The bedbug, or Cimex Lectularius, feeds on blood, and its bite often causes itching and skin irritation to humans. Bedbugs are considered a public health pest by both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, Bedbugs cause a variety of negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences.
Physical health effects of bedbug bites
Bedbug bites may look like mosquito bites or small red bumps. The bites can cause allergic reactions in some people. These reactions can range from mild to severe. In rare cases, a whole-body reaction can occur, triggering anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic reaction can include symptoms such as hives, extreme itchiness, swelling of the face, difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, abdominal pain, chest pain, wheezing and even unconsciousness. Bedbug bites may lead to secondary infections such as impetigo and other skin conditions.
Bedbug bites affect mental health and the economy
Living with a bedbug infestation or recovering from a bedbug allergic reaction can cause various mental health effects. These may include anxiety and insomnia. Reports of bedbug infestations in the hotels of a city can affect that area's tourism commerce. Travelers do not want to stay in hotels that may have had or potentially have a bedbug infestation.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes adult bedbugs as about one-quarter of an inch to three-eighths of an inch in length with brown coloring and an oval-shaped but flat body. Young bedbugs or nymphs are smaller and are a lighter brown color. Both adult and young bedbugs are large enough to be seen by the human eye. Bedbug eggs, although small, can also be seen. The eggs are whitish-yellow in color and shaped much like a grain of rice.
Bedbugs can fit into very tiny spaces. A good measurement rule is if a credit card can fit into the space, a bed bug can fit into the space. Look for bedbugs in the folds of curtains, pleats of tableside lampshades, around the seams and tags of bed mattresses as well in the seams of pillowcases, bedding and in any small cracks of the bed frame or headboard. Bedbugs can spread to chairs and couches, hiding in the seams and undersides of cushions. Check for bedbugs behind pictures on the wall or underneath the flaps of loose pieces of wallpaper. Other indications of bedbugs are spots of blood on sheets or pillowcases and dark spots, which is bedbug excrement.
Begin bedbug removal by washing the linens from the infested room in hot water and drying the linens on a hot setting to kill the bugs and their eggs. Pillows, stuffed animals and even shoes (that are dryer-safe) should be run through a hot dryer setting for 30 minutes. The room also needs to be vacuumed thoroughly, paying special attention to small spaces where bedbugs may be hiding. Don't forget to vacuum the mattress, box spring and all furniture. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends sealing infested mattresses and box springs in a zippered cover for at least a year. If the infestation can't be eradicated by these measures, consult a pest control specialist.
The EPA states that keeping a light on to keep bedbugs away at night will not keep bedbugs from biting. Bedbugs do prefer darker areas, but will come out into the light.