One of the most common questions we receive is ‘what dangers do bed bugs pose to my health and safety’. The short of it is that there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that bed bugs are not known to carry diseases, even in the strictest of lab settings where they were intentionally infected with blood borne diseases. I’ll get into the nitty-gritty a little bit later, but it can be calming to know you don’t have to worry about a disease.
The bad news is that diseases aren’t the only thing you should be concerned about when it comes to bed bugs. Dermatological reactions to bed bug bites are common for those who experience reactions to the bites at all and an increasing number of victims are showing severe allergic reactions to bed bug bites. In addition, bed bugs can take a serious psychological toll on their victims which can manifest in some physiological issues.
Let’s break down the nitty-gritty of diseases, this part is going to get a bit messy. Bed bugs feed on human blood in order to live, have energy, reproduce, and molt. Unlike other pests, such as mosquitos or ticks, that feed on humans bed bugs don’t inject any of their stored blood at the site of the bite.
So when it comes to feeding for bed bugs, it’s a one-way trip. Blood only goes out of the body and into the bed bug. This is why bed bugs have presently been unable to transmit any diseases, blood-borne or otherwise. The only substance they inject into humans is a local anesthetic at the site of the bite so you don’t wake up. This can cause allergic reactions, but not diseases.
Even in laboratory settings where bed bugs were intentionally infected with highly transmittable blood-borne diseases.
But like we said before, just because you don’t have to worry about diseases doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about bed bugs. As a matter of fact, worrying about bed bugs is the most common reaction.
One of the advantages of the Bed Bug Adviser is that we draw expertise from many different fields and in talking to the only medical doctor in North America who specifically deals with bed bugs we learned that psychological impacts are not only common, but they’re to be expected. Dr. Stephane Perron leads a team of medical researchers at the University of Montreal says that if you have bed bugs “it would be uncommon if you didn’t have [sleep disturbances or increased levels of stress and anxiety]”.
While we wish to be cautious with our phrasing it has been suggested that reactions to bed bugs share symptoms with PTSD as the encounters can be quite traumatic. Not only are the pests annoying, but they are quite literally traumatic. If you know anyone who has bed bugs you’ll know that it’s rare to hear about them and that the experience can take quite a toll. There is; however, some good news.
Which is that Dr. Perron says that all of the related issues with the bugs go away almost the day the bugs do. Your sleep cycle returns to normal, your stress levels abate, and your psychological and emotional health return to pre-bug levels rapidly. Sometimes, though, the bites can linger a bit longer than the bugs themselves.
Humans have a whole range when it comes to reactions to bed bug bites. Depending on which study you believe either only 25% or as little as 4% of the American population has any reaction at all to bed bugs.
Of that percentage even fewer have severe reactions, and a tiny fraction of those have allergic reactions. Bed bug bites are almost entirely impossible to distinguish from the bites of other pests but there are a few tell-tale signs that should indicate you do a more thorough search of your bed/couch/wherever you sleep at night.
Bed bugs tend to line up and bite in a row. So if you see spots on your body of three to four bites in a line you should start inspecting for the other indicators of bed bugs. Bed bugs also bite eyelids more than any other pests.
This one is a bit tricky, because not every bed bug infestation bites eyelids, so not having bites on your eyelids does not mean you aren’t dealing with bed bugs, necessarily. But having bites on your eyelids is a pretty good sign that you should begin that thorough inspection.
If you are one of the unlucky souls who has a severe reaction to bed bugs we highly recommend speaking to a dermatologist about your bites. It can be an auto-immune or even an allergic reaction requiring steroid or cortisone treatment.
Typically speaking bed bug bites feel like a rash and can itch for a few days and most people have their symptoms go away within three to five days. Since the range of reaction is across an entire spectrum it’s perfectly plausible that a person you share a bed with has no signs of bed bug bites at all while you’re covered in itchy spots. This isn’t because the bugs favor you, your partner may just be luckier than you.
While bed bugs are never the easiest topic to deal with, we hope we’ve equipped you for any battles you may have to face. Bed bugs aren’t harmless, but at the very least you don’t have to be concerned about the spread of any diseases. With our help and guidance at the Bed Bug Adviser we hope that we can help you sleep tight tonight!