Dr. Murray Feingold: Sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite
Do you know what the saying, “Crazy as a bed bug,” means?
I’m not certain, but I do know that, at times, the bites from a bed bug can itch with such intensity that they can almost drive you crazy. And, unfortunately, there has been a resurgence in the number of bed bug infestations.
Bed bugs can cause many problems but, fortunately, they are almost never carriers of any serious infectious diseases. However, they are responsible for symptoms, and the most disturbing one is intense itching.
The itching can be so severe that it results in the affected person scratching the bite with such ferocity that bleeding takes place in the area of the bite. This is a setup for a secondary bacterial infection that frequently requires antibiotic treatment.
Allergic reactions may also take place, but they are not too frequent and occur more commonly in people who already have allergies, such as asthma.
The exact cause of the resurgence of bed bugs is not known, though various theories have been expounded. They include increased international travel, exchange of used furniture and the bed bugs’ increased resistance to insecticides.
Some experts believe the recent bed bug infestation started in high-end hotels that cater to wealthy foreigners. The bed bugs were unknowingly residing in the travelers’ suitcases. When the suitcases arrived at the hotel, the bed bugs escaped, usually finding refuge somewhere on the bed.
Then the next person using the room places his or her suitcase on the bed. The bed bug finds a new home in the suitcase and journeys along with the traveler to the next city.
Bed bugs are usually difficult to find during the day. One sign that they are around is the presence of small black specs on bed sheets.
Night time is when the bugs feast on the skin and blood of the sleeping human. Once they have dined at the expense of the sleeper, it may be months before the bed bug needs another meal.
Getting rid of bed bugs is not always easy to accomplish. One reason is that they have developed resistance to many of the insecticides that kill them.
Since bed bugs frequently reside in hotels and hotel beds, at no charge I may add, it is recommended that you don’t place your luggage on a hotel bed. If you do, the bed bugs are only a hop, skip and a jump away from ending up in your suitcase and becoming an unwelcome visitor in your home.
If that happens, then, unfortunately, you will soon be saying to your children, “Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio and president of the Genesis Fund in Massachusetts. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.