Association between bed bugs and allergic reactions

Parasite Immunol. 2021 Jul;43(7):e12832. doi: 10.1111/pim.12832. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Aims: To evaluate whether bed bugs are associated with allergic reactions in patients seen in the emergency department (ED).

Methods and results: This retrospective study included data from 9 EDs in Ohio between February 2011 and February 2017. The study comprised 332 patients with bed bug infestation matched 1:15 with 4952 control patients without bed bugs on the basis of age, sex and the presenting ED. Compared with uninfested patients, patients infested with bed bugs were more likely to have an ED or inpatient diagnosis of pruritus, hives or urticaria (odds ratio [OR], 9.12 [95% CI, 3.41-24.42]) and to be treated in the ED with an antihistamine (OR, 3.20 [95% CI, 1.87-5.50]) or albuterol (OR, 1.59 [95% CI, 1.07-2.36]) (P ≤ .02 for all). There were no significant differences in the rates of anaphylaxis and angioedema diagnosed in patients with and without bed bugs, which occurred in <1% in both groups.

Conclusion: Bed bug-infested patients are more likely to be diagnosed and treated for itchy cutaneous rashes, but are not clearly associated with more severe allergic reactions.

Keywords: Cimex lectularius; allergy; anaphylaxis; bed bug; urticaria.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bedbugs*
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies