WHAT ARE KISSING BUGS?
Kissing Bugs are the blood—feeding insects that mainly found in Mexico, the southern & western United States and parts of Central & South America. Kissing bugs might bite you, probably while you sleep. The infection caused by these bugs is called as “Chagas disease”. Blood sucking—kissing bugs are also known as conenose bugs, vampire bugs, assassin bugs, bloodsuckers, cinches or triatomine bugs. These bugs are the members of Triatominae, a subfamily of the Reduviidae. Because of their habit of feeding around the mouths or face of people these insects are called as “kissing bugs”.
Kissing or conenose bugs need blood to live, so they suck it from animals, including dogs, but sometimes they bite people. These bugs hide during the day and come out at night to eat. Most bites of kissing bugs are harmless. Sometimes, they can cause allergic reactions or spread disease. Very rarely, the bugs can lead to heart disease or sudden deaths. If they live where you do, here’s what you really need to know.
WHAT DOES KISSING BUG LOOK LIKE?
Deadly Kissing bugs normally have black or brown wings, but sometimes they’ve a ring of red, yellow or orange, stripes on the edge. They are usually half to one inch long.
WHERE DOES THE KISSING BUG LIVE?
This quarter sized—kissing bug normally found:
- In piles of leaves or woods
- Under porches
- In outdoor dog houses or chicken coops
- In nests and burrows of wild animals like opossums and rodents
KISSING BUG BITE MARKS:
Most of the time, the bites of bug don’t hurt. You may sleep right through them. These bugs might hit anywhere on your body including your face, arms, head and feet. You will often find 2 to 15 bite marks in one area. It may cause redness and swelling. It might be difficult to tell them apart from other bug bites, infections or minor skin irritations.
RISKS FROM KISSING BUG BITE:
Most of the time, kissing bug bites are harmless. But they sometimes can cause two kinds of problems:
- Allergic Reactions. In this reaction, the skin near bug bite become swollen, itchy and red. Some people may experience anaphylactic risk after being bitten by the bug. It can drop the blood pressure at dangerous levels. Some people also feel difficulty in breathing. It requires immediate treatment.
- Chagas Disease. Kissing or assassin bugs sometimes have a parasite in their poop. It can causes “chagas disease”. In most people, it causes mild or no symptoms. But, in some people, the infection can lead to serious, long-term heart problems or disease in the intestines.
KISSING BUG BITE TREATMENT:
Usually, you don’t need to do anything. You just need to wash the bitten area with water and soap. But, if it’s uncomfortable or itchy you can use:
- Antihistamine or steroid creams
- An ice pack
- Over the counter anti—histamine pills
If you live in the area where Chagas disease is a big health concern and you get a kissing bug bite, consult your doctor if:
- You feel tiredness, fever or nausea
- Your eyelids are swollen
- The bite looks infected i.e. swollen, red or painful
HOW TO PREVENT KISSING BUG BITES?
Blood sucking “kissing bugs” usually live in the mud, adobe or straw during the day. These materials are often used to build houses in the endemic areas of South & Latin America and Mexico. Try to avoid sleeping in structures made of these materials. If you do sleep in them, take the following precautions:
- Apply bug spray regularly
- Surround your living area with insecticide—coated netting
- Repair any holes or damages in window screens
- Clean all surfaces with a insecticidal solution
- Seal cracks and crevices in your home with silicone—based caulk
- Spray insecticides to kill the bugs in your sleeping area
Kissing bugs don’t always cause Chagas disease. But if you think you’ve been bitten by kissing bug, you need to consult your doctor right away. Early treatment is critical to prevent Chagas disease from reaching the chronic stage. Keep your home free from bugs and notifying your doctor if you have any bite or symptoms.