How Are Bed Bugs Harmful To Humans

How Bed Bugs Harm Your Health!

Are you aware of the harmful effects of bed bugs? Bed bug infestation is another scary thing after rat infestation. The name of these bugs is cimex lectularius. These insects suck human blood during the night.

After a bug sucks blood, its body size expands several times. They can hide and breed almost anywhere in your house. Beds, shelves, walls, they live in almost all corners of your home.

Most of us think that bed bugs are a result of lack of cleanliness. But a house can be infested if bed bugs can get there. If you have stayed in a hotel that’s infested, bugs may get into your clothes and luggage and reach your house.

Even train travel, air travel or bus travel can also get bed bugs into your place. So, you don’t need to blame your cleanliness at home.

Though bed bugs are not dangerous, they do pose certain health risks. Here are the harmful effects of bed bugs.


This is one of the dangers of bed bugs. Bed bugs cause allergic reactions. Some people who are hypersensitive to bed bugs could even experience anaphylactic shock which is very dangerous our blood pressure suddenly drops and your airways narrow, possibly blocking normal breathing.


When a bed bug bites, you tend to feel the itching sensation. When you scratch the itchy area more, germs transfer into the cuts in the skin and cause infection. Generally, bed bugs bite when you are asleep. So, you tend to unconsciously scratch the area.

Breathing Problems

This is one of the dangers of bed bugs. The air inside the house infested by bed bugs contains the the skins shed by bugs, the fecal matter of bugs and other bacteria.

These allergies could worsen the symptoms of asthma and may also cause breathing difficulties.

Social Isolation

Bed bug infestation could also cause other negative effects like social isolation and inferiority complex. Firstly, others might not come to your house even for a coffee if they know that your house is infested. Also, you may reduce social life if your bags or clothes are infested.


If there are bed bugs in your room, you may even lose sleep and stay awake for the whole night. So, bed bugs generally cause insomnia too.


Bed bugs don’t cause anemia. But if a person lives in bed bug infested house for years, the chances of suffering anemia may increase.


Yes, even anxiety is in the list of hazards of bed bugs. Once your house is infested with bed bugs, you may gradually develop anxiety, depression, irritability, poor appetite and lack of concentration.

Also, as bed bugs cause sleep deprivation and itchiness on skin, they can hit your immunity levels and cause stress.

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What Are the Dangers of Bed Bugs?

Until recent years, bed bugs were no longer considered much of a problem in the U.S. — and the saying "Don’t let the bed bugs bite" was just an old-fashioned phrase whose meaning was almost forgotten — but then bed bugs made a comeback.The bed bug, or Cimex lectularius, gets its nickname from the fact that it often makes its home in people’s beds. Although bed bugs bite and feed on human blood, according to research published in JAMA in 2009, they are not known transmit blood-borne diseases, including HIV or the hepatitis B virus. However, they do pose other dangers to people. If you suspect you have bed bugs, see your doctor for advice and treatment.

Allergic Reaction

The Michigan Department of Community Health notes that the physical manifestations of bed bug bites can vary widely 2.You may not even notice bed bug bites at all. If you do notice bites, you may dismiss them as mosquito bites because the localized redness and swelling may look much like that the mosquito leaves behind.However, if you are sensitive to insect bites of any kind, you may experience an allergic reaction to bed bug bites.This allergic reaction can be mild, only causing itching, skin reddening and irritation.More severe allergic reactions are possible and may require you to treat them with anti-itch ointments or oral corticosteroids and antihistamines.


Bedbug bites alone do not cause infection. However, if you are unable to avoid scratching the bites, infection may result. Scratching bedbug bites can cause openings or breaks in the skin. Bacteria can enter through these breaks and begin to multiply, leading to infection. Your doctor can prescribe creams to apply directly to the bites to prevent infection or advise you to use over-the-counter antiseptic ointments instead.

Respiratory Problems

If you or a member of your household suffers from respiratory problems, the presence of bedbugs can worsen these conditions. Bed bugs shed their outer skins, or casings, as they grow.These casings, along with the bed bugs’ feces, can dry out and become airborne.The Rhode Island Department of Health warns that breathing the cast-off material from bed bugs can aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments 2.


A case study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2009 describes the case of a 60-year-old man who presented to his doctor with symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia 1. The patient had no physical causes of this anemia but upon examination of his home, the patient’s doctor found an infestation of thousands of bed bugs. Although most people with bed bug bites are unlikely to suffer anemia as a result, it could occur in extreme cases, especially if you have other risk factors for anemia.

CDC warns about bedbug pesticides

If you’ve got a bedbug infestation, you probably want to do whatever necessary to get rid of them, including spraying your home with pesticides. But earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned about a steep rise in injuries from misuse of pesticides to control the bugs.

Health effects ranged from mild to serious, including one death. Using pesticides that are designed for outdoor use indoors or using too much pesticide were often the cause.

