When I was growing up, I always thought that bed bugs were a myth, part of an old fairy tale or nursery rhyme. Turns out that bed bugs are real and stories of bed bug infestations have made the news a lot lately.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers this great list of FAQs - and more information - on their website:
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.
Do bed bugs spread disease? Bed bugs should not be considered as a medical or public health hazard. 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 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
- A sweet, musty odor
For the full list of bed bug FAQs, visit the CDC website.