Bedbug rashes, and how to prevent and get rid of bedbugs

There’s a new bunch of bloodsuckers running rampant in cities all over the country.

No, they’re not on a new vampire TV show or in a Twilight sequel. They’re bedbugs, and they’ve been showing up in droves in more and more cities across America. And despite what is commonly thought about them, bedbugs do not exist only in the poorest sections of town, they are showing up at 5-star hotels.

That means that even celebrities are getting bitten by the bug. People magazine reports that Community and The Soup star Joel McHale and SNL alum Maya Rudolph have both been afflicted. Even former President Bill Clinton’s Harlem office has been under siege by the pests.  Pop-Dance singer Lauren Hildebrandt was bitten at a luxurious upscale “retreat” hotel in Union Square in NYC. She told the LA Examiner:

Going through this experience with bedbugs at such a wonderful hotel was something I have never even imagined could happen. People should be aware of the danger in NYC hotels right now. The bites were so itchy. I couldn’t sleep at night, because I kept thinking they were in my bed. I was unable to wear a bathing suit or even a tank top during this hot summer! I do have photos of the bites. But, they might seriously gross people out!

According to Reuters, “New York City has been named the most bedbug infested city in the United States. It surpassed Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati and Chicago, which rounded out the top five cities, according to extermination company Terminix, which compiled the list based on call volume to its offices around the country so far this year.”

Bedbugs are true insects and members of the order Hemiptera. Bedbugs have a head, thorax and abdomen and possess six legs. Cimex lectularius is the common bed bug and Cimex hemipterus is the tropical bed bug. Bedbugs feed on blood and cause itchy bites. Adult bedbugs are brown, 1/4 to 3/8 long, and have a flat, oval-shaped body. Young bedbugs (called nymphs) are smaller and lighter in color.

Bedbugs hide in a variety of places around the bed. They might also hide in other places, such as in the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, and in the folds of curtains. They come out to feed on blood about every five to ten days, however they can survive for over a year without feeding.

Detecting bedbugs

To detect bedbugs, look closely at mattresses, cushions or curtains. Dark spotting and staining is caused by bedbug droppings.  Also, you might see the eggs and eggshells, molted skins of aging nymphs and the bugs themselves.

Professionals have even trained dogs to sniff out bedbugs. This especially useful for hotels and other businesses.

What does the rash of bedbugs look like and how do you treat it?

Bedbug rashes can look like a lot of different things — little bumps, a rash, welts or just reddish skin.  sometimes there may only be itchiness without a visible rash.

The redness and itching associated with bedbug bites usually goes away on its own within a week or two. Recovery may be quickened by using a skin cream containing hydrocortisone to reduce the inflammation, and by taking an oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Scratching bedbug bites can cause a secondary skin infection. If the rash becomes redder, or gets yellow crusts on it, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

To prevent bedbugs in your home

  • Check secondhand furniture for any signs of bedbugs before bringing it home.
  • Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs. Check it regularly for holes.
  • Reduce clutter in your home so they have fewer places to hide.
  • Unpack directly into your washing machine after a trip and check your luggage carefully. When staying in hotels, put your suitcases on luggage racks instead of the floor. Check the mattress and headboard for signs of bedbugs.

To get rid of bedbugs

  • Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures. Bedbugs can’t survive at temperatures above 113 °F.
  • Use mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements to trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.
  • Use pesticides only if necessary. A trained professional is your best bet here.

The good news? Unlike some other pests, bedbugs don’t transmit and spread diseases.

Michele Berman is a pediatrician who blogs at Celebrity Diagnosis.

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