Bed bugs and humans have coexisted for millennia, and in the process, bed bugs have become parasites reliant on us to survive. Because they depend on us to survive, they haven’t developed the ability to transmit diseases to humans, but there are still certain health risks that bed bugs present. These risks can be anywhere from mild to severe, potentially causing serious health issues.
Bed Bug Bites and the Risk of Infection
The most common issue that bed bug bites cause relates to the itching that bed bug bite victims often experience. People frequently find red bumps or welts on their skin within days of sustaining bed bug bites, but these marks may not show up until a week or two following the bites, while others may not see any visual signs of bites at all.
These red marks tend to resemble mosquito bites, but they tend to appear for as long as two weeks or more. These bites often itch and tempt individuals to scratch the bite area, which can present a health risk.
Scratching too hard or too frequently can damage the skin and expose the body to bacteria and other organisms that could cause serious medical issues.
The risk of infection, particularly for those with a compromised immune system, makes it important to avoid scratching. If there is any sign of an infection such as additional redness, scratches that take a long time to heal, or other signs, it’s important to speak with a doctor.
To help mitigate irritation and scratching, make sure to treat properly, also apply disinfectant and make sure the skin is sufficiently moisturized.
The Spreading of Parasites
While bed bugs can’t transmit diseases, they are capable of transmitting a specific parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi), which can cause Chagas disease in some victims.
In 2014, Penn Medicine conducted a study of the transmission of T. cruzi through bed bugs. The initial test entailed seeing if infected mice transmitted the parasite to bed bugs, in which most of the 2,000 bed bugs tested contracted T. cruzi.
The second test determined whether the infected bed bugs were then capable of transmitting the parasite to healthy mice. The results found that 9 of the 12 uninfected mice contracted the parasite after living with 20 infected bed bugs over a 30-day period.
These results revealed that bed bugs can transmit at least one identifiable parasite that was capable of causing disease. The upside is that bed bugs still aren’t as infectious as mosquitoes, which can carry hundreds of diseases and continue to kill thousands of people every year.
Bed Bugs and Mental Illness
Apart from irritation and the potential to transmit certain parasites, bed bugs aren’t capable of causing much physical harm in most cases. However, they can damage victims emotionally and mentally in a number of ways.
Recently, researchers have found that some bed bug bite victims are vulnerable to a new kind of reaction, experiencing severe anxiety and depression following encounters with bed bugs. In some extreme cases, long-lasting mental disorders and even suicide have resulted from the mental trauma that bed bug attacks can cause. These effects occurred with individuals who had never experienced mental illness prior to their experience with bed bugs.
The emotional distress is not caused by anything the bed bug secretes, but it is instead a natural reaction for people who encounter stressful stimuli.
Many bed bug bite victims have suffered from insomnia and paranoia revolving around bed bugs following their experiences.
In these ways, bed bugs can be especially harmful to individuals who may be more susceptible to mental illness or general distress.
So, Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
Bed bugs may not cause serious physical issues in most cases, but the fact is that they are potentially dangerous for many individuals.
People who are vulnerable to infections from scratching or the rare transmission of parasites could experience serious health problems, while others who are prone to anxiety or depression following an encounter could experience severe mental distress.
The dangers that bed bugs pose to people make them a pest worth protecting against. Landlords, homeowners, hotel management, and others should take the steps needed to get rid of bed bugs and prevent their spread when possible, which will help residents and guests avoid the potential harm these pests can cause.