Bed bugs are tiny, but the dangers they pose to your health and home aren't. Here's the scoop on bed bugs, how to spot an infestation, and how to prevent one from happening in the first place.
When it comes to your health, it’s imperative to protect your peace of mind, especially in a safe space like your home. But what about the dangers unseen by the naked eye?
Bed bugs are annoying and bloodthirsty, and an infestation can escalate rapidly.
Bed bugs present hidden risks you might not know about until it’s too late. They’re annoying and bloodthirsty, and an infestation can escalate rapidly. An insect as small as that can be difficult to notice, and like every other problem, you may not take it seriously until you see the consequences. Whether it’s just a few bite marks, a mild rash, or a strong allergic reaction, a bed bug problem can go south in more than one way and cost you a lot of time and money, if not your mental health.
How can bed bugs affect your health?
Skin infections caused by bed bugs are usually rare, but they do exist. When a bed bug bites you and leaves its mark, obsessive scratching can turn the bite into a small wound. If different germs and bacteria manage to find their way into that wound, it can become infected quite quickly. Keep your bite spots under observation and seek medical help if they become too red or swollen.
Psychological harm due to bed bugs is a real problem. The insects can impair an adult’s sleep schedule and reduce the effectiveness of rest. People who suffer from a bed bug problem often report adverse mental side effects like paranoia, anxiety, and an obsession with preventing future infestations. Those side effects can affect the rest of your daily activities to the point where you become inefficient in your professional and personal life.
If you happen to be allergic to bed bug bites, a bad reaction can result in severe itching, difficulty breathing, and painful blisters or hives. People susceptible to allergic reactions from bed bugs should take extra precautions. Wash your sheets and mattress regularly. Opt-in for heat-drying since high temperatures are lethal to bed bugs.
Speaking of respiratory problems, you don’t need a bed bug bite to experience breathing difficulties. The bugs’ feces, as well as the skin flakes they leave behind when shedding, are rich in histamine. Inhaling this substance causes your airways to narrow down, which leads to breathing problems. This side effect can be even more dangerous to people who have asthma or other respiratory diseases. If that’s the case, you should avoid using chemicals to fight off bed bugs since you risk further lung irritation.
Possible disease infection
According to a recent study, bed bugs can act as vectors for pathogens. They can carry bacteria responsible for trench fever and Chagas disease. Scientists have yet to prove that the bugs can transmit those pathogens to humans, but they do carry them around, which is reason enough to be cautious.
What is a bed bug bite like?
It can be challenging to tell a bed bug bite from a rash or another insect bite. Bed bug bites don’t hurt initially because the insects inject you with a weak anesthetic to prevent you from waking up. Overnight, they swell up and become itchy and red, often with a darker red spot around the center of the bite.
Bed bug bites don’t hurt initially because the insects inject you with a weak anesthetic to prevent you from waking up.
These bites can be on a person’s face, neck, arms, or hands and can be arranged in a cluster of spots, or a roughly straight line.
In some cases, on top of itchiness, you can also experience a burning sensation. The skin around the bite area will feel warm to the touch, too.
How to spot a bed bug infestation
Awareness is key when you're dealing with insect infestations. Before you call pest control, look for these signs:
- Bed bug bites. The dead giveaway. Itchy, painful red marks on your skin around the areas mentioned above are a definitive sign of an infestation.
- Bloodstains. If you notice red drops on your mattress or sheets, then you might be dealing with a bed bug infestation. Bloodstains could result from a larger bite or leakage from the bed bug’s mouth, leading to its hiding place.
- Crawling sensation. Does it take you too long to fall asleep? If you’re one of those people who need more than a couple of minutes to fall into a deep slumber, then you might feel the bugs crawling on you looking for their next meal.
- Stumbling upon a hiding place. Bed bugs live in groups, not in nests. They tend to gather around the edges of your mattress, your bed frame, or headboard where they can quickly gain access to you.
How to prevent bed bugs
- Protect your bed. Bed bugs are rather bad climbers—they find it hard to make their way along smooth surfaces, like plastic. If you put each of your bed’s feet inside a small plastic cup, so it doesn’t stand directly on the ground, you can interfere with the bugs’ advance on your sleep property.
- Vacuum regularly. Keep all surfaces clean to reduce the chances of housing bed bugs and suffering the consequences to their infestation.
- Heat-dry. Always use a drying temperature as high as the fabric allows when you dry your clothes after washing them. It should finish off any bugs that might survive a trip through the washing machine.
- Use vacuum-sealed bags. Store your clothes and fabrics in vacuum-sealed bags when you go on a trip. That way, you minimize the risk of bringing bed bugs home with you.
- Cut back on clutter. The fewer hiding spots you provide to pests, the better. Reducing the clutter in your home will not only help prevent bed bug infestations but also help against cockroaches or other pests that might torture your family.
- Inspect your furniture regularly, especially if you bought it second-hand. People often check their furniture for cracks and other damage but forget to look at the difficult-to-reach areas where bed bugs might hide. Make sure to inspect every corner.
Interesting (or just plain creepy) facts about bed bugs
At around 1 milimeter (about 1/16th of an inch) in size, bed bug eggs are almost impossible to see.
Bed bugs are surprisingly resilient. They can survive without sucking blood for months.
On top of that, they can bear a wide range of temperatures from 0⁰ to 50⁰ celsius (32 to 122 degress Fahrenheit).
Bed bug saliva contains a pain-killing agent so you don’t wake up when they bite you. It also increases blood flow to the area they choose as a feeding place.
Bed bugs have a pattern. They go out at night, climb on top of you, feed for 5 to 10 minutes, and then go back to their hiding spot.
Newly hatched bed bugs are so tiny they can pass through a stitch-hole in a mattress.
A bed bug can suck as much as seven times its weight in blood. If an average grown man had to drink this much water, for example, he would have to consume over 450 liters (~119 gallons).