The Public Health Impact of Bed Bugs

The presence of bed bugs has recently increased in the United States and around the globe.
The Public Health Impact of Bed Bugs - Articles


The public health community needs to recognize the far-reaching impacts of bed bug infestations. Bed bugs feed on blood and are likely to hide in mattresses, box springs, or other items close to a potential food source, which is generally a sleeping human. Bed bugs can hitchhike into the home from public spaces on clothing, luggage, furniture, and mattresses. They can also travel through cracks and crevices within a building. Currently, there are no documented cases of bed bugs transmitting diseases to humans, but the presence of bed bugs can have a severe impact on physical and mental health. The costs to remediate bed bug infestations can also cause financial burdens and present additional challenges for low-income households. The stigma that is often associated with bed bugs can prevent individuals from reporting infestations and facilitate the spread of bed bugs throughout communities. Because of these factors, bed bugs are considered to be a pest of significant public health importance.

The misuse of pesticides to treat bed bug infestations can also result in adverse health effects.

Physical and Mental Health Effects

Bed bug bites can result in:

  • Discomfort
  • Skin reddening
  • Inflammation
  • Itchy Bumps
  • Infections that result from scratching

Individuals exposed to bed bugs may experience:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social Isolation
  • Hypervigilance

Headaches, nausea, dizziness, neurological impairment, and difficulty breathing are some of the known side effects that can occur from pesticide misuse. It is recommended that individuals consult a licensed and knowledgeable pest management professional, and utilize an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to treat bed bug infestations. IPM "integrates" multiple methods to control a pest, using the least toxic, most effective tools possible. IPM is considered a safer and more effective method to treat bed bugs that promotes both public and environmental health.

Bed bugs are a public health issue. It is important to know the facts to prevent the spread of bed bugs, and minimize the negative physical and mental health effects that can result from bed bug infestations and improper, costly treatments.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control, 2010; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, September 23, 2011; Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program, 2015.