Bed bugs are tiny, some almost so small you are unable to see them. They are insects from the genus Cimex.

There has been a significant increase in these infestations in the UK during 2023. According to data from Rentokil, there was a 65% year on year rise in bed bug infestations from 2022 to 2023. The surge is attributed to furniture recycling, driven by the cost of living crisis, increased travel post-covid and seasonal patterns, as bed bug activity tends to peak during late summer.

The problem appears to have died down, but I would like to tell you my experience of these blood suckers because, if this situation isn’t taken seriously, what I’m describing could be the net result. 

Firstly there is a myth that bed bugs are only found in dirty homes; this is not the case. They are attracted to warmth, blood and carbon dioxide, and, as long as there is a person to bite, it’s not about hygiene. They can get into crevices anywhere; they live in joints found in bed frames, settees, and can be transported in clothing from one place to another. They can live from 99 to 300 days.

According to information seen on web sites, there are no health conditions caused by them, other than that you may have an itchy rash, which, if scratched, can become infected.

In 1964 I was stationed in Steamer Point, Aden, a port in Yemen. We had modern flats and the luxury of cleaners. After a few weeks I started to notice the bites on my body and we were told that they were probably caused by bed bugs, and that we should burn the joints in our beds, which had metal frames. We did this religiously. Apart from me, everyone’s burning appeared to work. I burned my bed every night I was there, but these bugs kept coming for me. My sheets were blood stained from blood and bug poo, plus any bugs I managed to squash. Eventually I was covered in bites; they became infected and I was placed in an isolation ward in the hospital I worked in. I was kept there for two weeks with the aircon on as high as it would go, and I was only allowed a sheet to cover me. I also had a course of antibiotics. 

I was discharged from hospital, and that same night I went to a social gathering at someone’s house. During the evening I noticed what looked like a spot on my leg that seemed to grow as I watched it; it then formed pus on the head. Following this it burst, ran a short way down my leg, and within minutes another spot had formed and a head of pus followed.  

By the time I got up the next morning my legs were covered in these spots, I was then sent back into hospital, in isolation. This time the doctors were baffled; I had something they called ‘Monsoon Blisters’.  I was asked if they could take samples – that meant scraping the blisters. Lab technicians were all over me, so I froze whilst being treated as a specimen. The doctors were trying to find a link between the bed bugs and the blisters. Of course in those days research was pretty limited and nothing was proven. After a further three weeks in hospital I was discharged. I’m delighted to say that the bugs didn’t return and the blisters healed. 

So, whatever Google tells you, remember this cautionary tale and take a lesson from me.


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