Long-Term Care

Maintaining a watchful eye for signs of bed bugs

LTC Nursing Assistant Trainer, November 3, 2011

The common bed bug, Cimex Lectularius, is a wingless, red-brown, blood-sucking insect that grows up to 7 mm in length (about the size of a pencil eraser) and has a lifespan of four months to a year. Although bed bugs do not fly or hop, they do run and multiply quickly. They travel easily from one place to another in luggage, through walls, and hidden in the seams of clothing. Bed bugs may spread to cracks and crevices in mattresses, to bed frames and box springs, behind headboards and baseboards, inside nightstands, within window and door casings, and behind pictures and moldings. They have also been found hiding in couches, chairs, and other furnishings; loosened wallpaper; and cracks in plaster and floors. Bed bugs can and do hide in clutter, such as piles of books, papers, boxes, and items near sleeping areas. They emerge at night to feed on their preferred host, humans.

Bed bugs have an anticoagulant in their saliva to prevent blood from clotting during a meal. This substance causes sensitivity in some people, resulting in irritation, itching, and inflammation. Other people can live with bed bugs and not be aware of them. Some individuals develop welt-like bite marks, similar to flea or mosquito bites. They may appear in lines, similar to the pattern of scabies in which the insects are following the blood vessels. You may occasionally see bed bugs, but more commonly you will find these bite marks on residents, tiny blood stains on linens from crushed bugs, or dark spots from their droppings.

This is an excerpt from the HCPro book, The Long-Term Care Nursing Desk Reference, Second Edition, by Barbara Acello, MS, RN.

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