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Surot 101: Everything you need to know about bed bugs

By NICK GARCIA Published Mar 01, 2024 3:20 pm

The “surot” or bed bug incident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminals 2 and 3 has been a cause for concern for Filipino travelers. Last year, Paris faced a similar situation with reports of parasitic insects found in various locations, including cinemas, trains, and hospitals.

But it’s an even greater cause for concern at home where bed bugs can cause discomfort as expected.

Fortunately, understanding how to prevent and address bed bugs can ensure a good night's sleep.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They’re reddish-brown, wingless, and are about the size of an apple seed. They can live several months without a blood meal, the CDC noted.

Since they’re flat, they can fit into tiny spaces. While they don’t build nests like ants, they live in groups. Despite being unable to fly, they can quickly move on floors, walls, and ceilings.

They’re mainly active at night.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found globally. CDC noted that their presence isn’t determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they’re found, as they can also be in places like five-star hotels and resorts.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep, like apartments, shelters, roaming houses, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms.

They can get into one’s home if occupants go to another place infested with bed bugs, as they can be in luggage or upholstered furniture.

Their hiding places, CDC noted, include seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed.

How long do bed bugs live?

According to WebMD, bed bugs can develop fully in at least a month under favorable conditions. They can produce three or more generations per year, with female bed bugs laying hundreds of eggs over a lifetime.

They can live for up to a year.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

To date, no evidence suggests that bed bugs can spread disease. They can, however, cause discomfort due to itchiness resulting from their bites. If they prompt a person to scratch themselves—and excessively at that—it could cause skin infection.

WebMD noted that bed bugs leave groups of bites in a straight row or zigzag pattern, though they can also be in a random pattern. The bites are commonly found on areas of skin that are exposed during sleep, like the face, neck, or hands.

The bite marks may take up to two weeks to develop.

Some individuals are allergic to bed bugs, and the bites can trigger an allergic reaction that may need medical attention.

How would I know if there’s a bed bug infestation?

Aside from the bite marks, which take time to appear, WebMD said one may notice signs like:

  • Blood spots on the sheets or mattress
  • Tiny pale yellow eggs or eggshells
  • Bedbug poop, which looks like black periods
  • Their shed skin, which looks a lot like the bed bugs themselves
  • White, oval eggs
  • A sweet, musty odor around the bed
  • Actual bed bugs in the bed
How do I address bed bug problems?

Dr. Gina Santiago Eubanas, a dermatologist, said the best way to address it is to "treat the source." "Clean thoroughly, sun expose, spray insecticide."

It is also advised to wash bedding, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest setting.

A stiff brush may be used to scrub mattress seams before vacuuming, which should also be done on the bed and the surrounding area daily.

A tightly woven, zippered cover on the mattress keeps bed bugs from entering or escaping.

Clutter around one’s bed must be removed since it can be their hiding place, and the bed must be moved away from walls and other furniture where they may be lurking.

During sleep, one may wear pajamas to protect the skin from bites.

As for bed bug bites, Dra. Eubanas advised against scratching the area. "Sometimes scratching can infect the wound and become much more than a simple bite. Puede maging pigsa or cellulitis or boil."

To reduce itch and inflammation, apply antiseptic creams like Calmoseptine or lotions with steroids or take an antihistamine for allergies. One may also apply a cold compress on the affected area.