Kissing bugs can be dangerous to humans because they are known to transmit specific parasites that cause Chagas disease.
Chagas disease can cause a range of symptoms, including fever, fatigue, body aches, and swelling around the bite wound. These symptoms usually appear 2 to 3 weeks after the initial infection, but sometimes they can take longer to develop.
If not treated properly, this disease can cause serious complications, such as heart and digestive problems.
This disease is prevalent in Central and South America, but cases have been reported in the southern United States.
Where Kissing Bugs Are Found
Kissing bugs are generally found in older homes with cracks/crevices in the walls or dark and damp areas where kissing bugs are known to hide. These bugs feed on the blood of animals, including humans during the night, and often defecate near the bite wound.
If a person accidentally rubs the bug’s feces into the bite wound or into their eyes, nose, or mouth, they can become infected with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, and are likely will contract Chagas disease as a result.
What Do Kissing Bugs Look Like?
Kissing bugs are usually about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4 cm) long, with a flattened, oval-shaped body. They have a distinctive head that is conical in shape and pointed at the front. Their torso color can vary from light brown to dark brown or black, with lighter stripes or similar markings on their body.
Additionally, kissing bugs have long, thin antennae and legs, as well as mouthparts adapted for sucking blood. Nymphs or baby kissing bugs do not have wings, while adults typically have fully-developed wings and can fly.
It is important to note that not all insects that resemble kissing bugs are actually triatomine bugs, and not all kissing bugs carry the parasite that causes Chagas disease. If you suspect a kissing bug infestation you should contact a pest control professional for an immediate inspection.
Preventative Measures to Keep You Safe from Kissing Bugs
To avoid getting bitten by kissing bugs, it’s important to take precautions, such as inspecting the bedroom before spending the night (if staying in a temporary residence), or wearing long sleeves and pants to reduce the area of exposed skin.
Homeowners should seal cracks and crevices in their homes and avoid living in clutter for early detection.
If you live in an area where kissing bugs are common or have recently traveled to an area where they are present, it’s essential to take extra precautions to avoid being bitten.
Experiencing Symptoms? Consider Seeking Medical Treatment
If you suspect that you have been bitten by a kissing bug and are experiencing symptoms of Chagas disease, it’s imperative you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treatment is most effective if started early in the course of the disease. The parasite can be killed with antiparasitic drugs, and symptoms can be managed with medications to relieve pain and swelling.