While bed bugs may be a nuisance, they’re usually not considered dangerous. Learn more about bed bugs and the possible health risks they carry.
Humans have lived with bed bugs since the earliest days of our existence, or more correctly stated, bed bugs have lived with humans. Since bed bugs are human parasites, our survival is critical to theirs. This may be one of the reasons bed bugs have not been known to transmit diseases to humans. It would not be in the best interest of the bed bug to carry or introduce anything into the food supply that could cause the supply to disappear.
However, while they have not yet been shown to transmit diseases through feeding activities, there may still be health risks associated with bed bugs. They can be responsible for health issues that range from mild to very serious.
The most common health issue is related to the itching that often comes along with bed bug bites. Many people experience red bumps or welts on their skin within a couple of days of a bed bug attack. In some cases, the reaction may take up to a week or two, and some people do not react at all. The bumps or welts look very similar to a mosquito bite but tend to stay with the afflicted person much longer, often two weeks or more. These bites can itch incessantly, and scratching is inevitable. That is where the danger comes in.
Excessive scratching can cause damage to the skin that may allow the introduction of organisms of infection, some of them very dangerous. Taking reasonable care and controlling the urge to scratch can prevent more serious reactions, but if there is any indication of infection – such as persistent redness or other common indicators – you should consult a doctor for an evaluation.
Beyond some of the health risks associated with bed bugs, the question still remains: "Are bed bugs dangerous?" They can certainly cause disruption in your life. Loss of sleep, taking care of bites, treatment costs and other distractive issues related to bed bugs can take a toll on anyone. Some of these issues are just inconvenient while others can become very dangerous, especially if they affect your job performance, driving safety or other things in life that require alertness and your full attention.
Helping Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation
There are several things you can do to avoid a bed bug infestation in your home:
An overnight stay almost anywhere outside of your home may present an opportunity for bed bugs to relocate, so be careful to check your sleeping area and make sure your luggage doesn't get infested, even if you are staying with a friend or relative.
Carefully inspect anything that comes into your home for the first time. Furniture, appliances, new clothing, even stuffed animals for the kids, could all be infested with bed bugs.
Inspect your bed thoroughly each time you change the bedding. Bed bugs can feed and go undetected for months in some cases. Some people do not react to the bites, so physical sighting of the bed bugs or their evidence may be the only way to know they are active in your home.
When you return from overnight trips, leave your suitcase in the garage or any other area away from the places you spend most of your time, especially the bed. For an extra level of protection, wash travel clothes immediately when you get home. Items that cannot be washed can usually be run through the clothes dryer for 20 to 30 minutes on the highest heat setting. The clothes dryer alone gets hot enough to kill all stages of bed bugs and their eggs.
While there may be some comfort in knowing that bed bugs do not transmit diseases as they feed, nobody likes the thought of being the food supply for any type of insect, especially sneaky ones like bed bugs that feed while you are sleeping, and without your permission.
Are bed bugs dangerous enough to kill you? Probably not, but if you suspect bed bugs may be trying to establish themselves in your home, get a pest control specialist to inspect your home. They will help you develop a plan to avoid bed bugs if they have not already found their way in, and to get rid of them if they have.