The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) hasn’t always been considered a public health threat, and surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Agriculture only recently joined efforts to redefine the term “public health pests” to include bed bugs. Just like mosquitoes and ticks, bed bugs are human blood parasites, and unlike virtually all other human blood parasites, bed bugs do not transmit disease to humans. Historically, US public health authorities defined public health pests as organisms capable of mechanical or biological disease transmission to humans. However, a plethora of reputable research publications show that those who experience the stress of living in bed bug-infested conditions may develop lasting mental health issues as a result. These bed bug-induced mental health issues include anxiety, hypervigilant behaviors, insomnia, and even post traumatic stress disorder.
In addition to negative mental health consequences, people that live in bed bug-infested conditions usually sustain irritating bite wounds that can develop into secondary infections as a result of excessive itching. These secondary infections include impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis. Allergic reactions to bed bug bites including potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions is regarded by experts as the most significant medical threat posed by bed bugs. Allergic reactions to bed bug bites occur when an individual’s immune system overreacts to the presence of certain proteins in bed bug saliva. While allergic reactions to bed bug bites are rare, it should be known that individuals can gradually develop an immune sensitivity to the proteins in bed bug saliva as a result of sustaining repeated bites over an extended period. It is not uncommon for people to mistake bed bug bites for bites inflicted by other insects and vice versa, and waking up in the morning to find fresh red and itchy bumps on the skin does not necessarily mean that they resulted from bed bug bites during sleep. Bed bugs inflict bites almost exclusively on bare skin rather than beneath clothing. The neck and arms are where bed bugs tend to inflict bites, and bed bug bites typically present as a cluster or line of red bumps.
Have you ever mistaken a benign insect bite for a bed bug bite?