Are bed bug bites dangerous? Most people do not think so. The fact is: bed bugs can cause a great deal of harm than we thought initially. Not only do they give rise to itchy rashes, they also ruin a good night’s sleep. This in itself leads to many harmful health effects like irritability, increased anxiety, depression, fatigue etc.
In some people, bed bug bites give rise to severe allergic reactions that could lead to intense scratching. Bed bug bites are worse for children and people with pre-existing health conditions or weaker immune systems. Babies and toddlers often cannot prevent themselves from scratching the bites; this leads to harmful skin infections. In some cases, bed bug bites can be really dangerous in that; they could cause anaphylactic shocks which require immediate medical assistance.
Bed bugs cause social issues
What is worse about bed bug infestations is that they hamper one’s social standing and status: most people do not like staying in bed bug infested hotels (a fact that has led to the financial ruin of many motel/hotel owners). Likewise, apartments with bed bug problems lose tenants as well as their reputations. Home owners with bed bug issues feel embarrassed about inviting friends over, as a result of which their friendships may be impacted negatively.
Physical reactions to bed bug bites
Thus, for most people, bed bug bites lead to more mental and social issues than physical ones. Naturally, one cannot ignore the itchy bites caused by bed bugs. A recent survey conducted by The University of Kentucky Entomologists (on 474 people living in heavily infested bed bug dwellings all across the United States) showed that nearly 70% of the group had a physical reaction to the bed bug bites. The remaining 30% had little or no reactions. The negative impact was also greater in people aged between 11 to 65 years of age. Females were also twice as likely to be affected by dangers of bed bug bites as men.
Thus, the survey determined that the answer to the question, ‘are bed bug bites dangerous?’ depends upon one’s sensitivity to the bites. People who were sensitive to mosquito bites were also likelier to show greater reactivity to bed bug bites, usually in form of following symptoms.
- Nearly 72% of the people who had a reaction to the bed bug bites had itchy red welts on the bitten regions.
- 50% of this group had redness or discoloration.
- 28% had no welts or redness but experienced extreme itchiness nevertheless.
- 21% of the people with a reaction also remembered waking up to a stinging sensation at night.
- The affected group mainly reported bites on chest, upper back, neck, hands, feet and face.
The entomologists conducting the study concluded that bed bugs generally faced difficulty while biting their victims through layers of clothing. As a result, the bites were seen on different exposed areas of the body.
How long do bed bugs feed for in a single feeding session?
Naturally, most people would not want to be around bed bugs. This is because, even though they might not have a visible physical reaction to the bed bug bites, they would certainly fear the social stigma of having them.
Others could have a major physical reaction to the bite. The bed bug injects a protein through its saliva into the host’s skin. This is to prevent the blood from clotting and the site from sealing up. Then the bug proceeds to have its blood meal. In a given night, a single bed bug can feed for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the life cycle stage it is at. Younger bed bugs or larvae need copious amounts of blood to molt and proceed to different life cycle stages. Female bugs also need blood to lay eggs and multiply.
Bed bugs bites are dangerous for children
Children and toddlers often cannot stop themselves from scratching the bite site and the bacteria trapped beneath their nails could lead to harmful secondary skin infections. So, are bed bug bites dangerous for children? The answer is yes, as some cases might even require steroids, antibiotics or antihistamines for healing.
Mental disorders, anxiety and insomnia due to bed bugs
The answer to ‘are bed bug bites serious’ also depends on how anxious a person is. Some people who have dealt with major infestations are simply unable to sleep in anticipation of bites. They tend to feel anxiety or worry – a term known as delusional parasitosis. This is a mental condition where the person imagines bugs crawling all over him. One also ‘sees or feels bugs everywhere’. In such patients, insomnia is very common. As a result, they are unable to focus at work, have mood swings, or might feel depressed or low in energy. The overall mental and physical wellbeing of such patients is greatly impacted. Some cases may even need psychiatric therapy for resolution.
Conclusion – Are bed bug bites dangerous?
Most of the times, bed bug bites do not transmit diseases, but they are known to carry pathogens of plague and Hepatitis B.
Hence, dismissing bed bugs as unharmful actually means that we are ignoring the pain, suffering and emotional distress caused to their victims. The bottom line is: modern research has proven that bed bug bites are worse than we think they are. Hence we must take all necessary measures for their prevention and control.