When you begin to notice bloody, red blotches on your back, neck, legs, or other parts of your body when you wake up in the morning, it’s understandable if you quickly identify the culprits as bed bugs and then begin to worry about your health.
You may feel the urge to panic, fearing that bed bug bites may transmit harmful pathogens that could even kill you. And even if the disease is not fatal, might it not be devastating and painful? Perhaps, you may think to yourself, I am already infected and in need of emergency medical assistance.
But before running around like a chicken with a bed bug bite (but still having its head on), read on to discover the true facts about bed bug bites.
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Can They Kill People?
There is only one death at all related to bed bugs on record in the U.S., and it occurred in 2011, due to excessive use of pesticides and preexisting medical conditions. It was not because of the bed bugs themselves or their bites.
Despite the fact that a couple dozen diseases are carried by bed bugs, there is no evidence that they actually transmit the harmful pathogens or worms to people on whom they feast. Hypothetically, it could happen, but for some reason, it apparently hasn’t.
If a bed bug burst from drinking in too much blood or was squashed by your angry hand or accidentally as you rolled over in your sleep, it’s theoretically possible that blood from a previous victim might mix with yours and get into your blood stream. But that is certainly an unlikely scenario.
Can Bites Harm You?
But in case you think you’re totally safe no matter how many bed bug bites you get, well, that’s not really true.
Not only will your skin be covered with unsightly, itchy, burning bites and/or rashes, but you may also experience:
- Chronic insomnia (and a fear of falling asleep!).
- Extreme stress (even post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Anemia from excessive blood loss.
- Injury due to faulty treatments and/or over-exposure to harmful anti-bedbug pesticides.
And additionally, bed bug bites left to fester for a long time, while new bites continue to accumulate, create a risk of infection. That can mean bleeding, inflammation, and exposure to disease, even if the germs didn’t come from inside a bed bug.
One Peculiarity of bed bugs is that they often leave tight rows of small red bites, and the bites may even follow a zigzag pattern. The bites may be flat or bumpy. Also note that bed bugs will bite your pet and leave the same tell-tale bite patterns.
Those at high risk of secondary infection due to bed bug bites include:
- Infants, toddlers and young children.
- The elderly.
- Anyone with an already-weak immune system.
- Those who are bedridden, whether in a hospital or at home.
Click here for an action plan if faced with the dilemma of finding bed bug bites on your toddler.
What Happens When You Get Bit by a Bed Bug?
When you cozy into your bedding and doze off on your bed at night, the bed bugs are just waking up and getting active. Attracted by the scent of exhaled CO-2 and body heat, they find you, bite through your skin, and inject their anti-coagulant saliva to better control the flow of blood into their greedy gullets. To learn all about bed bug bite symptoms, click on the link.
But that’s an oversimplified scenario. Often, the bed bug can’t find the right spot with the first injection and has to bite you several times to reach the desired blood vessel. Plus, if you move while you sleep, you could startle the bed bug, which will respond by pulling out its feeding tube and then biting you again “when it’s safe.”
Bed bugs may feed from 3 to 15 minutes and will go for the easy targets (exposed skin) before bothering to crawl into your pajamas. The resultant bites will differ from person to person (and from bug to bug) but will generally be red, swollen, and itchy.
Bed Bug Bites and Your Health
As mentioned above, bed bug bites do not harm your health directly, but they can do so indirectly. Incessant itching, mild burning, and a bumpy rash can develop. In some cases, your skin can even get inflamed to the point of blistering.
Not only are bed bugs “stealthy, ” but their bites can be too. It can take anywhere from hours to days for a bite to become noticeable. In some instances, no mark at all is left, which is good in a way but prevents you from knowing you are being fed on every night.
If you are developing a rash or have large numbers of bites covering your back, neck, arms, or legs, you may wish to see a doctor just to be safe. But definitely get some over the counter anti-itch cream to soothe the discomfort. And if a bed bug rash continues a long time or gets infected, don’t delay to see a doctor.
Here are some types of products that can help protect your health, or at least relieve the symptoms, during a bed bug episode:
- Use a Hydrocortisone steroid cream to calm down the itching.
- For rashes, try using calamine lotion. It should dry the rash and help it to heal faster.
- To cut down on out of control swelling, take antihistamine tablets. They can reduce any reaction going on due to allergies.
- For pain relief on the surface, apply a cream that has pramoxine in it.
- For a more internal approach to pain relief, just take an ibuprofen.
Bed bugs may not be quite as dangerous as you initially thought, but they still aren’t good for your health! Accumulate a regular arsenal of products that will help you cope with the problem until an exterminator can come in and eliminate it. Click on the link to find out how to get rid of bed bug bite scars.
Are They Dangerous?
No, there is no evidence that bed bugs can kill you or even cause you to catch a disease, despite the fact that they carry germs. They do not seem to transmit those ugly pathogens when feeding.
But, yes, bed bug bites can cause irritation, swelling, a burning sensation, a bad rash, secondary infections, stress, anemia, and more. Thus, these are no bug bites to take lightly.
It can take time before you will even notice any bite marks on your skin, but once you spot some and identify them as bed bug bites, don’t think the problem will just go away. Take action to counteract the symptoms and avoid complications, while also working on a plan for getting rid of these loathsome pests.
You can find further details of Bed Bugs Control here.