People don't often consider bed bugs until they've left their mark. The appearance of flat, red welts in zigzag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans. Bed bugs can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don't spread diseases to humans, their bites are quite irritating and scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.
Bed bug bites are caused primarily by two species of insects: Cimex lectularius (the common bed bug) and Cimex hemipterus. They are about 1 to 7 mm in size. Spread is by the bugs walking between nearby locations or being carried within personal items. Infestation is rarely due to a lack of hygiene but is more common in high density areas. Diagnosis involves both finding the bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms. Bed bugs spend much of their time in dark locations like mattress seams or cracks in the wall.
Check the mattress throughly, paying close attention to seams and tufts along the edges. Flip the mattress over and inspect the bottom carefully as well. Pay particular attention to any rips in the fabric. View the fabric on the bottom of the box spring and shine a flash light to verify that bed bugs have not penetrated the interior of the box spring.
For those concerned about bedbug infestations in hotels, an important tip is that you can inspect any hotel room for the presence of the telltale signs of bedbugs. It is important to check the mattress and headboard, and luggage racks. In hotels, keeping your suitcase away from the bed and on a luggage rack can help prevent bedbugs from infesting your luggage. When you return home, inspect your luggage and put clothes immediately into the washer. While washing clothes in hot water does not kill bedbugs, drying clothes at a high temperature can eliminate them.
On Tuesday my arm became worse after spending the night at my friend’s place. At home, when I got out of the shower a bug near my jeans and killed it. I called my doctor to treat my arm and mentioned the bug. He saw me that day and put me on prednisone. Last night I took the antihistamine he prescribed, and it knocked me right out. I fell asleep on my friend’s shaggy carpet for about an hour and a half. As I awoke, I saw another bug run across my shorts.
Bed bug bites can look a lot like other insect bites. Some clues that can suggest the presence of bed bugs include finding red, itchy bites upon awakening - especially if the bites line up in a row on the skin. Bed bugs typically bite at night on exposed areas of skin, so the bites are most commonly found on the face, neck, hands and arms. Although some people develop a bite reaction immediately, others may take two to three days before a reaction becomes noticeable, and not all people have obvious bed bug bite symptoms. A bed bug bite can appear as a tiny puncture wound without a surrounding reaction, and can easily be missed. In fact, 30 percent of individuals living in bed bug-infested dwellings report a lack of bites or skin reactions. This appears to be more common amongst the elderly. On the other hand, other people have exuberant reactions, with large, red, raised and itchy welts. This is especially true if one becomes sensitized to bed bug bites, so that with repeated bites there is an increased risk of an exaggerated reaction to bed bug bites.
The size of bed bug bites varies with a number of different factors. Bed bugs inject an anti-coagulant along with their saliva when they pierce the skin to take a blood meal. This anti-coagulant is mostly responsible for how a person reacts to the bite and determines the size of the bug’s bite. Since people will have various sensitivities to the bed bug’s bite, the size of the bite will vary, as well. Another factor that influences the size of a bed bug reaction is the number of times a person is bitten. Bite reactions of people bitten many times are also variable, and their response may be either more or less intense as the number of bites increases.