We all know that bed bugs are extremely annoying. But can these creatures actually be dangerous for our health?
Do bed bugs carry diseases? There is some proof that bed bugs can spread diseases (Chagas disease, for example). Moreover, the bites of these insects can lead to secondary infections or cause allergic reactions. So, bed bugs can carry diseases and that might be the most important reason why you should do everything in your power to get rid of these insects.
In case you want to find out more about the common health problems that bed bugs cause, then keep on reading. The actual bites of the bed bugs can sometimes cause a lot of trouble, in addition to the fact that those are simply not pleasant to look at.
The truth is that you won’t actually feel the bite because the saliva of bed bugs contains anesthetic compounds. The marks can start to appear in a day or a few. The area will become red and swollen (the marks look like the ones left by mosquitoes). The positioning of the bites can be random or in a straight line. The number would certainly depend on how large the infestation in your house is (the more bed bugs, the more severe the consequences can be).
Bear in mind that everyone might have a different reaction to the bite of a bed bug. Some people might not even develop a mark, while others will have an allergic reaction.
You might have an allergic reaction to a bed bug’s bite. In such a case, the bite mark will be a bit bigger and the itching might be unbearable. You can also have a burning sensation. However, once again, everyone can react to the bite in a different way. Even an allergic reaction can vary.
In the most serious cases, bed bug bites can cause anaphylactic shock. This might happen, in case you have an allergy, asthma or low immunity. Thankfully, these are relatively rare reactions to bites, but we should all be aware that such outcomes are possible.
Secondary Skin Infections
One of the most dangerous things about a bed bug bite is the fact that the mark can itch a lot. Of course, in such a case, a human would start to scratch his or her skin. If there are a lot of bites, then the itching can be extremely severe and people will end up scratching their skin off.
This can lead to secondary skin infections. The wounds can get infected if you fail to treat them properly. The complications include such conditions as lymphangitis (an infection that affects the lymph system), ecthyma (an ulcerative pyoderma of the skin), and impetigo (a bacterial infection).
In case you are afraid of bed bugs and their bites, you might develop insomnia. Sleep deprivation affects a human’s immunity. Moreover, it can increase stress levels and anxiety.
Infectious Transmissible Diseases
For a very long time, scientists failed to prove that bed bugs can carry diseases. But recently it has been discovered that these insects can actually transmit a certain parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi). The bad news is that this parasite can cause something known as ‘Chagas disease’ – one of the most dangerous diseases in Central and South America.
The disease is also known as the ‘American trypanosomiasis’. The disease is spread mainly by “kissing bugs”. During the early stage, the person that got infected will, most likely, have a fever, a headache, and swollen lymph nodes. As the illness progresses, it might cause the enlargement of the ventricles of the heart, the esophagus or colon.
The symptoms might need decades to develop. Nevertheless, Chagas disease impacts more than six million people every year and around 50.000 people die annually because of the consequences.
How exactly do bed bugs transfer Chagas disease? The insects do not transmit the illness while biting you. Their feces are what can cause problems. As we already know, bed bugs feed on a host that is usually fast asleep. After that, the insect would usually deposit the feces onto the person (that can even be on the human’s face). People can also get infected through open wounds (and you get those if you start scratching the bites).
Scientists managed to prove that bed bugs really can carry and, later on, transmit the disease (the experiment was conducted on mice).
Maybe, the main reason why it took so long for the researchers to discover this information is because Chagas disease is a ‘silent killer’ and sometimes the patients might not have any symptoms. However, in most cases, those who are infected, die of problems with the heart or digestion and neurological issues.
The Body of a Bed Bug Can Contain Around 40 Different Pathogens!
And even though you can’t get infected through a bed bug bite, you can catch a disease, if the feces of the insect get into an open wound.
The reasons why we had no proof that bed bugs can transfer diseases for so long are the complexities of the studies. Yes, it was assumed that the insects might carry quite a wide range of different illnesses, but to prove that the scientists would have to first place the creatures in the laboratory and then make the bed bug acquire an infectious agent from another animal or insect. There are so many different diseases out there and it was practically impossible to pick the one that could have been maintained in the body of the bed bug and then have the ability to be transmitted.
So, for a long time, it was easier for the researchers to make logical assumptions about whether or not bed bugs can act as disease carriers. However, actual scientific proof appeared not that long ago.
It is believed that bed bugs can be the carriers of hepatitis B, for example. In this case, the insects act as vectors of the disease. HBV has been found in the feces of the infected insects. Fortunately, scientists failed to demonstrate how the virus can be multiplied and transmitted to chimpanzees.
Bed bugs can also be infected by C. burnetii, spores that are responsible for Q fever. In the 1960s, C. burnetii was found in field-collected bed bugs in a region in Russia. The people that lived in the area were 29.2% more likely to get infected. However, that might be because of tics, for example, are able to transmit C. burnetii as well.
If your house has a serious bed bug infestation, you can get bitten up to 500 times during the night! Of course, you might be lucky and not develop any response at all to the bites. However, a lot of people start scratching the marks and that is literally the worst thing that you can do as you are opening the door to a wide range of different illnesses.
What Are the High-Risk Groups?
Even though bed bugs don’t really care whose blood they are going to suck during the night, there are a few high-risk groups that have to be extra careful, in case the house is infested with bed bugs.
- Bedridden patients, for example, are at high risk because they are exposed to bed bugs 24 hours per day. This insect does not necessarily have to wait for it to get dark to attack a human.
- Usually, kids are more likely to develop an allergy to bed bug bites. However, you would not want the bed bugs to get anywhere near your child, now that you know that these insects can be disease transmitters, right?
- It is a well-known fact that, in most cases, the senior people have a weaker immune system. Bed bugs can certainly cause allergy and itching in this category of people. But the elderly are also more likely to suffer from sleep disorders and anxiety, in case there is a bed bug infestation.
It is incredibly important to treat a bed bug infestation as soon as you figure out that your house has such a problem. Of course, it is not pleasant to know that you are treated as a meal and that there might be a colony of bed bugs under your mattress. But the truth is that the situation might be even more dangerous than you could have ever imagined.
Do bed bugs carry diseases? Now we know that there are certain illnesses that bed bugs do carry. It hasn’t been proven that the diseases are transferred through the actual bite. However, you can catch an illness through the feces. And, unfortunately, you can’t always control the situation, as bed bugs sometimes decide to deposit the feces on your face.
List of Sources
Diseases & Conditions – Bedbugs, Mayo Clinic
Delaunay P., Blanc V., Del Giudice P., Levy-Bencheton A., Chosidow O., Marty P., Brouqui P., Bedbugs and Infectious Diseases
Koehler PG, Pereira RM, Pfiester M, Hertz J. (July 2011). Bed bugs and blood-sucking conenose. EDIS. (26 April 2017)
Ghauri MSK. 1973. Hemiptera (bugs), pp. 373-393. In K.G.V. Smith [ed], Insects and Other Arthropods of Medical Importance. British Museum, London, England.