty seat at the movies. We unpack our suitcases on the extra bed in our hotel room. Bed bugs are making a comeback, and all these behaviors make us vulnerable to infestation.

Bed bugs live between wooden floorboards, in furniture, in bed frames, in mattresses, or behind peeling paint. They sneak out at night for a blood meal and leave the characteristic mark on our skin after they bite. Because they bite exposed areas they can sometimes be thwarted by wearing nightclothes that cover as much skin as possible.

There is some evidence that these bugs can carry diseases such as hepatitis B and Chagas disease. But diseases from their bites are extremely rare. And there is currently no scientific evidence that they spread HIV.

The itchy bite from a bed bug is caused by an allergic reaction. Corticosteroids creams and ointments such has “Hydrocortisone” are good anti-inflammatory medicines. They help relieve the local symptoms caused by the bites. Antihistamines such as “Benadryl” and “Zyrtec” are used to treat the itching and allergic reaction associated with bed bug bites. The scratching and trauma from bedbug bites can lead to infection. Antibiotics from your doctor may be needed if this occurs.

People often pick up bed bugs during travel, so be sure to inspect your hotel room and take precautions such as checking the mattresses, drawers, and closets before use.

Permethrin spray is one of the most useful insecticides for bed bugs. It may be used on the skin or clothing. But do not use it around small children because of possible side effects. DEET is another good product for use as a repellent.

You can keep bed bugs from crawling onto your bed by placing the bedposts in bowls of paraffin oil. But for severe infestations an exterminator should be involved.

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