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Bed Bugs: Truths, Myths And Everything In Between

a profile image of TSA author Alex

Written By Alex Petrović

Certified Sleep Consultant

bed bugs myths and truths

29 April 2024 13 min read

It goes without saying that bed bugs are a true nightmare to everyone. Many people face with this particular problem all over the world and the causes and treatments differ.

Of course, getting rid of bed bugs doesn’t only mean you have to go on therapy – you also have to make your whole home go through some kind of therapy as well. That makes it much harder to get rid of bed bugs, not to mention expensive, time-consuming and stressful. Luckily, there are many advanced methods of getting rid of them. When it comes to that situation, it’s not the time to panic. You have to determine the source and contact a physician immediately about the possible treatments. In this article, we are going to gather all of the necessary information about bed bugs so you can make sure it never happens, and if it does, what to do.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are essentially parasites. They are tiny insects which live on animals and humans and feed on their blood. They can be found in beds and tiny cracks and crevices. Their bodies are flat, they have three pairs of legs (a total of six) and a pair of antennas. However, they are very tiny, and the infested rarely sees them (but it’s possible). Luckily they don’t fly, or jump high like fleas, but they can move very quickly over any surface.

Female bed bugs can lay even a few hundred eggs over their lifetime. The eggs can’t be seen, as they are as tiny as a speck of sand or dust. The biggest problems are so-called nymphs – which are immature bed bugs that feast on our blood. They need the nutrients from our blood so they can shed their skin, up to five times before they reach maturity.

an image of a bed bug cycle

Why do we get a skin rash when a bed bug bites?

When the bed bug or the nymph bites us, they release their saliva which contains an anticoagulant and anesthetic. That way they can suck on blood without us noticing it or feeling any pain while they do that. The skin rash that occurs once we have a bed bug infestation is a direct consequence of exactly that, similarly to when we have an allergic reaction when a mosquito bites us. However, the difference is that bed bugs are tinier and in much larger number, and bite often where the skin is the thinnest and has a lot of blood vessels in. Mainly between our fingers and toes, sides of our stomach and stomach itself, neck, and the crevices around joints (armpit, knee pit, elbow, et cetera).

How does a bed bug bite look like?

A bed bug bite allergic reaction can vary from the way the bed bug has bitten and of course the host. You can recognize a bed bug bite – there is either a big cluster of red and irritated skin, or multiple consecutive bites forming a line or rather a “constellation”, which means that a bed bug has taking bite per bite, and just moving an inch or two for the next. When a bed bug is filled with the host’s blood, they are plump and become a reddish color. The reaction of the host can also vary, depending on skin sensitivity and immune system of the host. Sometimes you will see very irritated and red skin, and sometimes just a few tiny bites. Some even go completely unnoticed.

an image of insect bites differences

How can your home get infested with bed bugs?

An infestation of bed bugs can occur when people do some of the following:

  1. Buy second-hand furniture that comes from an infested area (or take one from outside)
  2. Come in touch with a person wearing clothes infested with bed bugs
  3. They also come into your home through unattended luggage
locating bed bugs in your home

How to recognize a bed bug infestation?

You can’t determine if there is a bed bug infestation in your home by simply finding bites and rashes on your skin. That is insufficient evidence, especially if you’re going to call pest control. To absolutely make sure you’re dealing with bed bugs, do the following things:

When you recognize these signs and really make sure that there is indeed a bed bug infestation, you need to follow our complete guide on how to get rid of them.

location of bed bugs

Guide to getting rid of bed bugs

Although they might be called bed bugs, beds are not the only places they can live in. Any kind of furniture, especially ones with crevices and dark corners can be infested with them. Also, check your carpets, personal computer, and other places you might spend a lot of time in during the day. There are many professionals you can turn to when it comes to treating your home for bed bugs, but there are also methods you can do by yourself, and we are going to share them with you.

how to stop bed bugs

Before you start the bed bug treatment

You need to prepare your whole home for the treatment – that includes every room that has a possibility of bed bug infestation. Hopefully, you can limit your infestation to only bedrooms and the living room, but if you're uncertain, threat your home in its entirety. Here's what you gonna do:

magnified bed bugs

Treating your mattress

If you decide not to throw your mattress out, there are ways you can treat it.

To treat your mattress for bed bugs successfully, you need to buy a special encasement for the mattress and a separate encasement for the box spring. You will treat the mattress for bed bugs, but you can’t thoroughly exterminate them, especially if there are tears in the fabric, where they can easily crawl in. Find suitable and certified bed bug encasement that will enable you to use your mattress for a long time, even after they all die out of hunger (which is 4-6 months). The bed bugs cannot escape from these kind of encasements, so you can rest peacefully.

