How Can Bed Bugs Kill You

FAQ: Can Bed Bugs Kill You?

A common question we hear is whether or not bed bugs can be harmful to a person’s health. Some health concerns go as far as fear of one’s life. But can a bed bug infestation really result in death? Let’s explore the facts and the possibilities:

First off, while bed bug bites are a nuisance, and they often result in itching and burning, they are not known to transmit disease or pose any serious health risks. Of course, this could be proven wrong in the future, as we know very little about bed bugs at this time. The most common health issues associated with bed bugs are sleep deprivation, insomnia, and stress, which can sometimes be severe enough to result in post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing an infestation.

Unfortunately, some cases of bed bug infestations can result in injury. This is usually a result of improper treatment attempts, either by the resident or by a pest control operator. Overexposure to any pesticide can be harmful, and can be made even worse by poor ventilation or by pre-existing health conditions. Injuries and poisonings are an important reminder that you must always follow the product label and MSDS whenever you are using an insecticide.

According to a CDC report published in 2011, there has only been one death attributed to a bed bug infestation. In 2010, an elderly North Carolina couple attempted to treat a bed bug problem in their home. First, they sprayed their baseboards, walls, and bed with two insecticides, neither of which were registered for use against bed bugs. Later that day, they released nine cans of insecticide fogger.

A couple of days later, they resprayed around the bed and released another nine cans of fogger. In addition to that second treatment attempt, the woman sprayed her arms, chest, and hair with a flea insecticide, and covered her hair with a shower cap to keep the insecticide there. Shortly after, the woman was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was 65 years old, and had a lengthy history of pre-existing medical conditions, including kidney failure, heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. She was taking at least 10 medications at the time of exposure, according to the report.

This case is a tragic example of people panicking and taking drastic action against a bed bug infestation without doing the proper research and without following the instructions on the products they used. Bed bugs are certainly stressful to deal with, but it’s extremely important to stay calm and take all necessary precautions, especially when handling insecticides.

Other mishandlings of insecticides mentioned in the report (and attributed to injuries and poisonings) included mass quantities of insect repellent, as well as use of agricultural and outdoor pesticides inside a house.

If you’re in the mood for some light reading, the 2,000-word CDC report can be found here.

FAQ: Can Bed Bugs Kill You?

A common question we hear is whether or not bed bugs can be harmful to a person’s health. Some health concerns go as far as fear of one’s life. But can a bed bug infestation really result in death? Let’s explore the facts and the possibilities:

First off, while bed bug bites are a nuisance, and they often result in itching and burning, they are not known to transmit disease or pose any serious health risks. Of course, this could be proven wrong in the future, as we know very little about bed bugs at this time. The most common health issues associated with bed bugs are sleep deprivation, insomnia, and stress, which can sometimes be severe enough to result in post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing an infestation.

Unfortunately, some cases of bed bug infestations can result in injury. This is usually a result of improper treatment attempts, either by the resident or by a pest control operator. Overexposure to any pesticide can be harmful, and can be made even worse by poor ventilation or by pre-existing health conditions. Injuries and poisonings are an important reminder that you must always follow the product label and MSDS whenever you are using an insecticide.

According to a CDC report published in 2011, there has only been one death attributed to a bed bug infestation. In 2010, an elderly North Carolina couple attempted to treat a bed bug problem in their home. First, they sprayed their baseboards, walls, and bed with two insecticides, neither of which were registered for use against bed bugs. Later that day, they released nine cans of insecticide fogger.

A couple of days later, they resprayed around the bed and released another nine cans of fogger. In addition to that second treatment attempt, the woman sprayed her arms, chest, and hair with a flea insecticide, and covered her hair with a shower cap to keep the insecticide there. Shortly after, the woman was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was 65 years old, and had a lengthy history of pre-existing medical conditions, including kidney failure, heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. She was taking at least 10 medications at the time of exposure, according to the report.

