Stephen L Doggett
Since the mid 1990s, there has been a global resurgence of
bed bugs (Cimex spp.), which are blood feeding insects that
readily bite humans. Patients suffering with bite reactions are
increasingly presenting to medical practitioners.
This article reviews the various clinical consequences of bed
bug bites and outlines management strategies.
Common dermatological responses include the early
development of small macular spots that may later progress
into prominent wheals accompanied by intense itching. Patients
exposed to numerous bed bugs can present with a widespread
erythematous rash or urticaria. Bullous eruptions are not
uncommon and anaphylaxis has been reported, albeit rarely.
There is no evidence that bed bugs transmit human pathogens,
but they are responsible for significant psychological distress,
can produce anaemia when abundant, and have been implicated
in the triggering of asthmatic reactions. Symptomatic control
involves treatment of the patient with antihistamines and
corticosteroids, and ensuring that the infestation responsible for
the problem is effectively eliminated.
From an early age, the term ‘bed bug’ is indelibly lodged into our psyche, yet as one journalist recently suggested, for most of us, they are just a ‘mythical creature from a childhood nursery rhyme’.1 However, these insects are very much real and since the mid 1990s there has been an unprecedented global bed bug pandemic. Australia has not been excluded and infestations have risen by an incredible 4500% between 2000 and 2006.2
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