As if bed bugs weren't unpleasant enough, for some people, bites can sometimes trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
A November 14 news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that bed bug allergic reactions are often untreated and misdiagnosed, and allergists are working to better respond to the situation. For most people, bed bug bites appear as mildly itchy red marks. But those who are allergic can experience intense itching, swelling, redness, hives, and blisters. The bugs can trigger asthma if a large group of them become airborne.
Those allergic to bed bug bites notice their bites become increasingly itchy, and scratching them can lead to infection. Allergists can treat the bites with antihistamines and corticosteroid creams.
Whether or not you're allergic, most of us want to avoid bed bugs altogether. For travelers, avoid hotels reported to be infested by using a website such as Bed Bug Registry, which lists reported cases, or all-round guide Bed Bugger (links listed below).
On arrival, travelers should check out their rooms for signs of bed bugs, keeping an eye out for the brown spots left by their waste and places that they might hide during the stay, such as the headboard, wall, and mattress seams.
It's also worth checking couches, drawers, and furniture near the bed, as bed bugs don't like to live far from their food source - sleeping humans.
To ensure you haven't picked up bed bugs from a contaminated place, keep suspect items in a plastic bag and wash them on the hottest temperature possible for the fabric. For items that can't be washed, have them professionally dry-cleaned or hand wash them, scrubbing the seams and folds and ensuring the temperature is above 45ºC.
Finally, if you get bitten, don't scratch, but wash with warm soapy water and apply an anti-itch cream, said Dr. Dini M. Miller, an associate professor at Virginia Tech's Department of Entomology in the US, in an interview with news website MSNBC. If you think you may be having an allergic reaction to the bite, contact your doctor right away.