Wondering if bed bugs are dangerous?
Well, you’re in the right spot!
In this guide we’ll be covering 3 major items you should know:
- The diseases bed bugs can cause
- The parasites bed bugs can transmit
- If bed bugs can cause mental illness issues
Bed bugs are one of the most common pests in the United States and around the world. They can live in many of the environments that humans can and are known for their ability to irritate people because they feed on blood.
Let’s get into the guide!
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
What is a Bed Bug?
Unlike many other pests, bed bugs are true insects. They have bodies divided into three segments: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Bed bugs additionally have six legs and a pair of antennae on their heads.
A bed bug is 5-7 mm. long and 2-3 mm. wide. Most of them are muddy brown to rust colored and have oval bodies. When they feed, bed bugs become engorged and will take on an even redder hue. They produce a musty odor that some people describe as being like moldering books or clothes.
Because of their size, bed bugs are able to hide in hard-to-reach locations. The basic rule of thumb is: If you can slip the width of two unfolded sheets of computer paper in a crevice, than it’s small enough for one of these pests. Some of their favorite hiding places are behind door and window frames, in cracks in the walls or floor, and inside of furniture.
Other Bed Bug Guides
Curious about other bug bug guides? Check out these articles when you’re done with this one!
Do Bed Bugs Carry Disease?
Well… mostly no.
Despite being in close proximity to humans and being in many locations around the world, bed bugs do not transmit any known human diseases (but they have been seen to transmit a parasite, more on that later).
Physically, bed bugs do bite humans and animals. This leaves a small, red bump that can frequently irritate the surrounding skin. Some people experience an allergic reaction to bed bug contact. A mild response can be treated with a soothing cream and an oral antihistamine. A severe reaction that includes trouble breathing, hives, or a rash requires immediate medical attention.
Some individuals also report general skin irritation and itchiness from encountering bed bugs, and bites can become infected if not treated correctly. People should always apply some form of disinfect and keep their skin moisturized.
The level of reaction depends on how allergic you are to the bed bug’s bite.
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Can Bed Bugs Transmit Parasites?
Although bed bugs don’t transmit diseases, a 2014 study out of Penn Medicine found that bed bugs did successfully transmit a parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi), which can cause Chagas disease, one of the most prevalent and deadly diseases in the Americas.
The Testing and Results
The first test conducted was to see if infected mice could transmit the parasite to bed bugs.
Out of 2,000 bed bugs tested, most bed bugs DID contract the parasite.
The second test conducted was to see if the infected bed bugs could then transmit the parasite to healthy mice.
The results were that 9 of the 12 healthy mice (75 percent) were infected with the parasite after each 30 days living with 20 infected bed bugs.
What this means is that bed bugs can transmit at least one known parasite, which could then cause a disease.
This stinks, but pales in comparison to mosquitoes who carry hundreds of diseases and kill thousands of people each year.
Can Bed Bugs Cause Mental Illness?
Suprisingly, the worst of bed bugs doesn’t come from what they can do to you physically, but what they can do you EMOTIONALLY.
Scientists discovered a new reaction to bed bugs which can affect the general population. Many individuals report bouts of severe anxiety and depression during bed bug encounters. In some cases, these aggravated conditions have resulted in suicide or developing a long-lasting mental disorder.
These conditions can affect people who have not experienced any form of mental illness in the past. They often last until the bed bug infestation has been dealt with, and can continue to affect a person’s life afterwards.
This does not mean that bed bugs secrete a hormone that causes this symptom. Instead, scientists theorize it is a natural response for humans when faced with stressful stimuli. People have increased trouble sleeping and become paranoid that they will wake up and bed bugs will have fed on them in the night.
There are reported stories of bed bugs forcing frantic homeowners to throw out everything they own include books, jewerly, food, and just about anything else in their home regardless if its been infested or not.
The emotional response can be so strong in some people that they can’t help but leave their home completely empty to defeat these bugs.
Bed Bug Prevention Basics
Despite being a common threat, there are not many options available for people who want to stop bed bugs from entering their homes. The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States offers a few basic guidelines that individuals can follow to lower their chances of infestation.
- Be wary of secondhand furniture.
- Vacuum regularly.
- Don’t let trash and clutter build up around the home.
- Be careful in public areas and keep your possessions in sealed containers like purses.
How Do These Rules Help?
Bed bugs live in places where there are people, and they can be transported by unsuspecting individuals who travel to public areas. Most bed bugs spread by using shared facilities such as laundry rooms, hotels, bus stations, and restaurants.
Cleaning regularly picks up any lone bed bugs that might have come home on backpacks, purses, shoes, pets, and even people. Picking up trash and clutter gives the pests fewer places to hide once inside.
Meanwhile, secondhand furniture is one of the biggest transporters of bed bugs. Many people don’t realize they have an infestation when they give items away. You should examine all products to ensure they are clean before allowing them inside.
If you’re curious on what attracts bed bugs in the first place, we recommend this article for further reading.