Bed bugs are small wingless insects and are approximately one-fourth of an inch long.
Bed bugs have lived along side humans since the ice ages. Sometime in the early 1990s bed bugs started to reappear in the U.S. after almost disappearing after World War II. The most familiar species is the Cimex lectularius, also known as the common bed bug. The feeding habits of a bed bug are normally at night, and they exclusively feed
on blood. They prefer humans but will feed on other warm blooded animals including dogs, cats, birds and rodents.
Bed bugs usually bite exposed skin of people at night while they are sleeping. How a person reacts to being bitten by bed bugs vary from person to person. Many people develop an itchy red welt or localize swelling within a day or two. Some people have little or no reaction and still other people can have delayed reaction.
Bed bugs are not considered effective vectors for disease, nor is the amount of blood lost harmful to its' host. While some people may find a bed bug experience horrifying, bed bugs pose less of a health risk to us then mosquitoes or pesticides used to kill bed bugs. In fact, if improperly applied, pesticide intended to manage bed bugs could be dangerous to your health.
The main medical concern is the inflammatory response (redness and swelling) to their bites. Common allergic reactions can include the development of large welts, greater than 1cm or larger. In some cases, blister-like eruptions have been reported and anaphylaxis may occur in patients with severe allergies. Also, scratching the bites can lead to a secondary infection. In addition, some people report a big drop in their quality of life because of the discomfort, sleeplessness, anxiety and embarrassment of dealing with bed bugs.
Bed bugs can be a problem in all kinds of places, including homes, apartments, hotels, cruise ships, dormitories and shelters. They have also been found to infest vehicles, movie theaters, furniture rental outlets and office buildings. While bed bugs are linked to dirty conditions, even the cleanest place can find itself faced with an infestation because bed bugs can hitch onto almost anything. It is almost impossible to determine where they came from because they can go undetected for months.
Where do bed bugs hide?
Tips for the Traveler
For many people, their greatest exposure to bed bugs will be while they are away from home. Therefore travelers need to know what to do and look for to avoid bringing these unwanted pest home.