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Bed bugs, what to do to treat and prevent their bite

Bed bugs, with their annoying nocturnal bites, have so far not been disease-transmitting vectors, but this situation could change. For some years it has been known that they are from the deadly Chagas disease

In good weather, bites from insects and mites, such as ticks or invasive species such as the tiger mosquito, and even marine animals such as jellyfish , are very common in our country. But they are also increasingly affected by bed bugs . The reactivation of tourism after the pandemic and the constant heat waves have led to the reappearance of this parasite. And it is doing so in such a way that the National Association of Environmental Health Companies (ANECPLA) warns that it has become a very serious emerging public health problem. That is why we tell you what you should know about bed bugs: what they are like, where they hide, how they act, what prevention measures you should take and what to do if they bite you..

What are bed bugs like?

Bed bugs are small but conspicuous insects (about 5mm in length, about the size of an apple pit). With an oval, flattened, hairy body and a reddish-brown (brown) color, this parasite has three pairs of legs, but no wings, so it neither jumps nor flies , but moves very quickly.

Female bed bugs lay up to five tiny, hard-to-see eggs (plus white) a day, which take between five days and two weeks to hatch. These insects live for around two years. They feed on the blood of their victims , which they extract with bites on average once every seven days, although they can survive without feeding for many months.

In our country, since the 1990s, the usual thing was to find the bed bugs Cimex lectualarius , after, after the Second World War, this plague was considered eradicated. However, there is another threat: the tropical bed bug ( Cimex hemipterus) , which in Spain was detected for the first time in Barcelona in 2020 . Originally from Asia, in recent years it has been colonizing Australia, the United States and Europe.

Are these bugs dangerous?

What is the risk of these bed bugs? Do they transmit diseases? Until now, bedbugs have not been disease-transmitting vectors, and that they can harbor more than 40 pathogenic agents for humans. Studies have only shown that they can transmit the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite , which causes Chagas disease , an endemic pathology in Central and South America that is difficult to diagnose in its initial stages (a disease with hardly any symptoms ), but which is fatal. .

Even so, from the National Association of Environmental Health Companies, they warn that this situation could change, due to both the appearance of new species and the chronification of the factors that help their spread: the transit of people due to globalization and tourism , the progressive increase in temperatures, due to the increase in temperatures and environmental pollution . In fact, according to ANECPLA, in recent years the bed bug population has increased by more than 500%. “Given the growing presence of this plague, if we are not prepared, the consequences could be terrible,” warns its general director, Jorge Galván in a statement, where he urges “a necessary collaboration between the sector and the Public Administrations to in order to carry out a more rigorous control”.

Where do bed bugs hide?

Bedbugs appear at night, and early in the morning. They come out of their hiding places to attack their victims and, after feeding on their blood, they return to their shelters. These are their favorite places to hide:

  • Bed , hence its name and its nocturnal behavior: box spring, frame, headboard, springs, mattresses, pillows, bedding. According to this study, bedbugs love red and black sheets, while they avoid yellow and green ones.
  • Nightstand, cabinets, sofas, chairs, and telephone.
  • Cracks and crevices in the walls, and everything that may be hanging on them: wallpaper, paintings, posters, switches, plugs…
  • Floors, skirting boards, rugs, carpets…
  • False ceilings, lamps, door and window jambs.

They are attracted to dirty clothes, as pointed out in this research , and they love to travel . For this reason, you can also find them in suitcases, backpacks and street clothes, their favorite means of transport to travel as stowaways and cause new infestations in hotels, apartments, hospitals, hostels, cruise ships, tourist homes and even our own homes.

What happens if I get bitten by a bedbug?

Bedbug bites irritate the skin and are very annoying and uncomfortable: they are so itchy that it can lead to insomnia problems and sometimes when scratching, secondary infections.

What to do if a bedbug bites me

Therefore, before a bedbug bite :

  • The first thing to do is try not to scratch , to avoid infections.
  • wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • use a soothing lotion, if the itch is strong.
  • But if you can’t stand the itching or an infection appears or there is an allergic reaction, see a doctor .

How are bed bug bites

But it may also be that they go unnoticed and you even confuse them with those of other insects. What are bed bug bites like? They are very similar to those of fleas.

So how do I know if my bites are from bedbugs and not from fleas or other insects?

  • Fleas jump, bite at any time of the day and on the ankles or lower legs, leaving a very flowery rash called papular urticaria, as explained by the expert.
  • So you will know that you have been bitten by a bedbug if, when you wake up in the morning, you see small drops of blood on the bed and, after a few hours, you notice that you have two or three small red marks on your skin very close to each other that cause a lot of itching . In addition, they can produce very itchy nodules and lymphedema, the dermatologists add. They bite on the face, neck, arms and hands .

What to do if you have bedbugs at home

And if there is an infestation, how to eliminate them? According to experts, household insecticides do not work . “They can generate resistance and help spread the plague,” they clarify. On the other hand, they do not tolerate extreme temperatures, so, in addition to vacuuming them up and covering the holes where they were, heat, steam or cold (zero degrees Celsius) are used to kill them.

But it is best to call a pest control company as soon as possible to get rid of them. Throwing away the contaminated mattress or washing clothes at high temperatures will be some of your indications.

How to prevent bed bugs

To prevent bed bug infestations in your home, consider the following:

  • Vacuum the bedroom often, and don’t forget the baseboards.
  • Try that there are no cracks in walls, floors and ceilings.
  • Wash bedding once a week
  • Use mattress covers and anti-allergic pillows
  • Use hangers or hooks to hang clothes. Don’t leave it on the ground.
  • Beware of second-hand clothing and furniture.

Also, don’t forget ANECPLA’s recommendations to get rid of bed bugs:

  • When you travel, check the sheets, pillows, and mattresses.
  • Do not deposit luggage on top of the beds.
  • In case of suspicion of contamination, quarantine the luggage in a place away from bedrooms, etc.
  • If your luggage is contaminated, wash the clothes at 60ºC, whether you have used the clothes or not.
  • Avoid buying second-hand mattresses or pillows.
  • Bed bugs and their eggs often hide in laundry baskets, so it’s a good idea to clean those as well.
  • Reduce the number of hiding places: In a messy house, bed bugs will find more places to hide.
  • Go to professionals.


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