In the UK, bed bug infestations have increased in the past few years, causing concern about their impact on our health. Since bed bugs are blood-sucking parasites, many people worry about the possibility of them transmitting contagious diseases. It’s a valid concern given that other insects like mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can transmit dangerous pathogens through biting. Today, we will discuss whether bed bugs transmit diseases and the potential health risks associated with their bites.
There are various records that bed bugs can carry over 45 different types of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. It is important to note that these microbes do not reproduce or multiply on or inside bed bugs. Currently, there are no reports that bed bugs can transmit these pathogens to humans. Therefore, it is widely accepted that bed bugs do not spread disease. However, some scientists are still researching the ability of bed bugs to transmit harmful pathogens that can affect human health. These researchers believe that we should not ignore the fact that bed bugs can carry viruses that cause dangerous diseases such as Hepatitis B, Q fever, and Chagas disease, among others.
Although there is no solid proof that bed bugs can infect us with harmful pathogens, living in a house infested with these pests can still make us quite sick. Bed bug bites can affect each person differently. Responses to a bed bug bite can range from an absence of any physical signs to a tiny bite mark to a severe allergic reaction that may need medical attention.
Bed Bug Bites Symptoms
Bed bugs are active mainly at night and feed when their hosts are asleep. When they bite, their saliva contains an anaesthetic that makes the bite painless, which can delay the onset of a reaction from a few hours to a few days. It’s worth noting that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites. Scratching the skin can cause the bites to bleed or become infected.
Some of the most common symptoms of being bitten by these pests are:
Red and swollen skin resembling a rash or pimples (it can also look like a hive or welt)
Arranged in lines or clusters, where multiple bites are grouped together
Blisters filled with fluid
Discomfort and mild pain
In some cases, a bed bug bite can lead to a severe health problem:
When we have an acute allergic reaction
When we scratch the wound and don’t allow it to heal
When the wound becomes contaminated and infected due to scratching with dirty nails
Sometimes, bed bug bites can lead to a harsh, even life-threatening, allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe reaction that involves the whole body. The signs include:
Difficulty breathing and swallowing
Swollen face, mouth, tongue, or throat
Fever and flu-like symptoms
Loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms as a reaction to a bed bug bite, call the emergency medical services in your area.
Another very unpleasant and potentially dangerous outcome of bed bug bites is skin infections. Bug bites can be very itchy, so scratching them may feel good. However, excessive scratching may break the skin and transfer bacteria from your fingernails into the bite. The most common infections that can result from bed bug bites include:
Impetigo – this is a bacterial infection that causes sores and blisters. It can look different depending on the stage of infection and what body part is affected. Impetigo is contagious, but it can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Cellulitis – this is a bacterial infection causing the skin to become painful and discoloured. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread and cause serious complications. Cellulitis should be treated with antibiotics.
Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymphatic system. Infectious lymphangitis occurs when viruses or bacteria enter the lymphatic channels through a cut, wound, or bug bite. If left untreated, the condition can become serious and even life-threatening. However, with prompt treatment, it often resolves without any negative consequences.
The Invisible Health Consequences of Bed Bug Infestation
It’s good to know that most people don’t experience any negative physical effects from a bed bug bite. This is definitely a positive thing compared to the potential risks of allergies or infections. However, some consequences are not as apparent but still have an impact on our overall well-being:
The above symptoms should not be ignored as they can seriously impact one’s quality of life.
As you can see, although bed bugs don’t spread diseases, their bites can cause severe allergic reactions and itching, leading to skin infections. Additionally, their presence in your home can cause anxiety and sleep deprivation. Therefore, if you notice any signs of bed bug infestation, it’s best to call reputable bed bug exterminators to help you get rid of the infestation and ensure your and your family’s safety.