Remember when "sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite" was just a cute bedtime expression that didn't mean anything? Well, those days are over. After 6 decades of living largely bed bug-free, the US is facing a national infestation. In fact, the incidence of bed bug infestation has risen 500% in the last few years alone, and they're not just in dirty hotels – they’re at the 5-star ones as well and swarming the public places you visit every day. Bed bugs are shutting down businesses and being found at your local movie theaters and clothing stores as they inch closer and closer to your home.
Outbreaks of these teeny, blood-sucking critters have been reported in every kind of neighborhood in every state across the country, and that means you're at risk right now. Here's what you need to know to truly sleep tight at night – and not fear going out during the day.
Things That Go Bite in the Night
Bed bugs are insects that rely on the blood of humans or animals to survive. As babies, they are tiny as pinheads. A full-grown adult that's been making a nightly meal of you can balloon to the size of Lincoln's head on the penny. These little parasites are nocturnal and hate light, so they wait until the dark to creep out for their meals, which is why it can take so long to discover you've been sharing your home with them.
Making a Meal Out of You
Bed bugs hunt for a bare patch of skin and then hunker down to fill up before dawn. Someone who has a serious infestation could be bitten as many as 500 times per night. More often, you might see several bites clustered in one spot. Doctors call this "breakfast, lunch, and dinner," because the bugs are cramming all their meals into a short span of time.
You will likely call it a very itchy rash, because the saliva of bed bugs causes an allergic reaction in many people. Though some people have no response, others can develop asthma, or in very rare cases, life-threatening anaphylactic shock.