Bed Bugs How Are They Transmitted

Bed bugs how are they transmitted

A look at how do you get bed bugs, how they spread in your home, where do the bugs live and hide as well as how to check for the symptoms of bed bugs.

Most people heard this little ditty growing up:

"Good night, sleep tight;
don’t let the bed bugs bite!"

As kids, most of us found that amusing. Bed bugs are no laughing matter, however; they are repulsive blood-sucking parasites. Their scientific name is Cimex lectularius. Like mosquitoes and ticks, bed bugs are insects that feed on blood. They are small (an adult is about a quarter-inch long), flat and oval-shaped.

Where Do Bed Bugs Live And Hide?

Bed bugs are particularly well-adapted to live parasitically on humans. So where do bed bugs live and hide? No bigger than apple seeds, they typically hide in tiny cracks in headboards, on bed frames, deep in mattresses, inside electrical outlets, as well as in furnitures. Bedding and mattresses provide the ideal breeding ground for these pests; the warmth and moisture – plus the warm bodies of hapless sleepers to feed on nightly – make the bed a perfect hiding place and home for them.

How Are Bed Bugs Spread And How Did They Get In My Home?

Bed bugs spread when an individual comes into contact with them in an infested room or apartment. Contrary to common belief, bed bugs are not attracted to dirt or filth and do not discriminate when it comes to infesting homes of both the rich and poor.

They have been reported to be found from the dingiest budget motels to the swankiest five-star resort – and these tiny pests spread by hitching a ride back to the victim’s home through the luggage or clothing.

Bed bugs can also sometimes spread through secondhand clothing bought at yard sales, from used furniture picked up off the curb or from refurbished items sold in stores.

Once the bugs are in your home, they will crawl their way into bedding or furniture upholstery where they stay dormant during the day but come out at night to feed on their victims.

How To Check For Bed Bugs: Signs And Symptoms

Like mosquitoes, ticks and vampire bats, bed bugs have evolved the remarkable ability to generate a natural anesthetic; as a result, people rarely actually feel the bites when bed bugs are feeding. Once bitten, however, the result is fairly noticeable. Like a mosquito bite, the bitten spot tends produce a reddish welt that itches a great deal.

One of the specific markers for bed bug bites is the presence of welts in rows; three or four welts that often appear on the skin very close together. This is because the insect responds to small movements as people sleep. It pulls out of the skin and continues with another bite right next to the first. In addition, several of the critters may be feeding side-by-side.

Another way of detecting the presence of bed bugs is to inspect your mattress and bedding. Are there any unusual small, reddish-brown stains on the bed sheets? These could be indicative of bed bugs which fed and were subsequently crushed, spilling their blood meal on the mattress or mattress cover.

To sum up, if you suspect you have been bitten by a bed bug, look for the following:

  • Rows of red, itchy welts on the skin that appear in a linear or clustered pattern
  • Consistent new bite marks or bumps that appear on your body every day
  • Reddish or brownish (dried blood) stains on mattresses or bedding

Tips To Prevent And Keep Bed Bugs Out Of Your Home And Bed

With rising reports of bed bugs infestation across various cities in the United States and around the world, the following are some simple prevention steps one can take to protect oneself:

    Do not pick up second-hand furniture off the street even if it look great. If you bought or rent a used furniture, have it inspected before bringing it back home.

  • If you travel, first check out Bed Bug Registry for any reports of bed bugs in the hotel you intend to stay. Once in the hotel rooms, always inspect the hotel mattress, sheets and headboards for any signs of bed bug activities.
  • When returning home from your travels, immediately have your luggage inspected in the bathroom tub and dump all the clothing to be washed in hot water (minimum 120В°F) for at least 20 minutes.

    Reducing clutter around the house and regular vacuuming to limit areas where bugs can hide.

    Invest in a bed bug proof mattress encasement to protect against an infestation inside the mattress as well as guard against bed bug bites.

  • Apply pesticides like bed bug spray and powders to defend your perimeters around the apartment, house or bed.
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    Bed Bugs FAQs

    What are bed bugs?

    Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

    Where are bed bugs found?

    Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

    Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

    Do bed bugs spread disease?

    Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

    What health risks do bed bugs pose?

    A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

    What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

    One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

    • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
    • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
    • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
    • a sweet musty odor.

    How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

    It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

    Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

    How did I get bed bugs?

    Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

    Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

    Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

    How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

    Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

    This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

    What You Should Know About Bed Bugs

    Read the information below so that you can better understand this nation-wide problem.

    Overview: At one time bed bugs were almost eliminated from the United States. However, currently they are found in all 50 states including Iowa. Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bug bites usually will cause large itchy welts on the skin. These welts may not appear for 24 to 48 hours after the bite. Bed bugs are travelers. They often spread by hitchhiking on luggage, furniture, and possessions. They are not typically spread from direct person-to-person contact.

    What is a bed bug?

    Bed bugs are oval-shaped and wingless insects. They do not jump, but crawl. Like mosquitoes they bite humans to feed on blood but unlike mosquitoes they do not transmit diseases. The adults are about the size of a lentil (slightly larger than 1/8 of an inch). Immature bed bugs (nymphs) start out about the size of a poppy seed and grow gradually through several stages until they reach adult size. Both nymphs and adults expand slightly and become a deep red color after feeding. It has been shown that a bed bug can survive as long as eighteen months without feeding. If temperature changes occur slowly over a period of days and weeks, they can adapt and withstand both hot and cold environments.

    Bed bug pictures (larger than actual size):

    Where do bed bugs live?

