Summer is back, and our arch nemesis has resurfaced. For so long we have been successfully battling bedbugs out of our homes and lives. After almost obliterating them, by 2010 bed bugs started coming back strong, harnessing themselves beyond homes and hotels at our schools, retail facilities, office buildings, libraries, and other public areas. Their success has been mainly a result of a combination of factors: increased travel of people; improved treatment methods that specifically target other insect pests (and thus not impact bed bugs); and the lack of public awareness.
Tips to avoid the creepy and persistent saboteurs of sleep
- Always check for bed bugs on a foreign bed. Whether its a brand new bed or a used one, check for signs of small, black or reddish-brown dots (bed bugs typically cluster together in favorable harborage areas). This applies to hotels as well, if you even suspect the room to be infected, ask for a new room as far as possible to the original. Keep in mind that bed bugs tend hide out during day time making them hard to spot, start looking at nightfall (preferably using a flashlight). (more information on how to check for bedbugs are listed below)
- One of the most common focal points to a home or apartment infestation are where your pets sleep. Frequently check your pet beds for bed bug breakthroughs. In some heavily infested areas, a "coriander-like" odor will be present.
- If you even remotely suspect you have been exposed to bed bugs while travelling, clean out your suitcase. Wash all your clothes in hot water and thoroughly vacuum your suitcase (personally I'd get a new suitcase altogether). Always try to keep your suitcase on a hard surface rather than carpet or furniture, bed bugs find it hard to travel on smooth surfaces.
- In a scenario when you suspect bed bugs have contaminated your home, apartment or workplace do not instantly panic and jump to over the counter pesticide application. They are ineffective in killing bedbugs or their eggs, and will only spread harmful chemicals. Professional heating and steaming is the only way to get rid of them.
- If you happened to be getting bite-like irritations on your skin, don't directly assume it's bed bugs. Fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes, or allergic reactions may be the cause of the skin lesions. There are a variety of trapping methods (you can find many do it yourself home-made traps on YouTube), but if all else fails a "bedbug sniffing" dog can quickly detect the culprits.
- Don't let the infestation spread, if you've got an infested piece of furniture and that you need to get rid of from your home or apartment do not leave it on the street or common areas as it may spread to other homes. Place it in a locked dumpster and label it as bedbug infested.
- Get rid of your clutter! Maintaining a non-cluttered home substantially reduces your chances of an infestation. It also helps in the case of a breakthrough as there are fewer objects to clean.
How to check for bed bugs
- Bed bug infestation can produce a foul damp odor. Bed bugs produce chemicals to communicate and heavily infested areas heighten the sweaty, musty odor to the point that its easily noticeable to humans.
- Specks of blood, as you may know bed bugs feed on blood, and they tend to leave residues all over. Carefully observe your blankets, sheets and mattress pads, and then check the mattress and box spring (seams are bed bugs favorite habitat). Also check for specks of blood on all upholster furniture, including couches and headboards.
- Bed bugs have an outer shell (exoskeleton) they shed and leave behind. Since these pests tend to be covert during daytime, look carefully for these left over shells.
- After mating female bed bugs leave their eggs in cracks and crevices. These eggs are white and oval shaped and could be hard to detect since they are terribly small.
- Eliminating bed bugs
- It's been suggested that using steam cleaning on cracks and mattresses weekly, can be effective to eradicate bed bugs. These culprits are very sensitive to heat, and they can't bear temperatures above 43 °C. An hour of that sort of heat exposure should eliminate most infestations.
- Low temperatures can be lethal to bed bugs as well. Temperatures under 0°C can wipe out an infestation in 30 to 50 days.
- Vacuum everything!! It's the easiest and fastest way to deal with detected infestation temporarily until professional treatment has been implemented.
- Wash your clothes in hot water! This is important when you are on vacation. Beg bugs can set camp in your clothes and hot water will eradicate them all.
- Commercial non-toxic sprays can also be used for controlling bed bugs in your home or apartment.
Please note that these are all either temporary remedies or ways to deal with minor bed bug infestations. Professional pest-controlling may be required.
Bed bugs are not lethal nor do they carry diseases or infections, they just cause itchiness, sleeplessness and anxiety. Typically no treatment is required for the bitten areas, however, if itching is severe, steroid creams or oral antihistamines may be used for symptom relief.