Mattress bug infestations can result in stress and sleep loss — new analysis


Bed bugs are back with a vengeance. After around 70 years of absence, thanks to effective pesticides such as DDT, they are appearing in chic hotels, spas, department stores, subways, cinemas – and of course in people’s homes.

I’m a public health entomologist. In the course of my work I have studied these little bloodsuckers and even eaten bed bugs on my own appendages in the name of science. No one likes dealing with bed bugs – and there are ways to minimize the likelihood that you will have to do this.

A colorized scanning electron micrograph showing the underside of a bed bug, including the proboscis (purple) and two eyes (red). CDC/Janice Haney Carr

Know your bed bug enemy

The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, has been a parasite of humans for thousands of years. Historically, these tiny bloodsuckers were common in human habitation around the world, giving real meaning to the old adage, “sleep tight, don’t let bed bugs bite you.” They had all but disappeared from developing countries by the mid-1990s, when they made a comeback due to restrictions or loss of certain pesticides, changes in pest control practices, and increased international travel. In many areas around the world they are now a major urban nuisance.

A bed bug stretches out its beak-like proboscis to feed on human blood.Jerome Goddard

Adult bed bugs are less than half an inch long (about 5 mm), oval and flat-topped, resembling unlined ticks or small cockroaches. Tucked behind their heads, they have a long proboscis—a tubular mouthpiece that they extend to take a blood meal. It takes a bed bug between three and ten minutes to ingest up to six times its weight in blood in a single meal.

A yellowish-white first instar bed bug nymph is tiny.Jerome Goddard

Adults are reddish-brown while babies are extremely small and yellowish-white. They hide in cracks and crevices, generally within feet of a bed, only emerging to feed on an unsuspecting host. Then they run back to their hiding places, where they mate and lay eggs.

Homes can be infested by thousands of the small, bloodthirsty pests in mattresses and box springs, where they leave telltale stains of black feces. Severe infestations can result in thick droppings, hundreds of skins, and eggs several millimeters thick.

Bed bugs: The biggest health impacts can be psychological

Bed bugs are suspected of transmitting more than 40 pathogens, but there is little evidence that bed bugs transmit human pathogens, with the possible exception of the microorganism that causes Chagas disease. Extreme infestations can, in rare cases, result in blood loss severe enough to cause anemia.

Their main medical effects are related to annoying biting and the itching and inflammation that comes with it. The most common bite reactions are itchy red patches at the feeding sites, which usually go away after about a week. Some people have complex skin reactions, including hives and blisters, or allergic reactions.

Bed bug bite marks can remain on human skin for several days. Jerome Goddard and Kristine T Edwards

Then there are the emotional and psychological effects bed bugs have on their victims. Encounters with these parasites can trigger nervousness, anxiety and insomnia. Bed bugs often have the side effect of constant worry and shame. As one distraught Canadian put it:

“Till you’re through, to be honest [an infestation], you have no idea how awful it really is. It’s only natural that you get paranoid; You lose sleep, dream and think about bed bugs – they just eat every fiber of your body.”

A study of people exposed to bed bugs found that about half reported trouble sleeping and social isolation related to the infestation.

My colleague and I analyzed 135 internet posts about bed bug infestations. The majority, 81 percent of the posts, reported three or more behaviors commonly associated with PTSD — reactions such as reliving the event through intrusive memories and nightmares, startle reactions, and hypervigilance. Intensive and repeated cleaning of apartments or offices was described in six articles. Five posts reported continued avoidance of people, activities, and places that could lead to insect transmission or evoke memories of the original encounter. And five posts described suicidal thoughts or attempts. There are other anecdotal reports of suicides or drug overdoses by people struggling with bed bugs.

How to protect yourself from bed bugs

Not every hotel room has bed bugs, but some do. Simple precautions can help protect you and your belongings from infestation.

Leave all unnecessary items in your vehicles, such as B. Extra clothing, gear and gear. When you first enter your hotel room, leave your luggage in the bathroom until you have had a chance to inspect the place. Pull back the sheets and check the mattress and box spring for live bed bugs or black fecal stains. If bugs or suspicious signs of an infestation are found, go to reception and request another room. Because bed bugs don’t usually travel far, other non-adjacent rooms can be completely parasite-free.

It can be difficult to keep bed bugs out of homes and apartments, especially if you travel a lot. After the trip, unpack the luggage outdoors or in the garage, wash all the clothes from the luggage in hot water and dry them on high heat if possible. A dryer is a great tool in the fight against bed bugs. Bed bugs can also enter your home with used furniture or items purchased from thrift stores or flea markets. Make sure you disinfect these types of items – more specifically, “disinfect”. It’s a good idea never to buy a used mattress or bed, no matter how good the bargain is.

What can you do when you are forced to face these bloodsuckers? A bed bug infestation found in a hotel room should be reported to management immediately. If you find bed bugs in your home or in thrift stores, it’s best not to try to spray them with over-the-counter pesticides yourself. My recommendation is to contact a knowledgeable pest controller who will treat the space with pesticides, use complex heating systems, or both to kill the bugs.

Try not to panic. Remember that bed bugs are just insects. They aren’t magical. Believe me; They can be killed and removed from an apartment.

This article was originally published on The conversation by Jerome Goddard at Mississippi State University. Read the original article here.