Encasements aren’t the only solution, though. You have various insecticides you can use against bed bugs, but bear in mind that not a lot of it can be used if the bed bugs are inside the mattress. You need to make it friendly to sleep on after all. First vacuum the mattress thoroughly, and then apply the insecticide (residual – spray or dust) on the mattress. Pay special attention to the cracks and crevices.

You can also use steam to kill the bed bug eggs. The eggs cannot endure high temperatures, so a steamer can help with getting rid of their offspring, therefore prohibiting further infestation. Steam is also a very safe and family friendly solution that doesn’t give any side effects or pose as a health threat.

an image of bed bug spray

Treating the rest of your home

Then comes the big project – treating your whole living area and rooms infested. For the treatment, you can use residual liquid, aerosol or dust residual insecticides. One is usually not enough. You need to have a combination of these insecticides because they can be applied differently on different areas, making it easier for you to treat your home.

Spray and apply the insecticides to the following places:

  1. Inside drawers and dressers (remove the drawers first, spray insecticide around them and at the bottom, not inside), and if you put clothes back in make sure to clean the inside of the drawer beforehand.
  2. Spray all of the doors, closet doors, and insides of the closet. Also, apply insecticide around your windows and other jointed furniture in the house.
  3. Spray all the places where furniture touches the floor.
  4. Apply insecticide to all the corners in the house, behind bed frames, around nightstands and on moldings.
an image of a bed bug exterminator

How to treat bed bed bites?

Bed bug bites can be a real nightmare. Depending on the way your body reacts to their saliva, you can have a myriad of skin irritations. Visiting a dermatologist is always a good option to get the right treatment for your skin. It can reduce inflammation and itching, making it easier to sleep at night. There are some ointments that you can only buy with a prescription from the doctor, and they can really help. These ointments are mainly topical corticosteroid ointments that relieve itching but may sting a little.

To relieve an itch where the bed bugs might have bitten, you can apply cold water and wash it with soap. Other useful things that relieve bed bug bites are: antihistamines, calamine lotion, anti-itch creams, pain relief drugs (i.e. ibuprofen).

You should immediately go visit your physician if bed bug bites start to complicate. Complications may include blisters, skin infections that appear due to scratching, serious inflammations and allergic reactions.

Truths and myths about bed bugs

There are bed bugs myths that are interesting. If you are wondering if these are true, below are some of the most common ones that you can hear.

Myth: Bed bugs carry disease

False. Bed bugs may cause the host to have an allergic reaction, blisters and get a skin infection due to scratching, but they cannot transmit any serious diseases. Any complications that may occur depend on your immune system, your skin sensitivity, and the amount of bites you get.

Myth: Bed bugs only bite at night

False. Although there can be some distinctions, there usually isn’t enough evidence to determine whether it’s a bed bug bite, a flea bite, or a simple mosquito bite.

Myth: Bed bugs travel by clothes

True. They also travel by suitcases or other things that they can hang themselves on. That’s why it’s important to check for bed bugs when you come back from a trip.

Myth: You can starve bed bugs to death

Partially true. Although there are different reports coming from all kinds of research, the bottom line is that a bed bug indeed can live without food for a long time. However, they have to be adult bed bugs and have to live at a steady temperature (10 °C) for the duration. Nymphs starve very quickly because they have to feed often, so they can live 2 weeks tops.

Myth: Some people don't have marks indicative of bed bug bits

True. There are some people who can’t get skin irritation from bed bug bites. The only way to be completely sure is to locate a bed bug first hand.

Myth: Bed bugs infest only places with low hygiene

False. Even a spotless house or apartment can become a home to bed bugs. You can infest your home with a bed bug even if you bring one fertile female bed bug.

Myth: Bed bugs are scared of light

False. Yes, you can. Unless you have problems with sight, it’s fairly easy to locate a bed bug, or even a nymph. It’s the eggs that are a bit difficult to pinpoint.

Myth: You can't feel a bed bug bite

True. Like we previously mentioned, they have saliva which is rich in anticoagulant and anesthetic, so you won’t feel them biting you. Only one day after does the skin show irritation from the bite.

How to avoid bed bug infestation?

vacuuming bed bugs

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article is going to give you a greater grasp on what bed bugs are, how to prevent your home from being infested, and many more. If you ever see any signs of bed bugs, you need to act immediately. They can reproduce at a very high and quick rate, and can even move from one apartment to another. Make sure you provide your family proper medical care, and then call pest control and do all of the aforementioned things. Besides being a major bother, and causing you to lose sleep at night because of the itching, bed bugs don’t pose as a huge threat to humanity.

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About the author

Alex Petrović
Sleep Consultant
A CPD certified Sleep Consultant with more than 2000 hours of research into all the different ways we can get a great night's sleep. As a former insomniac, I know how difficult life can be without a nightly recovery and I love that I get to share everything I've learned with you all. So hopefully we can all sleep soundly!
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