Bed bug symptoms are similar to those of other insect bites. Rashes, hives and other allergic reactions can develop especially if bites are numerous. In some cases there are no visible effects. In other cases there are large blisters. So, you really never know what to expect.

Since the bites are similar to those of other insects, diagnosis is usually made by inspecting the environment. If the bugs are found, it can be assumed that the person is suffering from cimicosis or more simply, bed bug bites.

How doctors treat the problem depends on the severity. Few studies have been conducted concerning effective treatments. Until the resurgence of infestations in the 1990s, the insect was mostly under control in developed countries.

Studies sometimes group cimicosis with scabies and lice, although the infestations are quite different. Bedbugs primarily infect the environment. While scabies and lice may be present on bedding, they are primarily confined to the hair or skin of the host.

Lindane and other pesticides are used to treat lice and scabies, but the effectiveness of those treatments against cimicosis would primarily be a temporary protective one. The topical pesticides could be used to help protect against further bites until the environmental infestation was under control.

Some of the bedbug symptoms are psychological. There is some degree of social stigmata associated with the infestations, even though they have been found in some of the cleanest houses, hotels and apartment buildings around the world.

They were recently discovered in a Federal Government building in DC. If you do find out that you have them, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Another psychological impact is insomnia. While it is possible that the bugs could keep you awake at night, it is mostly the thought that they could be crawling around on their skin that keeps people up.

Bed bug – Cimex lectulariusBed bug – Cimex lectularius.Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

In a few cases delusional parasitosis occurs. There are no real bug symptoms in that condition, but people think the bugs are crawling on their skin. They feel itching and scratch at imaginary bites to the point of doing self-injury. The subject becomes an overwhelming obsession.

Other bed bug symptoms are completely real and even scary. The bugs inject their victims with a serum that has both anesthetic and anti-coagulant activity.

You cannot really feel the bites until after the bugs are done feeding. Your blood will not clot until they have finished gorging themselves. They can feed for as long as five minutes before returning to their hiding places.

It is possible to have a severe allergic reaction to the serum injected by the bugs. Minor allergic reactions would include severe itching and welts. More serious allergic reactions include shortness of breath, vomiting and loss of consciousness. Death can occur due to heart attack or shock.

The allergic reactions are referred to as anaphylaxis. Death is rare, occurring in only about 1% of people who have allergies, primarily those who are unable to obtain medical care in time.

In addition to the visible bed bug symptoms, bacterial infection may occur as a result of scratching. Topical or oral antihistamines may be used to control the itch, which helps to reduce the risk of infection. Topical antibiotic ointments are recommended if the skin’s surface is broken or bleeding due to scratching.

Some people are concerned that the bed bugs could transmit infectious diseases in the same way that mosquitoes transmit malaria and fleas carry viruses. There are no documented cases of diseases being transmitted in this way, although it is a possibility.

Like other insects, bedbugs have the ability to carry viruses and other pathogens from one person to another. They are unlikely to contribute to an epidemic, because they only leave their chosen environment if no food is available.

Although bed bug symptoms are not usually serious, they are irritating and frustrating. Trying to get rid of a bed bug infestation is even more frustrating. Ongoing research may help us find better solutions.



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