This case is a tragic example of people panicking and taking drastic action against a bed bug infestation without doing the proper research and without following the instructions on the products they used. Bed bugs are certainly stressful to deal with, but it’s extremely important to stay calm and take all necessary precautions, especially when handling insecticides.

Other mishandlings of insecticides mentioned in the report (and attributed to injuries and poisonings) included mass quantities of insect repellent, as well as use of agricultural and outdoor pesticides inside a house.

If you’re in the mood for some light reading, the 2,000-word CDC report can be found here.

US EPA

Bed Bugs

Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control

Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?

Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:

  • How many bed bugs you have;
  • How much clutter is available for hiding places;
  • Whether your neighbors have bedbugs; and
  • Whether all residents of a house or building will participate.

Getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation. To be successful, everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.

The following steps will help you begin:

You may have to follow these steps more than once to kill all the bugs and their eggs.

Identify the Problem

  • Identify the pest:
  • Collect a sample of the pest to show an extension agentExitor other insect expert.
  • Extension agents can identify the pest at no cost to you. They are trained in pest control and know your local area.
  • If an extension agent or other expert says the pest is a bed bug, notify your landlord if you live in an apartment. The units near yours should be inspected.
    • Landlords may have a responsibilityExit to participate in treatment.
    • Check the housing codes and laws in your area.
    • Inspect all areas that may have bed bugs, plus surrounding living spaces, to find out the extent of infestation.
    • Develop a Strategy

      • Make a schedule for completing the steps below. Be sure to include any personal plans, such as vacations.
      • Keep records through the whole process. Note the dates and exact locations where pests are found. This will help you track progress and better know where to target your work.
      • Keep checking for at least a year after you’re done to make sure all the bed bugs are gone.

      Keep the Infestation from Spreading

      • Remove infested items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and treat them. Learn more about treatment methods in the sections below.
      • Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left there for up to a year to ensure any active bugs are dead.
      • Empty the vacuum after each use. Seal the bag as tightly as possible and immediately throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
      • Discard furniture responsibly if you can’t safely eliminate the bed bugs. Destroy it so someone else won’t be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
      • Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
      • Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs."
    • Have infested items picked up as soon as possible by the trash collection agency.
    • Don’t discard furniture if you can safely eliminate the bed bugs from it.
    • Prepare for Treatment

      Preparing for treatment is very important; it will make it easier to monitor for bed bugs that haven’t been eliminated. This preparation should be completed whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.

      Kill the Bed Bugs

      • Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What’s Legal, What’s Not.
      • Considernon-chemical methodsof killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others depending on your situation. These and other methods can be helpful, but they might not get rid of the infestation entirely:
      • Heat treatment:You can use a clothes dryer on high heat. You can also use black plastic bags in a hot, closed car in the sun, but success depends on your climate and other factors. Do-it-yourself heat treatments might not work. Professionals have access to more intensive and proven methods that can even treat whole houses with heat. You may also purchase a portable heat chamber, which is usually quite effective.
      • Cold treatmentcan be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0 o F. You must leave the items in a sealed bag in the freezer at that temperature for four days. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0 o .
      • Steam cleaners(wet or dry) can get into cracks and fabrics to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. The steam temperature must be at least 130 o F but should not have a forceful airflow, or it may cause bed bugs to scatter. Use a diffuser to prevent scattering.
    • If needed,hire a pest management professional or use pesticidescarefully according to the label directions:
      • Look for EPA-registered pesticides that have bed bugs listed on the label.
      • Use foggers (bug bombs) only with extreme care and only if bed bugs are listed on the label. Improper use can harm your health or cause a fire or explosion. Foggers should not be your only method of bed bug control. The spray will not reach the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. See Should I Use a Fogger? for more information.
      • Carefully look for any evidence of bed bugsevery few days after you complete your initial cleanup and control processes.If you see bed bugs, either the initial cleanup missed some bugs or eggs have hatched. Retreatment may be needed.
      • Consider using different types of pesticides if repeated treatments are needed.Desiccants (chemicals that dry things out) can be particularly effectivein some situations since they work by drying out the bug (which means the bed bugs can’t develop resistance).
        • If using desiccants, be sure to use only products registered by EPA as a pesticide.
        • Do not use pool- or food-grade diatomaceous earth(made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms). This type of diatomaceous earth can harm you when you breathe it in. The pesticide version uses a different size of diatoms, which reduces the hazard.
        • Desiccants can be very effective but may take several months to work.
        • Evaluate and Prevent

