Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs pierce the skin with a long beak. They inject a substance that numbs the skin and makes their bite painless.
A bed bug typically spends 3 to 10 minutes feeding. Once swollen with blood, it crawls away to a nearby hiding place to digest its meal. Adult bed bugs typically return for another blood meal every 3-5 days.
Bed bugs typically feed in the dark or dim light, and they are most active from midnight until dawn. However, bed bugs can occasionally be seen during the day in heavily infested settings or when disturbed, or when they have not been able to feed for awhile.
Although bed bugs can carry germs that cause diseases, medical researchers have determined that the bugs are not very effective at passing diseases to humans.
However, bed bugs can create stress for people living in infested homes and buildings. The bites and the demands of treating an infestation can overwhelm people and cause financial hardship.
People React Differently to Bites
Physically, people react to bed bug bites in one of four ways:
- They have no response at all. The most worrisome aspect of this reaction is that a person may remain unaware of an infestation until it has grown much worse.
- Some people develop reddened areas similar to mosquito bites within 1 hour to 1 day. The bites may appear to be filled with fluid and often appear in a row on a person's arms, hands, face, legs or other parts of the body that were exposed while the person slept.
- A third group of people have a similar, but delayed reaction. In this group, symptoms can show up as much as 14 days after a bite.
- A small percentage of people have a severe, life-threatening, allergic reaction to bed bug bites called anaphylaxis. This reaction requires immediate emergency room care. Symptoms can occur within minutes of a bite and may include hives, itchiness, nasal congestion, stomach pain, high-pitched breathing sounds, anxiety, confusion, cough, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, fainting, light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, skin redness, slurred speech, and wheezing.
If you notice bites on your lower legs or ankles only, it is more likely that the bites are from fleas than from bed bugs.
How to Care for Bites
You can relieve swelling and itching from bed bug bites by applying ice, a corticosteriod lotion or topical antihistimine to the bites or by taking corticosteriod pills (such as Prednisone), which must be prescribed by a healthcare provider.
Oral antihistamines will also help. Apply an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment or spray to bites to kill germs and reduce the chance of infection.
Do Bed Bugs Bite Pets?
If humans are not around, bed bugs may feed on dogs, cats, birds or rodents.
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