  • If you have to use pesticides to kill bedbugs, consider this advice from the CDC:
  • Follow all label instructions to the letter. Don’t use outdoor pesticides inside your home and don’t use more than recommended. This won’t kill more bedbugs, but it might make you and your family seriously ill.
  • Be careful who you hire. Treating bedbugs is not easy so you want someone who is experienced. Also be sure than any professional you use is licensed and certified to apply pesticides. You should get instructions on what’s being used in your home. Ask to read label instructions. This applies to anyone your landlord hires as well.
  • Signs of pesticide poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and muscle tremors. Children are particularly at risk because they are smaller and may put things in their mouths that have been covered in pesticide. If anyone in your home displays symptoms, seek advice and treatment from health professionals right away. Call your doctor or poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Pet can also be harmed, and because of their smaller body size, may display symptoms before any humans do. So if your dog or cat seems sick after a pesticide application, that may be the first red flag that something is wrong. Call your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

Bedbugs Are Pesky but Not Harmful

Researchers Say There’s Little Evidence That Bedbugs Carry Human Diseases

March 31, 2009 — Bedbugs may be getting a bad rap. The blood-sucking bugs have been thought to carry a host of different diseases, but a new review of research on the pesky critters suggests they may be less harmful than previously thought.

Researchers say bedbugs have been known as a human parasite for thousands of years, but scientific studies of the insect have been limited.

In the study, researchers reviewed 53 recent studies on bedbugs and their health and medical effects. The results showed that although bedbugs have been blamed for the spread of up to 40 different human diseases, there is little evidence to suggest they are carriers of human disease.

But the review also showed that there also isn’t any evidence to back any particular treatment for bedbug bites or how to get rid of the insects.

Usually bedbug bites produce "no reaction with a barely visible punctum at the location of the bite," write the researchers. Bedbug bites can itch; if not made worse by scratching this will resolve within a week.

But some people may experience more complex skin reactions. Common treatment options for bothersome bedbug bites include antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, and anti-itching medications.

If the bite area becomes infected, antibiotics may be needed. In severe cases in which bedbug bites affect the body — comparable to a life-threatening allergic reaction — injection of adrenaline may be necessary.

Eradicating the insects is extremely difficult. Researchers say using pesticides to control bedbugs is complicated by increasing resistance to insecticides and health concerns about spraying mattresses with pesticides.

Preventing Bedbug Bites

Bedbug infestations have been on the rise in homes, apartments, hotel rooms, hospitals, and dormitories in the U.S. since 1980 because of international travel, immigration, and increasing insecticide resistance.

Researchers say the best way to prevent bedbug bites is to avoid them because no repellents for the insects have been conclusively proven effective. But the mosquito repellent oil of lemon eucalyptus may help.

Bedbugs and their droppings are easily visible, and the bugs usually don’t travel more than 3 to 6 feet from a suitable human host. Researchers recommend inspecting the following hiding places when sleeping in hotels or other unfamiliar environments:

  • Mattress cords
  • Cracks and crevices in box springs
  • Back of headboards
  • Spaces under baseboards

"Items purchased at garage sales and resale shops, especially mattresses, box springs, and bedding, should be carefully inspected for bed bugs before they are brought into homes because they may initiate an infestation," write researcher Jerome Goddard, PhD, of Mississippi State University, and colleagues inTheJournal of the American Medical Association.

(What do bedbug bites look like? For a closer look at bedbugs, see WebMD’s Bedbugs Slideshow.)


Goddard, J.The Journal of the American Medical Association,April 1, 2009; vol 301: pp 1358-1366.

News release, American Medical Association.

What are bedbugs? Are they dangerous?

The blood-sucking insects are the bane of most city-dwellers, but one entomologist proudly keeps a colony at the American Museum of Natural History. Is there any way for the rest of us to steer clear of them?

  • By Brendan Borrell on February 27, 2009

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NEW YORK—Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite? Ifonly. The creepy critters have become such a nuisance here that the city council is mulling legislation that would establish a bedbug task force, ban the sale of used mattresses, train exterminators, and regulate mattress disposal. Just how infested is Gotham? According to theNew York Daily News, there were 22,218 complaints to the city’s 311 hotline about infestations of the blood-sucking hemipterans, a 34 percent jump since this time last year.

And the Big Apple is not alone in its battle against the bugs. In Chicago, the number of official complaints doubled from 900 to 1,650 during that same period, according to theTribune. Boston already slaps warning stickers on discarded furniture and Cincinnati has its own bedbug task force. The bugs, which originally hailed from Europe, were nearly wiped out by DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) in the 1950s. But they have been making a comeback since the insecticide was banned in the U.S. in 1972, a decade after journalist Rachel Carson documented the chemical’s damaging effects on humans and wildlife in her book Silent Spring.

