Just five or 10 years ago, you probably thought that bed bug bites were an imaginary menace—a line in children’s rhyme (“Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”).
By now, of course, you know that these tiny brown bugs have made a comeback and are crawling across the U.S., turning up not only in the bedroom, but in dorm rooms, hotels, retail stores (even our undies aren’t safe!) and movie theaters.
Despite the hyped up media coverage, it’s true that bed bugs feed nearly exclusively on human blood so they go where the people are. But do they actually pose a major health threat?
Most health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say not really. Even though the little bloodsuckers may carry around more than two dozen disease-causing microbes, there is no evidence that they spread those diseases. One recent study suggests they may transfer antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria between people, but this hasn’t been confirmed and many bed bug experts remain skeptical.
In extreme cases of infestation where a person is bitten hundreds or thousands of times a day, bed bugs may cause anemia, but known cases are very rare. Other minor health concerns include allergic reactions and infections from related scratching.
But that doesn’t mean bed bugs don’t cause damage. A new line of research suggests that the critters may cause severe consequences when it comes to mental health. YouBeauty finds out what they are and what you can do to prevent a bed bug meltdown.
The Mental Toll
Bed bugs are creepy by nature. They typically attack in the dead of the night, sneaking out of their hiding spots to suck the blood of an unsuspecting victim and then scurrying right back, unseen. They’re also directly associated with the bed—a vulnerable place where we want to feel safe and secure. So it’s no surprise that people with bed bug infestations say they suffer from a long list of mental anguishes.
In a large 2010 survey by Michael Potter, Ph.D., an entomologist from the University of Kentucky, people with bed bug infestations reported insomnia, emotional distress, anxiety, stress, paranoia and depression, to name just a partial list. Potter presented his perspective on these psychological impacts at the 2011 BedBug University North American Summit—a conference for scientists, pest control companies and industry leaders—earlier this fall.
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