At bedbugger, we love, love, love articles that claim bedbugs are a nuisance, but not really a health issue (not right now, anyway). Not a health issue? Is anxiety a health issue? Loss of sleep? Allergic reactions (not common, but I have one)?
Road rage? Air rage? Going postal?
Wait until we start seeing cases of bedbug rage. Listen, this bug will make you madder than working for the US Postal Service, driving on the LA freeways, and waiting all day in an airport line just to have your toothpaste conviscated and your flight cancelled. Wrap that up and multiply by 100.
But I digress.
While bedbugs have been known to harbor pathogens in their bodies, including plague and hepatitis B, they have not been linked to the transmission of any disease and are not regarded as a medical threat. Some individuals, however, can get skin infections and scars from scratching bites. While bedbugs are not regarded as a vector of transmissible diseases, they are a serious stressor and will create a lot of alarm and distress. With some individuals, it may precipitate mild to moderate cases of delusional parasitosis.
Until if, and when, we see Hepatitis or something even worse being transmitted by these monsters, it all comes back to mental health. I am not discounting the possibilities of delusional parasitosis, but keep in mind that many of us do not get taken seriously when we first turn up in the doctor’s office with bedbug bites and stories of bites from insects many of us can’t see, or at least don’t see for a long time. In other words, some people will assume it is, on some level, a mental health issue. (Because every day people who are imagining little-insects-they-can’t-see constantly biting them do come to doctors.)
On the other hand, anxiety and the stress of deadling with this issue, which can take up all your time and energy and seem insurmountable at time, is very much a mental health issue. So it being extremely itchy and never getting any sleep–I’d say those are mental and physical health concerns. And they’re just the reactions most of us get.
Doctors treat us for scabies, send us to dermatologists to have our “skin condition” looked into. My doctor told me I did not have bedbugs: “you’d see them,” she said, “and these don’t look like bedbug bites anyway.”
They did not look like this, or this, or this. You’d forgive my doctor for not knowing they can also look like this; and sometimes they can be smaller versions of the same, and don’t photograph easily. I have a lot of those right now.
And that sent me away to hope she was right. (You know things are bad when you actually hope this is burrowed under your skin and causing your problems.)
A long dark night spent covered in Elimite later, and I was still wondering. But that scabies cream (pyrethroids) gave me a fever and made my skin really itch. And still, weeks later, the doctor was sure I didn’t have bedbugs.
The bottom line is that they are a health issue. And if you came here to find out if you have them, well, yes– ask your doctor. Maybe s/he will recognize the bites. Look high and low, not just on your mattress or under the bed frame. Look behond pictures, in closets, in cracks, in deep, murky corners. Look under switchplates and light fixtures. And even then, you may come up with nothing. Ask a pest control operator to look. And remember that it’s possible to breed a colony for months before you ever see one.
The people who aren’t allergic can’t do anything until they see one. I guess on some level we should be grateful we have some kind of warning. I just wish it did not itch so very badly…