Bed bug bites can be alarming, particularly when you wake up with dozens or hundreds of them and you were unaware that your bed might be infected at all. You may appear to have a serious rash or even a rash from head to toe, a situation which would be cause for concern for anyone. But are these bites from nocturnal insects actually dangerous?
The simple answer to that question is “no.” Bed bug bites are not in and of themselves a dangerous. Like many health issues, though, this is not a complete answer. Bed bugs bites can indeed have some health ramifications, particularly if people treat them in inappropriate ways. Read on to better understand the complexities of the bed bug bite issue.
Discomfort Associated with Bed Bug Bites
Although bed bug bites are normally not dangerous to those who suffer them, they do carry with them several symptoms that mean they cause considerable discomfort to sufferers. The main symptoms associated with bed bug bites are:
- Ugly, yet normally temporary marks consisting of raised welt-like spots
- Annoyance and frustration
The last symptom occurs because once a bed bug infestation is present, it is common for sleepers to get bitten with a fresh spate of bites each and every night.
Some People Also Experience Allergic Reactions
People actually differ in their physical reaction to bed bug bites. This is because the red and itchy bite mark sites are actually caused not by the biting action of the insect itself, but instead by a chemical anesthesia that the bed bug injects into the bite site.
From the bed bug’s point of view, this chemical anesthesia is useful and necessary; it keeps sleepers from feeling the bite at the time it happens. That means that sleepers don’t wake up and slap the bug, killing it.
From the human’s point of view, however, it is this very chemical anesthesia that causes the itchiness and redness associated with the bites. Since people vary in their reaction to this particular chemical, so too do reactions to the bites vary. Some people are highly sensitive to the injected chemical and have an extreme allergic reaction, making them appear to have a very nasty rash that can last for days or even weeks. Others have a more moderate reaction and find the bite sites to be merely annoying but not in any way that truly inconveniences them.
Medical Problems Associated with Bed Bug Bites
Although strictly speaking, bed bug bites are not dangerous, when they are not dealt with appropriately, they can lead to medical complications that do pose those who suffer them with some dangers.
Bed bug bites should be treated with an itch cream applied topically. This should reduce the itchiness and redness associated with these bites, even for people who turn out to be severely allergic to the chemical anesthesia injected by the bugs.
The biggest mistakes people make when it comes to treating bed bug bites include the following:
- Scratching the bite sites
- Breaking open the welts that can result from the bites
- Allowing the bites sites to become infected
The main medical complications that can result from bed bug bites are related to these three causes. When people deal with the itchiness of bed bug bites by scratching the bite sites, they run the risk of breaking the skin. Once the skin is broken, bacteria and other micro-organisms can invade the body and possibly cause an infection to set in.
Infection, in the worst case, can become a serious problem that will require medical intervention, although in most cases it will merely need a topical antibiotic to be applied. Still, in rare cases a visit to a health care professional may become necessary.
This is not the only problem with scratching bed bug bites. Even if a serious infection does not set in, this behavior is strongly associated with the development of scarring at the bite site. In this way, the temporary annoyance and inconvenience of a bed bug bite can become unfortunately converted into the long term problem of scars that may make bite sufferers self-conscious and uncomfortable with their own appearance.
Are Bed Bug Bites Contagious?
This is another common concern but fortunately, it can be laid to rest once and for all. Bed bug bites are in no way contagious. Although they may be unsightly and cause others to step away for fear they may derive from some sort of communicable disease, they in fact cannot be transferred from person to person. Shaking hands with or hugging someone who has visible bed bug bites is not dangerous at all.
However, it is not true that there is no transferable agent involved in bed bug bites. The bed bugs themselves can indeed be transferred to a new host, but the means of transmission involves infected substances, not infected persons. The mode of transmission can include both of the following:
- Sharing clothing or bedding
- Visiting an infested home or apartment, particularly at night when the insects are most active
If you borrow a sweater from a friend and that sweater happens to have bed bug eggs on it because it was stored in an infested area, the potential exists for those bed bug eggs to be transferred onto your own clothing or car cushions or even to soft surfaces in your own home. This can eventually lead to your own home or apartment becoming completely infested.
In a similar manner, visiting an infested home or apartment can lead to your own home developing bed bug problems. Keep in mind that bed bugs can infest any soft surface as well as hard surfaces that contain cracks or crannies. This means that merely lying down on the carpet in a friend’s house can cause eggs or bugs to end up on your clothing.
If your home does end up infested, however, keep in mind that the bites of these insects are not inherently dangerous and that an infestation can be eradicated.
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