Bed bugs 101: What to do when bed bugs bite you and infest your home

Bed bugs are the talk of the town these days. Who would have thought the unlikeliest of critters would make it to national headlines?

About two days ago, news erupted that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals 2 and 3 are gripped by troubles once again.

Not surprising, if you think about it. After all, it’s not exactly among the best airports in the world—quite the opposite if we were to be honest.

Power outages, flight delays, immigration woes, kilometric queues—we’ve heard it all. Or so we thought.

This time, the beleaguered airport is dealing with an unexpected adversary: bed bugs.

What are bed bugs?

According to WebMD, bed bugs are “insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans.” 

If your flight is scheduled to leave from Terminals 2 or 3, you would like to be on the lookout for these flat, reddish-brown, wingless, oval-shaped creatures which are about the size of an apple seed.

Bed bugs usually bite at night.

Contrary to what most people think, bed bugs can be found all over the world. They are so hardy they can survive in most places. 

Even first world countries still struggle with these blood-sucking creatures. In fact, in October last year, Paris struggled with a bed bug outbreak

Bed bugs get their primary nourishment from human blood. Photo from Pest World

You read that right, the City of Love had a surot problem just a few months ago. Videos of the insects crawling on hotel beds and Metro seats made the rounds online, causing bed bug anxiety among travelers in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. 

If you think bed bugs could be eradicated, I’m afraid you’re only deluding yourself. Bed bugs have been around since time immemorial.

An article on Time mentioned that they have been depicted in cave drawings and when cameras were developed, the first pictures of them emerged in the 1800s.

Even worse, bed bugs depend “almost exclusively on humans” to survive, according to the same article. 

The only nourishment they’ll ever need is blood, preferably our blood. If they have a human host, they don’t even need water to stay alive. That sucks (pun intended).

Getting rid of bed bugs

Paris struggled with a bed bug outbreak in October 2023.

The chances of bed bugs vanishing off the face of the earth seems highly unlikely, but there are steps to help us rid our homes of bed bugs.

If you suspect your bed to be harboring these creatures, inspect your mattress, bed frame, and headboard carefully, especially the crevices. Bed bugs like to hide in these areas where they can bite you easily. 

If, in the unfortunate instance, you’ve confirmed that indeed you have an infestation, here are some things you can do.

First is to wash your bedding, curtains, and clothing in hot water (at least 120 F (48.9 C). 

For items that can’t be washed like stuffed toys and shoes, run them in the dryer for 30 minutes or more.

A maintenance lady disinfecting the seats at NAIA Terminal 2 following reports of bed bug infestation. Photo from Sun Web HK

Scrub mattress seams to remove bed bugs and their eggs before vacuuming. Until the time you’re already bed bug-free, vacuum your bed and the area around it every day. Empty the vacuum bag outside your home immediately after use. 

Get rid of clutter around your bed and move it away from walls and other furniture.

Put a tightly woven, zippered cover on your mattress to keep bed bugs from entering or escaping. These pesky critters can live several months without feeding so keep the cover on for at least a year. 

As of writing, Manila International Airport Authority head executive assistant Chris Noel Bendijo has declared Terminals 2 and 3 free of bed bugs.

Relief from bed bug bites

While bed bugs aren’t dangerous, their bites can be itchy and uncomfortable. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the bites don’t usually need treatment and they usually disappear on their own within a week or two. 

Bed bug bites aren’t dangerous—but they can be itchy and uncomfortable.
Photo from Cleveland Clinic

But if the bites are causing you discomfort, you could ease symptoms by using a skin cream containing hydrocortisone or an oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). 

Avoid scratching a bed bug bite enough to break the skin as it could lead to an infection. 

Some people are allergic to the bites and this could lead to hives, blisters, or intense itching. See your doctor if this happens to you.

Associate Editor

The new lifestyle.