The decline of bed bug populations in the 20th century is often credited to potent pesticides that had not previously been widely available. Other contributing factors that are less frequently mentioned in news reports are increased public awareness and slum clearance programs that combined pesticide use with steam disinfection, relocation of slum dwellers to new housing, and in some cases also follow-up inspections for several months after relocated tenants moved into their new housing.
A number of other symptoms may occur from either the bite of the bed bugs or from their exposure. Anaphylaxis from the injection of serum and other nonspecific proteins has been rarely documented. Due to each bite taking a tiny amount of blood, chronic or severe infestation may lead to anemia. Bacterial skin infection may occur due to skin break down from scratching. Systemic poisoning may occur if the bites are numerous. Exposure to bed bugs may trigger an asthma attack via the effects of airborne allergens although evidence of this association is limited. There is no evidence that bed bugs transmit infectious diseases even though they appear physically capable of carrying pathogens and this possibility has been investigated. The bite itself may be painful thus resulting in poor sleep and worse work performance.
Bedbug bite reactions are self-limited and typically resolve within one to two weeks without intervention.15 There is no evidence that any treatment alters the natural history of bedbug dermatitis.8 If pruritus is present, nonprescription topical antipruritic preparations containing the active ingredient doxepin, or intermediate potency corticosteroids may be beneficial. Mupirocin (Bactroban) and/or systemic antibiotics should be considered in the treatment of superinfected bites.8
Bites on dogs and cats will look much like bites on people, and the pet owner may actually suspect a mosquito or flea bit the pet. As with people, bed bugs do not stay on pets, but return to a protected harborage site after feeding. In addition to bites, the presence of the bug’s feces, cast skins and the animal’s irritation at night are also indicators of bed bugs biting pets. Therefore, one of the best things to do is inspect the pet’s bedding and frequently groom the animal while being vigilant for the telltale signs of bed bug presence.