Are Bed Bugs Dangerous? 5 Ways Bed Bugs Affect Your Health

closeup image of two bed bugs

Let's talk bed bugs. A homeowner's worst nightmare, even the word gives most people the heebie-jeebies. 

Sneaky, extremely difficult to get rid of, and all-around pretty gross, you might be wondering are bed bugs dangerous. And if they are, how dangerous? 

Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?

A simple question with a not so simple answer. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that bed bugs are not known to transmit disease through bites. On the face of it, this means bed bugs are less dangerous than other insects like mosquitoes and ticks which are known to transmit dangerous diseases. 

This is likely because bed bugs are parasitic. In other words, their survival relies on ours. It wouldn't be in their interest to introduce disease to their food chain. Especially not a disease that may cause their food supply to disappear. 

While they haven't been shown to transmit diseases through bites, bed bugs can cause a variety of health problems. These problems can range from mild to serious. We'll run through the 5 most common ways a bed bug infestation can affect your health. 

1. Itching

By far the most common health issue from bed bugs is the itching that comes with bed bug bites. Though some people will react far worse than others.

For some people, there will be no visible reaction for a couple of weeks, or even at all. Others will get red bumps and welts on their skins within just a few days. 

These bites look similar to mosquito bites, but they tend to stay much longer and the severity of itching is far worse. Incessant itching leads to incessant scratching, which is where the more serious risks come in. 

2. Infection

While bed bug bites themselves are harmless, albeit uncomfortable, once scratched this is another matter. Especially as bites most often happen at night, we may end up scratching them in our sleep, leaving small open wounds. 

The initial open wound itself isn't a big deal. But the bacteria and germs that may enter it are. They can cause infection if not treated properly. 

Signs of bacterial infection include redness around the wound, swelling, bumpiness, and the skin being warm to touch. Open wounds are at risk of common infections such as impetigo, boils, and cellulitis.

3. Allergic Reaction

As we mentioned above, everyone reacts differently to bed bug bites. An allergic reaction is one of the worst reactions to bites you could have. 

Allergic reactions can range from mild symptoms like increased itchiness or swelling to severe life-threatening reactions for those who are hypersensitive. A severe allergic reaction will be followed by a swollen tongue and lips, tightness in the throat and chest, and wheezing. It's what's known as anaphylactic shock and needs emergency medical attention. 

4. Sleep Deprivation

Severe bed bug infestations can lead to sleep deprivation. This could be due to the psychological effect of the infestation causing sleep loss, or the sheer amount of bites causing discomfort. 

Sleep deprivation on its own isn't a hugely dangerous condition. It mostly causes loss of appetite and impaired thinking short term. However, the loss of concentration may cause clumsiness and more accidents. 

It may also cause problems in your social life due to a decrease in mood. Those suffering from sleep deprivation may be more irritable and prone to arguing with partners, family members, and friends. 

Long term, sleep deprivation may cause memory loss, heart disease, and immune system deficiency. This is why it's so important to treat an infestation instead of hoping it goes away. 

5. Stress

If you've never had bed bugs before, consider yourself lucky. Those who have been unfortunate enough to have a bed bug infestation will tell you it's one of the most stressful experiences a homeowner can have.

This is in part due to the discomfort of the bites, but also the damage. Bed bugs damage mattresses, bedsheets, curtains, and more. Replacing these regularly can be frustrating on its own.

On top of this, bed bugs are extremely difficult to get rid of. Without hiring a pest control company, you'll have little hope of fully treating an infestation. 

The short-term effects of stress include headaches, fatigue, and muscle tension. Long-term stress may cause mental health problems like depression or anxiety. It may also lead to physical health conditions like cardiovascular disease. 

How to Treat Bed Bug Bites

If you've had a bed bug bite, there are some over the counter products that may help relieve the itching symptoms and help prevent infection.

Steroidal anti-itch creams can help relieve itching symptoms. Choose a product that contains cortisone or hydrocortisone for the best results. You can also try topical anesthetics.

Try finding an anesthetic with diphenhydramine to help reduce itchiness and pramoxine for pain relief. Alternatively, you can also use normal painkillers like ibuprofen to reduce swelling and relieve pain from bites. 

If you have swelling or a rash caused by bites, you can try regular antihistamine tablets. You can also use a calamine lotion to soothe your rash on top of this. 

How to Treat a Bed Bug Infestation

While all of these will treat your bite symptoms, they won't treat the actual root of the problem - the infestation. You'll need to hire a professional extermination company to ensure the successful treatment of a bed bug infestation. 

This is because DIY treatment, even when it seems successful at first, often isn't. Bed bugs can live up to a year without feeding on a host. So the problem may arise again if the right treatment plan isn't followed.

The majority of chemical pesticides used to treat bed bugs are available to consumers, however, some are controlled and only available for use by professionals. This, alongside the experience of pest management professionals, is why we'd always recommend hiring a professional company like to treat an infestation. 

Bed Bugs Be Gone

Now you know the answer to the question are bed bugs dangerous, you can treat them accordingly. We have loads more helpful how-to advice for everything home related on our blog.


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