Difference Between Bed Bug and Flea Bites

In summer, we are much more exposed to the bites of various insects. In addition to wasps, bees, hornets, and annoying mosquitoes, mite bites, and even fleas are common.

Cimex lectularius

Female of the bed bug – Cimex lectularius – on the fur of one of its hosts, a bat.

Bed Bugs Bites are Common

Dermatologists easily recognize changes in the skin due to the bite of these insects because they are characteristic. When fleas sting, small nodules appear, reddish in color, most often on the legs, because fleas are occasionally on the floor and jump.

Insects mainly do not stay on humans, but they sting and release their poison into the blood, which causes irritation, often intense itching, and a real allergic reaction can develop. The first aid to soothe the itching after the sting of any insect is ice, lemon, toothpaste (due to menthol), vinegar, or aloe vera gel. It is best to have an antihistamine at home in the form of a cream or gel such as Fenistil or Synopen (promethazine).

The itching subsides after one to a few days. However, it does not help in some people, so you should resort to corticoid creams and sometimes pills. It is rarely necessary to seek emergency medical attention.

Similar reactions, tiny papules, can occur with bed bug bites. Bed bugs were once thought to reflect dirt and come only in dirty areas and bedding. However, that is not true. Bed bugs are not that rare and are hard to get rid of once they sneak into a house. They are unrecognizable, multiply quickly, and can cause significant problems. A linear arrangement of these tiny, itchy pimples appears on a specific part of the body after a sleepless night. The therapy is the same as for the stings of other insects.

Bed Bug

Bed Bug

What are bed bugs?

The house bug (lat. Cimex lectularius L .; eng. Bed bug) belongs to the family of wingless insects Cimicidae, which feed on blood. It is widespread on almost all continents and is mainly found in temperate climates.

The house bug is 5.5-7 mm long and 2.5-3 mm wide. Three to six days after fertilization, the female lays 6-10 eggs over about 6 days. It can produce up to 200 eggs during its lifetime, sometimes more (up to 500). It has 5 developmental stages, and in ideal conditions (summer months), it takes about 6 weeks from egg to adult.

Bed bugs are thermolabile, so a low temperature of -17 ºC kills adults in 2 hours. A temperature of -18 ºC kills eggs in 1 hour. A high temperature of 41 ºC kills adults in 1 hour, and bed bug eggs die in 1 hour at a temperature of 45ºC.

Bed bugs live 6 to 12 months, and some new studies say they can live significantly longer in food-deficient conditions. Otherwise, an adult bed bug can survive without food for up to 5 months.

How do they endanger human health?

Bed bugs are parasites of public health importance mainly due to their unpleasant stings. They can also pose a serious health problem due to the psychological stress caused by the stings.

As far as is known, bed bugs do NOT transmit infectious disease agents. Even though they do not play a role as vectors (carriers) of contagious diseases, bed bugs have public health significance due to local skin reactions to stings and due to the possible induction of anemia in people living in permanently infested areas. In some people, bed bug bites cause severe psychological stress. Skin reactions are the result of substances that bed bugs inject when taking a meal of blood. The most common local reactions occur in the form of changes similar to those of mosquito bites. Systemic allergic reactions can occur in hypersensitive individuals, up to the most severe form, anaphylactic shock.

Reactions to stings can be delayed for up to 9 days before lesions appear, which can cause confusion regarding the origin of the bite. Allergic reactions usually occur within 1 to 24 hours. They include elevated reddish skin changes of various sizes and shapes, with itching and inflammation.

How do bed bugs spread?

The problem of bed bugs is mainly related to the occurrence in various means of transport such as airplanes, cruises, buses, trains, ships, and yachts, so we call such a phenomenon a passenger-tourist infestation.

Frequent changes of tourist destinations, the prevalence of air travel, the separation of luggage from passengers, and many other factors allow passive transfer of bedbugs tucked in the folds of luggage and clothing in the means of transport. When bed bugs are brought to a destination, they use all possible ways of spreading in a new environment, through old furniture, various equipment, furniture, wardrobe, and migrating to neighboring areas, all to search for food.

Where do bed bugs live?

They live in cracks in walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, under moldings, window frames, door stocks, under wallpaper, between the edges and folds of bedding and mattresses, picture frames, along electrical lines, under sockets, under upholstered furniture.

How to detect bed bugs?

Adult bed bugs resemble apple seeds, have a characteristic sweetish odor, similar to the smell of mold, and are even compared to the smell of fresh raspberries. The odor occurs during a significant infestation or when bed bugs are crushed. We can also spot them by the small black dots that remain from their feces and by the bloody marks on the bedding after feeding.

Bed Bugs Feeding

Bed Bugs Feeding

How and how often do they eat?

They usually feed at night with the blood of humans and mammals, and in their absence, they also attack birds, frogs, and lizards. They are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide (CO2). Feeding is painless because the bed bug pierces the skin with two hollow tubes – with one tube, it injects saliva containing anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting and anesthetics, so the host feels nothing, and the other draws blood.

Nymphs (young bed bugs) feed for a shorter time, only 3 minutes, while an adult bed bug takes a meal for 10 to 15 minutes, after which they return to their hiding place to digest food. They are fed every 5 to 10 days.

How can skin changes caused by bed bug bites be treated?

In most cases, local reactions and itching can be relieved by putting ice on the bed bug bite and taking antihistamines.

What are the best methods of bed bug infestation prevention?

Preventive measures and protection against bed bugs that we as individuals can do are to keep the space and surfaces clean. As bed bugs migrate for the most part in guests’ luggage, it is mandatory to inspect the premises in detail. Particular attention should be paid to luggage compartments (so-called bed boxes), bedding, mattresses, floors, headboards, paintings, tables, sockets, audiovisual equipment, mirrors, blinds, lighting fixtures, laminate, and parquet floors, should be inspected. Metal bed constructions can restrict bed bugs’ movement because they have difficulty climbing on smooth and hard surfaces.

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