Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
There is a long list of insects known for carrying diseases. Mosquitos, for example, can carry malaria, while ticks carry Lyme disease. But not every insect is a potential infection transmitter. For example, bees are not known for carrying any viruses or bacteria dangerous to humans. But what about bed bugs? Are bed bugs dangerous?
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects belonging to the genus Cimex. They are about the size of an apple seed and range from brown to red in color. During the night, they feed on the blood of humans and animals. During the day, they usually hide in hard-to-spot areas, such as mattress seams or behind baseboards. They can crawl pretty quickly, although they can’t fly or jump.
Despite the common misconception, bed bugs don’t only appear in dirty and untidy places. They tend to settle and feed wherever there is food (i.e. people), which normally includes places like:
- Private homes
- Schools, hospitals, and dormitories
- Hotels and other accommodation
- Airplanes, trains, and busses
- Airports and train stations
Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
In general, bed bugs aren’t considered dangerous. They’re not known to carry any infectious diseases. Although their bites aren’t significantly painful, they can cause discomfort due to itchiness. Overall, however, that is about as much danger as you can expect from a bed bug.
Allergic Reaction to Bed Bugs
While the bite of a bed bug won’t give you any diseases, there is a small chance that it could trigger an allergic reaction. In general, reactions to bed bug bites range from non-existent to intense itching. The latter can lead a person to scratch more and potentially cause a skin infection. You can prevent this by refraining from scratching and taking good care of your personal hygiene.
Sometimes, however, they can cause severe allergic reactions that call for medical attention. Symptoms of an allergy to bed bugs include:
- Excessive swelling
- Intense itching and pain
- Rash or hives
If you experience symptoms that significantly exceed those you usually get from, for example, mosquito bites, pay close attention to how you’re feeling and consider seeking medical help.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Although bed bugs aren’t dangerous, they can still significantly disrupt our day-to-day lives by simply existing in our homes. What’s worse, getting rid of a bed bug infestation is not an easy job. There are countless methods, techniques, and tools you can find online for killing bed bugs, but not all of them are equally effective (and if we’re being honest, some of them are not effective at all, such as boric acid). Luckily, there is also a handful of proven ways to deal with a bed bug infestation.
Step 1: Find All the Hiding Spots
Bed bugs prefer to hide in remote, dark spots around the home. In order to find their hiding places, check furniture and mattress seams, holes in walls (including electrical sockets and loose wallpapers), dents in furniture, behind baseboards and between floorboards, under the window sill, and so on. Basically, any spot you usually don’t have a clear view of.
Step 2: Remove All Infested Items
The next step is to remove all items that can be removed. This includes basically anything smaller than furniture and carpets. Even if you haven’t found any hiding spots on these items specifically, you should still remove them.
Everything that can be washed – should be washed. In other words, all the linen, pillowcases, clothes, or rags should go through a cycle in the washing machine at the highest temperature setting. If you have a dryer, run a cycle in it, too, to make sure any survivors are dealt with. Rinse and repeat the process if necessary.
Unfortunately, not everything can simply be put in the washing machine. There are some items, such as books or remotes, that will have to go through a different process. Exposing these objects to either very high (trunk of a car in the sun) or very low (freezer) temperatures for extended periods of time should get the job done.
Step 3: Vacuum Everything You Can
Now is the time to vacuum all the areas you identified in the first step. After you’re done, don’t forget to replace the bag in the vacuum cleaner. Otherwise, all this work will be for nothing. Keep in mind, though, that vacuuming alone will not get rid of the whole infestation, no matter how meticulous and careful you are. The point of this step is to make the rest of the process easier.
Step 4: Steam, Chemicals, or Natural Products – The Choice Is Yours
We’ve come to the biggest and most demanding part of the process – actually dealing with the infestation. There are various methods you can use, but the most effective one seems to be steam. You will need a high-quality steam cleaner that can produce temperatures around 200°F. Use it on all surfaces, including the carpet, furniture, and even walls. Pay extra attention to crevices and other hard-to-reach spots. Take your time exposing each part of the surface to steam for about 30 seconds.
Step 5: Repeat the Process and Take Precautions
As we have already mentioned, getting rid of bed bugs is a difficult and lengthy process. You will likely have to repeat this whole process several times in the upcoming days and weeks. During this time, you can also put in the effort to take certain precautionary measures:
- Clean the house regularly, especially those hard-to-reach areas,
- Reduce the clutter in your home,
- Don’t wear outside shoes and clothes while inside,
- Carefully inspect your bag and accessories after walking in,
- Avoid using shared laundry facilities if possible,
- Seal all cracks and crevices you find.
Should I Call an Exterminator for Bed Bugs?
If you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home, or if you’ve already established that there is one, but you haven’t been able to get rid of it, there is one more fool-proof solution for your problem: Calling the professionals! Professional exterminators know how to get rid of bed bugs and ensure they don’t come back. Sure, it costs more than DIY-ing it, but it will save you a lot of nerves and time in the long run.