          • Continue to inspect for bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remain. You can use interceptors, traps or other monitoring methods. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. Commercial and do-it-yourself interceptors are options.
          • Continue to protect your home from bed bugs.

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          Oh Great, Bed Bugs Can Kill You

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          If you’ve had bed bugs, you know that the damage they inflict is largely psychological . Yes, they feed on human blood, and if you are allergic the bite marks they leave can blow up to painful welts, but long after you’ve healed, long after they’ve been exterminated from your living space, their presence lingers. Any piece of black lint becomes a reason to drop everything and scrutinize to make sure they didn’t return; any communal space outside your home can inflict paranoia as a potential spot where you may pick them up. Unlike other household pests, bed bugs aren’t known as significant disease carriers (they don’t typically travel far or at all once they find a host and thus tend to feed on relatively few humans). Their presence is their primary infliction.

          Well, but they can also kill you, a new CBS21 News report suggests . According to court documents, a 96-year-old Pennsylvania woman named Mary Stoner died of complications from sepsis after caretaker Deborah Butler neglected to get Stoner’s bed bug bites treated. (Hypertensive and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease were also contributing causes to Stoner’s death.)

          Police visited Butler’s home in Hanover on West Baltimore Pike where they say they observed another elderly woman in her care. Police say the home was so severely infested with bed bugs, they could see them crawling on the residents’ bodies, pillows and all throughout the home.

          Butler told police she had been working to get rid of the bed bug problem since September 2015, but was unable to fully resolve the matter, adding she could not afford to pay for an exterminator.

          Witnesses said they observed Stoner “all bruised” and “moaning in pain.” Butler claimed that she took Stoner to the doctor in January 2016 because she was “scratching her neck” and “sick to her stomach,” but said it was caused by anxiety. She didn’t tell the doctor about the bed bug infestation at the assisted care facility she runs, and so Stoner was diagnosed with a scabies infection. CBS21 reports that when Stoner’s daughter picked her up, she noticed her mother had severe skin rashes. Stoner was taken to the hospital, treated, and released. Two days later she was readmitted for pneumonia and then died.

          Butler has been charged with neglect and involuntary manslaughter.

          Bedbugs Have Infested My Brain

          Last week, I took cover when I spotted what turned out to be a feather fluttering down from a…

          Is It Possible for Bed Bug Bites to Kill You or At Least Seriously Harm Your Health?

          W hen you begin to notice bloody, red blotches on your back, neck, legs, or other parts of your body when you wake up in the morning, it’s understandable if you quickly identify the culprits as bed bugs and then begin to worry about your health.

          You may feel the urge to panic, fearing that bed bug bites may transmit harmful pathogens that could even kill you. And even if the disease is not fatal, might it not be devastating and painful? Perhaps, you may think to yourself, I am already infected and in need of emergency medical assistance.

          But before running around like a chicken with a bed bug bite (but still having its head on), read on to discover the true facts about bed bug bites.

          Table of Contents

          Can They Kill People?

          There is only one death at all related to bed bugs on record in the U.S., and it occurred in 2011, due to excessive use of pesticides and preexisting medical conditions. It was not because of the bed bugs themselves or their bites.