"I’m petrified to turn the lights off at night," one discouraged New Yorker toldNewsdaythis week. "I’m not getting proper sleep, I can’t concentrate on work."

Contrary to their name, bedbugs do not only hang out in beds. They can be found in just about in nook and cranny and can survive for several months without a warm blood meal. The adults are reddish-brown, as about 0.2 inch (five millimeters) long, roughly the height of the numbers on a credit card, and resemble tiny cockroaches; when young, they’re pale and about the size of a pinhead. They leave itchy red skin welts and cause endless grief for their victims.

So what’s the story on these pesky ectoparasites? Is there any surefire way to avoid them—or to get rid of them if they grace you with their vampiric presence?

To find out, we spoke with Louis Sorkin, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History here, who sustains a personal colony of the bugs with his own blood.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

What are bedbugs?
The common bedbug isCimex lectularius. They are true bugs [of the order Hemiptera] in that they possess a hinged beak in the front of the head and have a stylet. The stylet is what is pushed through the skin to find a blood vessel inside. The bug sucks until it’s full, and when it’s finished it will go and hide and digest the blood. The body swells up to six times its normal size—from a flat insect to football-shaped.

So are they really just found in beds?
By virtue of its name, people always think bedbugs are found only in beds when, in fact, they fit anywhere their bodies can be hidden and they are as thin as a sheet of paper. They are found in all kinds of furniture, electric appliances, clock radios, computers, printers, behind pictures, books and, of course, bookcases. They are found in cracks and crevices in the wall and within walls as well as in electric outlets, wiring, pipes, plastic and metal conduits.

The problem with calling them a "bedbug" is people have an infestation and they throw out the mattress, but then the critters come back. It’s really a nest or roost-inhabiting insect, and our homes are our roosts.

How do you get bedbugs?
They are good hitchhikers. Often people carry them unknowingly in their luggage. This can be baggage when you are traveling, a briefcase, a backpack or just clothing. They can be picked up in public transportation sometimes or in theaters. They will travel on pipes and wiring and conduits from one apartment to another.

Are they dangerous?
As far as the research shows, they don’t transmit diseases, but they do bite and take blood. People can get secondary infections if they scratch their wounds. In some people, the itching is unbearable. There’s some disagreement as to how many people don’t itch at all. That’s one reason why infestations can be so bad, because people don’t realize they have them

In a few cases, there may be an anaphylactic reaction. It is also possible to have an asthmatic reaction because of the shed skin the bugs leave behind as they grow and die.

How do you know if you have bedbugs?
If you have unexplained bites, that’s a good way to know. You can also look for their blood droppings. The excrement is a liquid that varies from either light brown to black and can either bead up or be absorbed by the surface.

In some cases, we use dogs who are trained to sniff out live bedbugs or past infestations. They’ll pick up on the odor of even one bedbug. We can’t typically smell bed bugs, but we do pick up their alarm pheromone when they are disturbed, which smells like coriander. If there are a lot of live bugs, there may be a smell of blood, like rusty iron.

If you are traveling, you should examine the headboard in your hotel room. The headboard should be taken off and looked into. Massive headboards would be a great condominium complex for bedbugs.

How do you get rid of them?
Often you have to seek the services of a pest control expert who has had a lot of experience. You don’t have to get rid of your furniture. Insecticides can be sprayed on furniture or furniture can be taken apart and sprayed with orange oil or Murphy’s oil, both of which have an insecticidal quality. There are special preparations labeled for mattresses.

The nonchemical ways to remove bedbugs include low-vapor steam treatments, which are done for mattresses and furniture. There are also encasements that you put the mattress box spring in. You starve them to death, but it will take months.

In medieval times, when people would travel to inns with bedbug problems, they would send a pig into the room first so the bedbugs would feed and be satiated.

Don’t you have a colony of bedbugs at the museum?
I’ve only had them for three years, but the original population had been collected from Fort Dix in New Jersey by an Army entomologist in 1971.

I have two eight-ounce jars with about a thousand bugs. There’s a fine screen and I have duct tape around the base of the screw-on lid. Inside, there is just cardboard and paper, because they like to hide between the pieces.

Once a month, I just have to invert them on my arm in order to feed them. I get a bump on my arm for an hour or two and then it goes away. It doesn’t itch.

And why is it that you keep these vile creatures?
They’re mostly for educational purposes. I can show people and reporters all sizes of bedbugs. I also supply bedbugs to the companies that train the bedbug-sniffing dogs.


Brendan Borrell

Brendan Borrellis a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. He writes forBloomberg Businessweek,Nature,Outside,Scientific American, and many other publications, and is the co-author (with ecologist Manuel Molles) of the textbookEnvironment: Science, Issues, Solutions. He traveled to Brazil with the support of the Mongabay Special Reporting Initiative. Follow him on Twitter @bborrell.

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