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Bed bugs are an increasing problem within homes, public buildings and businesses. It is well known that bed bugs feed on human blood, and although they do not spread disease, bed bug bites usually cause tremendous local itchiness and numerous red welts on the neck, upper back and limbs. Bed bugs can exist within homes in large numbers, but infestations are not often noticed by means of visual inspection; instead, their bites often serve as the first indication that a home is infested with the pests. In some cases, infestations are first noticed by the presence of small dark smears on bedding or unusual odors that are often described as “musty.” Both the musty odor and the bedding smears happen to be bed bug excrement, and if an infestation is first noticed by the presence of either one, or both, of these signs, then there is a good chance that the resident does not experience a negative physical reaction to bed bug bites.

At least 22 percent of Americans have experience with bed bugs, and 35 percent of children in the country have encountered the bloodsuckers. Boston is ranked as the 10th most bed bug-infested American city, and another New England city, Hartford, also made the top 50 list at number 37. Bed bug bites cause itchiness and red welts for most people who sustain bites, but the severity of bed bug bite symptoms varies from person-to-person. Some people experience an immediate reaction to bed bug bites, while others may not experience symptoms until two or three days after sustaining bites. Surprisingly, many people do not react to bed bug bites at all, and these people may live within an infested house without knowing about the bugs feeding on their blood every night as they sleep. In fact, research shows that 30 percent of people living within bed bug-infested conditions don’t experience any symptoms at all. For reasons that are not yet clear to researchers, most people who lack bite symptoms tend to be elderly individuals. Some people can experience unusually severe bite reactions, and this can occur in individuals who have become sensitized to the bites after sustaining numerous bites in the past. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that bed bug-infested homes must be treated by licensed pest control professionals, and not by residents, as infestations are notoriously difficult to eradicate.

Have you ever been exposed to bed bug-infested conditions, while still managing to prevent the bugs from hitchhiking into your own home?