          Despite the fact that a couple dozen diseases are carried by bed bugs, there is no evidence that they actually transmit the harmful pathogens or worms to people on whom they feast. Hypothetically, it could happen, but for some reason, it apparently hasn’t.

          If a bed bug burst from drinking in too much blood or was squashed by your angry hand or accidentally as you rolled over in your sleep, it’s theoretically possible that bloodfrom a previous victimmight mix with yours and get into your blood stream. But that is certainly an unlikely scenario.

          Can Bites Harm You?

          But in case you think you’re totally safe no matter how many bed bug bites you get, well, that’s not really true.

          Not only will your skin be covered with unsightly, itchy, burning bites and/or rashes, but you may also experience:

          • Chronic insomnia (and a fear of falling asleep!).
          • Extreme stress (even post-traumatic stress disorder).
          • Anemia from excessive blood loss.
          • Injury due to faulty treatments and/or over-exposure to harmful anti-bedbug pesticides.

          And additionally, bed bug bites left to fester for a long time, while new bites continue to accumulate, create a risk of infection. That can mean bleeding, inflammation, and exposure to disease, even if the germs didn’t come from inside a bed bug.

          Those at high risk of secondary infection due to bed bug bites include:

          • Infants, toddlers and young children.
          • The elderly.
          • Anyone with an already-weak immune system.
          • Those who are bedridden, whether in a hospital or at home.

          Click here for an action plan if faced with the dilemma of finding bed bug bites on your toddler.

          What Happens When You Get Bit by a Bed Bug?

          When you cozy into your bedding and doze off on your bed at night, the bed bugs are just waking up and getting active. Attracted by the scent of exhaled CO-2 and body heat, they find you, bite through your skin, and inject their anti-coagulant saliva to better control the flow of blood into their greedy gullets. To learn all about bed bug bite symptoms, click on the link.

          But that’s an oversimplified scenario. Often, the bed bug can’t find the right spot with the first injection and has to bite you several times to reach the desired blood vessel. Plus, if you move while you sleep, you could startle the bed bug, which will respond by pulling out its feeding tube and then biting you again “when it’s safe.”

          Bed bugs may feed from 3 to 15 minutes and will go for the easy targets (exposed skin) before bothering to crawl into your pajamas. The resultant bites will differ from person to person (and from bug to bug) but will generally be red, swollen, and itchy.

          Bed Bug Bites and Your Health

          As mentioned above, bed bug bites do not harm your health directly, but they can do so indirectly. Incessant itching, mild burning, and a bumpy rash can develop. In some cases, your skin can even get inflamed to the point of blistering.

          If you are developing a rash or have large numbers of bites covering your back, neck, arms, or legs, you may wish to see a doctor just to be safe. But definitely get some over the counter anti-itch cream to soothe the discomfort. And if a bed bug rash continues a long time or gets infected, don’t delay to see a doctor.

          Here are some types of products that can help protect your health, or at least relieve the symptoms, during a bed bug episode:

          1. Use a Hydrocortisone steroid cream to calm down the itching.
          2. For rashes, try using calamine lotion. It should dry the rash and help it to heal faster.
          3. To cut down on out of control swelling, take antihistamine tablets. They can reduce any reaction going on due to allergies.
          4. For pain relief on the surface, apply a cream that has pramoxine in it.
          5. For a more internal approach to pain relief, just take an ibuprofen.

          Bed bugs may not be quite as dangerous as you initially thought, but they still aren’t good for your health! Accumulate a regular arsenal of products that will help you cope with the problem until an exterminator can come in and eliminate it. Click on the link to find out how to get rid of bed bug bite scars.

          Are They Dangerous?

          No, there is no evidence that bed bugs can kill you or even cause you to catch a disease, despite the fact that they carry germs. They do not seem to transmit those ugly pathogens when feeding.

          But, yes, bed bug bites can cause irritation, swelling, a burning sensation, a bad rash, secondary infections, stress, anemia, and more. Thus, these are no bug bites to take lightly.

