Bed bugs and your health: Common FAQs

Lana Bandoim's picture

Although it is not something the average person spends a lot of time thinking about, bed bugs can be a serious problem when present in the home. Unfortunately, regardless of how careful and conscientious you are, there is always a risk of bed bugs making your house their home. From a personal health and hygiene perspective, what does the presence of bed bugs mean for you and your family? Here are the answers to frequently asked questions regarding bed bugs and your health.

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Are Bed Bug Bites Dangerous?

This is the most common question everyone wants answered. While they can be extremely aggravating, bed bugs do not generally pose a risk to your health. Physically, a bed bug’s bite causes a small mark and leads to an itching sensation that can last for several minutes. Depending on how sensitive your skin is and how many bites you get, the aggravation may or may not be enough to bother you.

However, just because studies do not clearly show the ability for bed bugs to transmit pathogens to human beings, this does not mean that a relationship does not exist. Bed bugs can be infected with as many as 28 human pathogens, including MRSA, a drug resistant strain of the staph virus, and VRE.

How Do Bed Bugs Enter the Home?

Bed bugs can enter the home in a variety of ways. If you want to protect your sanity and avoid the hassle, you will need to keep an eye on the most vulnerable areas of your property. These include exposed openings such as windows or doors and damaged or weak siding. The key to keeping bed bugs out is to seal up your home and remove congregation points near your home such as woodpiles, standing water, and unruly vegetation.

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How Can You Safely Kill Bed Bugs?

The real health concerns appear when people identify bed bugs and attempt to remove them from the home without the assistance of the proper professionals. Whereas a professional has the correct tools and safe chemicals to remove bed bugs, the average homeowner often resorts to toxic solutions that lead to more serious issues down the road.

“People become desperate and will do crazy things,” says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, who is Cornell University’s community integrated pest management coordinator. “Overall the public health effects of bed bugs have been largely overlooked,” she says. She is referring to the ability of bed bug infestations to lead to psychological issues like depression, anxiety and a loss of sleep.

Is There Any More Research Being Done?

Research on the health effects of bed bugs has dwindled over the years. This is largely due to the fact that the bed bug population in many areas has significantly declined since the second half of the 20th century. However, with bed bug cases back on the rise in many parts of the country, it is likely that the health community will reinvest time and resources into the study of bed bugs and their ability to transmit pathogens to humans. This could turn into a major public health crisis if a link is found.

How Do You Keep the Bed Bugs Out?

Bed bugs can be a major nuisance for your family. The best option is to avoid them completely. It is important to stay informed and do your best to guard your home from these troublesome critters. If you suspect bed bugs may be present in your home, then you should call a pest professional as soon as possible. Infestations can spread very quickly and a small problem can become a major issue in your house.

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