    Bed bugs live primarily on, and close to, the area where a person sleeps. Most bed bugs live within 8 feet of where people sleep. Although their name suggests beds, bed bugs can live in very small spaces and crevices on or within baseboards, behind headboards, on bed frames, in wall and ceiling cracks, in furniture and drawers, in curtains and drapes, on mattress seams, on pillows, on clothes piled on the floor, at the junction of carpet and the adjoining wall, on boxes, luggage, or backpacks, and even in electrical outlets, clock radios, fans, and other electronic/computer equipment. They are most active at night, especially in the pre-dawn hours.

    How are bed bugs transmitted?

    Bed bug infestations occur when bed bugs are picked up in infested rooms (like motel rooms) and carried back to residences (like your residence hall room) in the luggage and clothing of travelers. In an extremely advanced infestation they will travel within buildings through wall, floor, and ceiling openings, on pipes, and on cables. Bringing second-hand furniture into your residence hall room can also be a method of transmission.

    How do I know if I have bed bugs?

    • bug bites, welts, itching
    • small blood spots found on bedding

    Are bed bugs a health issue?

    Since bed bugs feed on blood, many people have a concern about the spread of disease. There is no evidence that they transmit diseases to humans. The insect is a public health pest, but NOT a threat to public health.

    What can I do?

    • Learn to identify bed bugs and know how to examine your bed, linens, and possessions.
    • If you suspect you have bed bug bites, schedule an appointment with the Health Center. If your suspicion is confirmed, the nurse will notify residence life staff immediately so they can start inspection and treatment right away. Learn more about how residence life will handle bed bug reports.
    • Inspect your bed and bedding periodically. It is possible to have bed bugs and not have an allergic reaction such as a bite or welt.
    • Inspect your backpack and laptop bag regularly. Check seams and pouches. Don’t put your backpack under your bed.
    • Clean and reduce clutter in your room, particularly clothing on the floor. This will reduce the number of places bed bugs might hide.
    • Don’t bring second-hand or found furniture into your room or apartment.
    • When traveling, inspect your sleeping area and keep your luggage on a valet rack, not on the bed or floor.
    • Before returning to campus, inspect your clothes and other items before packing them. Check crevices, zippers, and pouches in your luggage and backpack.
    • Upon your return to campus, recheck all your travel items. Don’t put your suitcase or backpack under your bed.

    Myth: Bed bugs spread disease among people.

    Fact: Bed bugs do not spread any diseases but they are a public health nuisance.

    Myth: Someone on campus has bed bug bites–they must have gotten them in their residence hall room.

    Fact: Bed bugs are primarily a problem for hotels, motels, and resorts that have a transient population.

    Myth: It would only take a week for bed bugs to spread to an entire residence hall.

    Fact: It normally takes months for a severe infestation to spread to other rooms within the same general area.

    Myth: Cornell has cloth mattresses which facilitate spread of bed bugs since they can get inside the mattress.

    Fact: Cornell has special thick bug resistant covers on all mattresses, making it impossible for bed bugs to go below the surface of the mattress cover.

    Bedbugs

    Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.

    Check if it’s bedbugs

    Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo

    Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

    Signs of bedbugs include:

    • bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
    • spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
    • small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)

    Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.

    Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo

    Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.

    How you can treat bedbug bites

    Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.

    Things you can do include:

    • putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
    • keeping the affected area clean
    • not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection

    You can ask a pharmacist about:

    • using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
    • antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep

    Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

    • the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
    • the redness around the bites is spreading

    You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.

    Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

    It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

    • visit their website
    • use the NHS App
    • call them

    How to get rid of bedbugs

    contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides

    wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes

    put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)

    clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early

    do not keep clutter around your bed

    do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first

    do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs

    Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
    Next review due: 21 January 2022

    Do Bed Bugs Travel on People?

    Travel Tips

    Believe it or not, bed bugs can travel via human hosts. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images )

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    They’re creepy, they’re crawly and they’re often quite difficult to spot. Bed bugs – blood-sucking, tiny parasites that dine on human and animal hosts – have become a concern worldwide due to their stealthy ways of getting around. Unfortunately, the little critters are more mobile than we would like to think.

    Bed Bug Bites and Basics

    Bed bugs – named for one of their favorite hangouts – tend to be found in linens, between cracks in mattresses and even in cracks and crevices in the floor. They leech off their human or animal hosts, with bed bug bites leaving scabby trails of rashes and marks across the skin. Because they are mostly active at night, it can take awhile for a person to notice that his home or hotel room has bed bugs.

    How Bed Bugs Spread

    Not everyone is aware that bed bugs can be spread via humans: if a person goes to a hotel room that has bed bugs, and the bed bugs hide out on the person or on the person’s luggage, the bed bugs can be spread to a new location. Because of this, no house is safe from a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs can spread from house to house, living in even the cleanest conditions; bed bugs are not a sign that a person’s home is dirty or unkempt.

    Looking for Bed Bug Evidence

    If you suspect that your home has been hit by bed bugs, look for the following telltale signs: small scabs or rashes in a line-like pattern on your skin, small fecal droppings or small blood smears on your sheets. The bed-bug bites will most likely be across your face, arms, or legs – the areas that are not covered by your pajamas as you sleep. Remember, though, that not all people will develop a rash if being bitten. You’ll also want to check for bugs in your mattress and in your luggage by closely inspecting them.

    Eradicating Bed Bugs for Good

    Though a variety of sprays and ointments are out there marketed as beg-bug killers, the truth is that many of these products do not work. You can attempt to rid yourself of these pests by vacuuming every inch of your apartment and by putting your linens in a dryer set on the highest setting. While it’s rare to find bed bugs on the clothes you’re wearing – they tend to fall off once you start moving – you should still wash any potentially contaminated clothing as well. A severe infestation will require the attention of a licensed exterminator; it can often take more than one visit from the exterminator to ensure that the bed bugs are really gone.

    Disclosure

    Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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