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Sensitivity to Bed Bug Bites

02/19/2021

Bed Bugs NYC Exterminator

By Ralph H Maestre BCE

The University of Kentucky performed a study in which it showed that many individuals do not react to bed bugs. This study was done back in February 2010.

Bed bugs feed on humans in the middle of the night as we lay sleeping. Their bites are painless so that we rarely realize we have been bitten until later on. Other insects like, fleas, ticks or lice, bed bug feed and then move away and hide to digest and feed again another day. They are our vampires from the horror movies and stories. Many of us react very differently to bed bug bites, some react with red welts, while others show very little. If you do react, it may occur immediately to several days to weeks later. Even after treatment, without seeing any live I bed bugs, several individuals will react to the bites and continue to think they have them. I know from personnel experience when testing a batch of bed bugs to see how I would react, I had continual itching and blisters for more than two weeks from one feeding.

Our experience has also shown that while one individual in a home reacts to the bites, another individual in the same home will not have any reaction at all. Because of this, sometimes one person thinks the other is crazy and is having either an allergic react to something else or just plain imaging it. Some studies dating from many years ago when bed bugs were more prevalent, as much as 80% of the population may not react to the bites. Because of this, the University of Kentucky conducted a study. The survey was done in the spring and summer of 2009. This survey was conducted by pest control personnel in cities such as Chicago, New York, Cincinnati, Louisville, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Miami where bed bug infestations were exploding and hadn't reach their peak.

474 individuals participated in the survey. While two-thirds or 66% lived in apartments another 15% lived in single family homes. The rest lived in condos, shelters, dormitories, and in long-term care facilities. All had confirmed bed bug infestations, some with low infestations 34%, some moderate 47%, and 14% were considered a high infestation, and a final 5% considered a very infestation. While 52% were female respondent and 42 being male, the age ranged from 1 to 90 years old. The study also had other categories which I am not writing about in this article.

In the study the question was asked, "have you experienced any bites or skin reactions from the bed bugs in your dwelling?" The following were the responses.

70% said yes
30% said no

In the study the level of infestation had no appreciable difference in the answer to this question. A slightly high number of females responded yes, but not enough for a statistical difference.

Age did show some differences, individuals older than 65 years of age reported no bites or skin reactions. Over 42% in this age group reported no bites or skin reaction. This is not the first study from the University of Kentucky to report the same findings. In that study, Dr. Beth Miller, the clinical director of the University of Kentucky, stated that the immune system of the elderly are often less responsive to allergens.

Medications can and do suppress immune system response. One such medication is corticosteroids.

When welts and itching from insect bite occur, this is an immune system response to the insect's saliva. If you normally respond to mosquito bites, then you are very likely going to respond in the same manner to bed bug bites.

While those individuals that do react, many react by having redness, itchiness, welts, also experienced other symptoms such as insomnia, emotional distress, anxiety, and stress. As time go by with the infestation, the symptoms may grow worse and lead to other medical conditions, including mental health issues.

When did they become aware, they had a bed bug infestation? In most cases, 51%, stated they were aware for about one month, all reported less than three months.

Delayed reactions make it difficult to figure out when the infestation started and therefore how they may have got it in the first place. Since the heavier the infestation, the more disperse they will be, the more difficult it may be to eradicate the bed bug infestation.

This article is based on the original article written by Dr. Michael F. Potter.

Michael F. Potter and Kenneth F. Haynes are professors at the University of Kentucky. Kevin Connelly (A-Alert Exterminating, Chicago, Ill.), Michael Deutsch (Arrow Exterminating, Lynbrook, N.Y.), Erich Hardebeck (Permakil Pest Control, Covington, Ky.), Don Partin (OPC Pest Control, Louisville, Ky.), and Ron Harrison, Orkin, Atlanta, Ga.) are pest control company owners, managers and technical experts.

References

Goddard, J. and R. deShazo. 2009. Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) and clinical consequences of their bites. JAMA. 301(13):1358-66.

Kemper, H. 1929. Beobachtungen uber den Stech- und Saugakt der Bettwanze und seine Wirkung auf die menschliche Haut. Zeitschrift fur Desinfektion. 21, 61-67.

Leverkus, M., Jochim, R.C., Schad, S., Brocker, E., Anderson, J.F., Valenzuela, J.G., and A. Trautmann. 2006. Bullous allergic hypersensitivity to bed bug bites mediated by IgE against salivary nitrophorin. J. Invest. Dermatol. 126(1): 91-96.

Reinhardt, K., D. Kempke, R.A. Naylor and M.T. Siva-Jothy. 2009. Sensitivity to bites by the bedbug, Cimex lectularius. Med. Vet. Entomol. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2915.2008.00793.x.

Ryckman, R.E. 1985. Dermatological reactions to the bites of four species of triatominae (hemiptera: reduviidae) and Cimex lectularius L. (hemiptera:cimicidae). Bull Soc Vector Ecol. 10:122-25.

Sansom, J.E., Reynolds, N.J. and R.D.G. Peachey. 1992. Delayed reaction to bedbug bites. Archive of Dermatology. 128: 272-3.