          It can take time before you will even notice any bite marks on your skin, but once you spot some and identify them as bed bug bites, don’t think the problem will just go away. Take action to counteract the symptoms and avoid complications, while also working on a plan for getting rid of these loathsome pests.

          You can find further details of Bed Bugs Control here.

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          3 Common Bugs That Can Kill You

          Bugs — insects, spiders, or other arthropods — far outnumber people on this planet. Fortunately, very few bugs can do us any harm, and most are beneficial to us in some way. Despite science fiction movies portraying giant, bloodthirsty spiders or enraged swarms of killer bees, there are few arthropods that should inspire fear in us.

          That said, a small number of bugs are worth avoiding, and you might be surprised to learn how some common insects can be deadly. By hosting and transmitting pathogens that cause diseases, these three common bugs can kill you.

          Fleas

          Don’t panic just yet. Fleas infesting Fido and Fluffy can be a nuisance, for sure, but they aren’t likely to kill you. Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis), the species commonly found on pets in North America, can cause allergic reactions to their bites, and occasionally transmit diseases to humans. Still, cat fleas aren’t a cause for concern.

          Oriental rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis), on the other hand, are the infamous carriers of the plague. Rat fleas carry the bacteriaYersinia pestis, which caused a medieval pandemic that killed 25 million people in Europe. Thanks to modern sanitation practices and antibiotics, we aren’t likely to see such a deadly outbreak of the plague again.

          Although flea-borne plague infections are rare today, people do still die of the plague each year. Even with antibiotics available, about 16 percent of plague cases in the U.S. are fatal. During one 5-month period in 2015, the CDC tallied 11 cases of human plague in the U.S., including three deaths. Plague-carrying fleas are found mainly in the western states, and anyone who engages in activities near rodent habitats should take precautions to avoid contact with rat fleas.

          Mosquitoes

          Many people flinch at the sight of a spider or frantically swat away an approaching bee. But few people panic in the presence of the insect that kills more people annually than any other — the mosquito.

          Mosquito-borne diseases kill over one million people worldwide, each and every year. The American Mosquito Control Association states that malaria, just one of the many deadly diseases carried by mosquitoes, kills a child every 40 seconds. Mosquitoes carry everything from dengue fever to yellow fever and transmit parasites that affect horses, livestock, and domestic pets.

          Although U.S. residents shouldn’t worry about malaria or yellow fever, mosquitoes in North America do transmit viruses that can lead to death. The CDC reports there have been over 36,000 reported cases of West Nile virus, and over 1,500 of these resulted in death. Almost 600 cases of Zika virus have been reported in U.S. territories in the Caribbean.

          Ticks

          Like mosquitoes, ticks transmit a number of pathogens that cause human diseases, and some can be fatal. Tick-borne illnesses can be tricky to diagnose and treat. Tick bites often go unnoticed, and the early onset symptoms of tick-related illnesses mimic other, more common maladies, like the flu.

          In the U.S. alone, diseases caused by tick bites include anaplasmosis, babesiosis,Borrelliainfections, Colorado tick fever, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, Lyme disease, Powassan disease, rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern tick-associated rash illness, tick-borne relapsing fever, and tularemia.

          Lyme disease can cause cardiac symptoms similar to a heart attack, sometimes resulting in death. In the U.S., eight people have died as a result of Powassan virus infections since 2006. Since the CDC began tracking Ehrlichiosis infection rates, the fatality rate has ranged from 1-3 percent of all reported cases each year. Make sure you know which ticks live in your area, which diseases they may carry, and how to avoid a tick bite that can lead to a serious, if not deadly, illness.

          Arboviruses (Arthropod-Borne Viruses)

          The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about how to recognize, treat, and avoid arthropod-borne diseases. The United States Geological Survey hosts interactive disease maps to track cases of West Nile virus, Powassan virus, and other arthropod-borne illnesses.

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