Bed bugs are like vampires. They slither out from the dark, invade your bed, crawl up your body and feed on your blood. For the most part, the result is irritating, itchy bumps but occasionally bed bugs can trigger a much more serious allergic reaction.
Allergic Reactions to Bed Bugs
Allergic reactions to bed bugs are not common but do happen. Everyone’s reaction differs; from red, inflamed, itchy welts, to blood blisters, to anaphylactic shock in rare occasions. Then there are the lucky people who have virtually no response at all, making up 30 to 60 percent of the population. There will be a tiny hole where the bug bit, but no swelling or redness. They could stay at a hotel or spa that is rife with bed bugs and not even realize they are being feasted on at night because they wake with no discernible signs. Sadly, this means they are at risk of unknowingly carrying the insects back to their homes and to others.
Allergic Reactions to Bed Bug Bites
Reactions to bed bug bites are caused by the immune system waging war against the trace amounts of bed bug saliva left in the wound after feeding. There are three saliva proteins that cause reactions in certain individuals: nitrophorin, a 17-kDa anticoagulant called Factor X and a 40-kDa apyrase-like nucleotide-binding enzyme. Researchers have found that you do not build an immunity to these and in fact, the opposite happens - the more bites you sustain, the greater the reaction.
The Common Appearance of a Bed Bug Bite
Most people develop an angry, red welt that measures 2 to 5 mm and is very itchy. It will clear up in approximately a week if the person manages not to scratch. If there are repeated bites, the lesions might appear larger and itch far worse as the body reacts to the bed bugs saliva.
A Complex Allergic Reaction to Bed Bugs
Some people do not have an immediate allergic reaction to bed bugs, but a complex reaction occurs several days after the initial bite when a blister-like rash forms. The bites might appear as hard nodules or become pustules, and often persist for weeks. It is not uncommon for a secondary infection to take hold due to bacteria entering the wound from scratching. Ideally, you should abstain from scratching and use a hydrocortisone cream to lessen the urge. It has been noted in some reports that systemic reactions can occur in allergic individuals that in rare cases can lead to anaphylactic shock.
Histamines and Bed Bugs
Bed bugs also release histamines, an organic nitrogenous compound that their immune systems release to send warnings to each other or signal mating and is also left behind in their fecal waste. Those who are allergic will experience an influx of mucus, constricted airways, skin rashes, runny noses, and watery eyes due to the histamines released.
Histamines in Bed Bug Waste
Even after an exterminator successfully kills a colony of bed bugs the histamines found in their waste can continue to cause reactions. Researchers at the North Carolina State University revealed that histamines remained in the air for months in homes that had suffered a bed bug infestation with levels 20 times higher than in those that had not.
How to Protect Yourself
If you start showing physical signs of bed bug bites or respiratory reactions while staying somewhere new, the room may be infested with bed bugs. Do a thorough search to try to locate the pests.
If you discover a bed bug infestation you should not only have the pests exterminated but also do a deep clean of the entire premises. All traces of dead bugs, exoskeletons, eggs, and fecal matter must be removed eliminate the threat of an allergic reaction.
Get more information on Bed Bugs:
Signs That Your Hotel May Have Bed Bugs