Bed bugs: why they bite and how to prevent them from entering your bed

We do not see them but we feel them: when these insects appear in our rooms – especially on the mattress – they will surely leave their mark on the skin. Here we tell you how they get into houses and what to do if they suck your blood at night.

It may be easy for us to confuse them with fleas, but they are not the same. To the human eye, the difference between these insects may not be noticeable, but in reality they are very different from each other and the consequences of their presence for humans.

drawing pins (Lectular Cimex) are small, oval, brown in color and are normally blood-sucking. That is, they feed on the blood of animals or humans.

“These are Hemiptera”, comments the entomologist Alfredo Ugarte, “an order of insects which is characterized by a sucking and biting apparatus”. While some species use it to feed on plant sap, others use it to suck fluids from animals, such as blood. “Among them, the kissing bug, more common in rural areas in the north, and the bed bug,” he explains.

According to Ugarte, the bed bug does not only appear in the countryside: it is even easier to find in urban areas and is closely linked to unhygienic spaces or which are not inhabited regularly.

Bed bug in action.

Although they don’t fly, they can move quickly across floors, walls, and ceilings. In turn, the females can lay hundreds of eggs, each the size of a speck of dust. Under favorable conditions, insects can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

What’s wrong with bedbugs? That they love human blood, and that’s why they can sit on your mattress or near your bed to bite you while you sleep. Attracted by the body heat and the carbon dioxide that we exhale when we breathe, they climb to the ceiling, drop on people and bite them with the two tubes of their chopper: with one they extract the blood and with the the other they inject their saliva, which contains blood thinners and natural anesthetics. This closes the wound and prevents immediate pain and itching, allowing the bed bug to return to its den. When she starts to annoy us, the bed bug has already been sleeping for a long time with her belly full of our blood.

hiding place

To give you an idea, bed bugs are as small as an apple seed. It is therefore very difficult to notice their presence. Often it is even us who bring them home, packed in suitcases or clothes after a trip.

They find refuge in bedrooms and usually choose mattresses, sofas, walls, clothing, under wallpaper or overalls, among other spaces, to hide in groups. “What they do is attack at night, when you’re still,” says Ugarte. “They prefer these places because they are close to their prey, which can be animals or people.”

Another thing the entomologist points out is that bedbugs can bite through the sheet, which differentiates them from bedbugs and fleas. “When you realize you’ve been bitten by a bed bug, you need to know where it might be. The first place to check is the mattress or its seams.

Another scenario where you have to be careful about carrying bedbugs is picking up furniture off the street to refurbish. “Often they can come with bedbugs, but since they are so small they are not seen until they bite,”

How to identify a bed bug bite

Normally, the bite of a bedbug does not represent a serious health risk”, explains Francisco Peñaloza, dermatologist at Clínica RedSalud Santiago. If it is never pleasant to receive an injection, you should not be so afraid either: unless you are allergic, the discomfort and the mark will disappear in a few days.

In this it differs from a mosquito bite, which tends to fade much faster. It is also distinguishable from flea bites because there is no red dot in its center. In many people, even the bedbug bite leaves no trace, and in others it takes a few days to appear, so it is more difficult to identify the cause.

What does a common bed bug bite look like? Symptoms are similar to those of other insects and rashes: inflamed spots, often with a darker center; pruriginous (cause itching) and arranged in an irregular line or in a cluster, on the face, neck, arms and hands,” he describes.

If you have been bitten by bedbugs, the specialist assures that the bite should disappear without treatment within a week or two. “However, in case of allergic reactions or severe skin reactions, it is important to consult a specialist to receive professional treatment,” he says.

These more serious symptoms can be hives, blisters, or much more intense itching, which is almost always due to an allergic reaction to the saliva that bedbugs inject when they bite.

“The bites can be treated symptomatically, for example with topical corticosteroids or systemic antihistamines, as needed,” he says, although always according to the diagnosis of a specialist.

Disinfection and cleaning

Unfortunately, when bedbugs start to act, it is also necessary to clean your room very carefully. As the Mayo Clinic site says, these insects don’t necessarily make their homes in dirty places: a clean space can also be their home, although if it’s cleaned frequently they are less likely to appear.

But once they arrive, the most practical thing is to disinfect them. “There is no need to throw away the mattress, clothes or other things: all you need is a good disinfection carried out by professionals”, advises Ugarte.

Entrusting the disinfection in the hands of a certified expert gives you the certainty that the chemicals used to eliminate bedbugs will be applied in the right quantities and at the right time. Fumigators are also well aware of the precautions to be taken once disinfection has been carried out, to avoid accidents with toxic products.

Do not confuse bedbugs with vinchuca

The vinchuca is a heteroptera insect of the family Reduviidae, which is also hematophagous. Because it feeds on blood and leaves a similar bite, it is often mistaken for a bed bug. But they are very different insects, and in terms of the consequences of their presence in humans, their greatest contrast is that the vinchuca is one of the vectors responsible for the transmission of Chagas disease, one of the most important health problems in South America, according to the WHO.

Although it is visible from Arica to Puerto Montt, the kissing bug is very well controlled in the national territory. In other parts of South America it is known as the gaucha bug, kissing bug, sucker, pito, or barbeiros, in Brazil because with its biting apparatus it sucks blood from its victim, which can be an animal or a person.

Compared to the bed bug, the vinchuca is much larger, since it can reach about 3 cm when it is adult. It performs best in hot, dry, mostly rural habitats.

Much larger than the bedbug is the kissing bug, which can measure up to 3 cm.

“Not all kissing insects are infected with Chagas,” says Ugarte. “The vinchuca is usually born without Chagas, but once it bites a disease-infected mammal, it becomes a protozoan disseminator.” That is, in a transmission vector.

Chagas disease is an infection caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which in humans is contracted mainly by the bite of a vinchuca, an insect more common in northern Chile”, completes the dermatologist from Peñaloza. In addition to sucking the blood of its prey, “it deposits its excrement at the site of the bite, where it eliminates the parasite and this, in turn, enters the bloodstream”.

“The acute phase is usually manifested by swelling at the bite site. Then, as the parasite reproduces internally, the patient remains asymptomatic for years. Once the symptoms appear, they are already in a chronic phase”, specifies the doctor. Among the complications that can appear are heart failure, arrhythmias and hypertrophy of the esophagus and colon. “This is where that lies the importance of avoiding this type of sting”, he says.

Source: Latercera

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