Bed Bug Prevention, Bite Treatment, and Extermination
The good news: you can’t catch any diseases from bed bugs. The bad news: Bed bugs’ blood-sucking bites leave red, itchy marks on your skin — and the little varmints are difficult to get rid of.
Bed bugs (also referred to as bedbugs) all but disappeared in America after the middle half of the last century, but they have returned with a vengeance. Scientists aren’t sure why, but they speculate the bugs may have developed a tolerance for the pesticides that used to kill them. Plus, the increase in international travel has caused people to unwittingly bring the little buggers back to United States.
If you’re in a place where bed bugs abound, they’re probably hiding in your mattresses and box springs, or the seams of your upholstered furniture, or your carpeting, or a pile of clothes you left on the bedroom floor. They can hide a long time without getting hungry. Once they do work up an appetite, that’s when they’ll find you — so they can feast on their one and only food, blood.
Adult bed bugs are brown, oval shaped and about 1/4-inch long. Young bed bugs are very difficult to see, Juvenile bed bugs are even smaller than adults and lighter in color.
To keep bed bugs at bay, take these precautions:
Pick up piles of clothing or other clutter so bed bugs have fewer places to hide.
Vacuum furniture and carpeting regularly, paying special attention to cracks, crevices and baseboards.
Use a protective cover for your mattress and your box spring. It’ll make it harder for bed bugs to call your bed home.
When you go on a trip, stow your luggage up high, not on the floor. Check the bedding and headboard for bed bugs and if you find them, tell hotel management you need another room.
When returning from a trip, take your clothes directly from the suitcase to the washing machine. Check your luggage for unwanted tenants.
Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures. Hot water should kill the bed bugs.
Think twice before bringing home used furniture or bedding. Check used items thoroughly for infestation.
If a bed bug has made a meal of you, the redness and itch at the site of the bite will probably go away within a week or so. An over-the-counter anti-itch cream containing hydrocortisone can help make you more comfortable.
Although it’s rare, some people do have allergic reactions to bed bug bites. If your skin becomes very swollen and red, or if you develop blisters or hives or have trouble breathing, call your doctor or seek emergency help immediately.
Unfortunately, identifying the fact that you’ve got bed bugs often is a lot easier than getting rid of them. Eradication usually requires the expertise of a professional exterminator.