About 20 years ago, when bed bugs first made their resurgence, many Americans worried not only about hotel stays and used furniture, but all of the other ways bed bugs, or even bed bug eggs, could make it into their homes. Similarly, hotels, apartment complexes, and even cruises had reason to worry as well.
And there is reason to be concerned. Bed bugs thrive in most North American environments and can be an insidious pest. Not only are they are notoriously difficult to get rid of, but if you’re wondering can bed bugs affect your health, the answer is yes.
A Potentially Big Problem
While the bite is certainly one of the first ways people realize they have a bed bug problem, they may have failed to notice other signs for over a week. Though a female bed bug may lay up to a handful of eggs each week, they don’t typically hatch for 10 days. Failure to notice early signs means the first things you do notice, whether that be the bugs themselves, their exoskeletons or excrement, or the health impact, you’re already likely well on your way to an infestation.
Again, the bite is the symptom we hear about most often, but bed bugs can affect your health in multiple ways.
Can Bed Bugs Affect Your Health?
In short, yes and it goes beyond the bite. In some cases, the impacts are physical, while the larger impact, for many, is psychological.
Most people believe the bite will be the first thing they notice. They might even imagine being woken in the night by tens of bites as they happen. However, the truth is bed bug bites won’t be felt when they happen. In fact, you likely won’t even know you’ve been bitten until a few days later, and as discussed above, the bed bug cycle means, by that point, it’s likely a bigger problem than you might like.
Bites will rarely appear alone and will appear as other biting insect bites do– a raised red mark that, most likely, itches. While they may appear in a line formation, there can also be no discernible pattern.
In the best-case scenario, the bites are a minor irritation, especially in comparison to the bed bug problem itself. However, in a worst-case scenario, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the bites resulting in blistering, skin infections, or hives near the site of the bite.
While rare, serious infections may occur as the result of bed bug bites. While the bed bugs themselves do not transmit disease, infections are the result of broken skin from itching the bites themselves. For this reason, infections from bed bugs are a secondary infection.
However, these bacterial infections, including impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis, may pose a significant risk as all are related to strep or staph infections which can be serious. These infections will need to be treated by a physician and may require prescription antibiotics.
As with any major home or health issue, the impact bed bugs can have on your emotional well-being is significant. Many folks will experience a variety of emotions, including anxiety about how to handle a bed bug infestation, how to protect one’s family from the impact, and how to recover from the process of identifying, suffering, and eradicating. Each of these separately is enough to make one anxious, but when combined, it is normal to feel overwhelmed.
Additionally, some folks may feel anxious about the social stigma and perception that bed bugs mean a place is dirty or a home is unhygienic. While this simply isn’t true, bed bugs infest both 5-star and 1-star hotels, the social anxiety and fear of spreading the bugs elsewhere can be devastating.
Obviously, one of the biggest ways bed bugs can impact your health is by impacting your sleep. First, people experiencing a bed bug issue may be kept awake by itching, the other potential discomfort from the bites themselves, or from a secondary infection related to the bites.
Further, the anxiety created by the problem may prevent individuals from sleeping as well, particularly knowing the problem could be right there in bed with them. While anyone who’s had a bad night’s sleep will tell you getting through the next day is awful, the long term impact of multiple sleepless nights can be more significant.
Lack of proper or quality sleep has been linked to a variety of mental health issues including depression, heightened anxiety, brain “fog” or confusion, and, in extreme cases, psychosis. Continued and ongoing sleepless nights due to bed bugs can cause significant problems in just about every facet of an individual’s life.
How to Avoid the Health Effects of Bed Bugs
Now that we know the answer to can bed bugs affect your health, the first and most obvious method for avoiding any health effects is to prevent bed bugs in the first place. This means taking precautionary measures before bringing anything into your home as well as checking any bedding when you travel. While bed bugs do not travel from person to person, you can carry them home in luggage or clothing.
Should you, however, discover that you have an infestation, be prepared to move into mitigation mode before the next bed bug eggs hatch. The quicker you move to address the problem, the better off you will be in preventing the next cycle.
While there are a variety of ways for you to prepare to handle bed bugs on your own, you will want to consult with an expert. If you believe you’re experiencing a bed bug issue in Idaho or the surrounding area, please contact us today.