Beating the Bed Bug Epidemic
(This article is featured on Dr. Oz's website, the subject of one of his TV shows. I've been reading about this for several years now and am glad someone influential like him has addressed the issue. Everyone needs to beware of bed bugs -- reading this can inform and arm you!)
Bed bugs are back and could be coming to a bedroom near you. Here’s how to show them the door.
Remember when “sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite” was just a cute bedtime expression that didn’t mean anything? Well, those days are over. After 6 decades of living largely bed bug-free, the US is facing a national infestation. In fact, the incidence of bed bug infestation has risen 500% in the last few years alone, and they’re not just in dirty hotels.
Outbreaks of these teeny, blood-sucking critters have been reported in every kind of neighborhood in every state across the country, and that means you’re at risk right now. Here’s what you need to know to truly sleep tight at night.
Things That Go Bite In The Night
Bed bugs are insects that rely on the blood of humans or animals to survive. As babies, they are tiny as pinheads. A full-grown adult that’s been making a nightly meal of you can balloon to the size of Lincoln’s head on the penny. These little parasites are nocturnal and hate light, so they wait until the dark to creep out for their meals, which is why it can take so long to discover you’ve been sharing your home with them.
Making A Meal Out Of You
Bed bugs hunt for a bare patch of skin and then hunker down to fill up before dawn. Someone who has a serious infestation could be bitten as many as 500 times per night. More often, you might see several bites clustered in one spot. Doctors call this “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” because the bugs are cramming all their meals into a short span of time.
You will likely call it a very itchy rash, because the saliva of bed bugs causes an allergic reaction in many people. Though some people have no response, others can develop asthma, or in very rare cases, life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Going On A Bed Bug Hunt
Bed bugs hide in dark spots where they’re unlikely to be disturbed. When you hunt for them, you may not see live bugs, so keep an eye out for their calling cards: rust-colored spots (that used to be your blood), eggs (pearly white and 1 millimeter long) and molted skins. Here’s where to look:
The boxspring: Lift it up and look underneath and along the seams. In some cases, professionals will slice open the cloth to look inside, because the bugs love the wood frame.
Nearby furniture: Inspect sofas, the undersides of bureau drawers, behind the headboard, and the backs and undersides of nightstands. Pay special attention to cracks, crevices, and seams.
On the wall: Peek under picture frames, wall hangings, peeling wallpaper or chipped paint.
Stay Calm And Get Help
If you find evidence of bed bugs, call a professional right away. Do not panic and toss your belongings in the street. Moving an infested mattress will just spread the infestation both to other parts of your house and to your neighbors. Bug bombs do not help, and, in some cases, make it much worse, dispersing live bugs to where they cannot be found.
Tossing Out The Welcome Mat
Even if you don’t have a rash or find bed bugs after reading this, there are several important steps you can take to make sure you don’t join the icky statistics.
Lock ‘em out: Buy a mattress encasement designed and tested for bed bugs. There’s no way these suckers can get into (or out of) an approved encasement. So, even if bed bugs are introduced to your home, they won’t be able to settle in and will be much easier to spot. Wash your linens weekly (in water at least 120 degrees.)
Trap ‘em: Bed bug interceptors are small plastic dishes that go under bed legs. The bugs can climb up them, but then they slide down into them and become trapped and easy to spot.
Don’t invite them home: As tempting as that comfy armchair at the yard sale may be, don’t buy it. Used furniture such as beds, sofas, and chairs can harbor hidden bugs and bring them right into your home. Keep clutter around your bed to a minimum and never store anything under the bed.
Don’t pick up hitchhikers: Hotels are one of the prime spots for bed bugs to branch out into new territory. Without even knowing it, you may be bringing home a little stowaway who can wreak havoc in your home. First inspect your hotel room as you did your home. Next, keep luggage on racks as far from the bed and sofas as possible. When you get home, wash anything that can be laundered in a hot wash of at least 120 degrees. Or dry on high heat. For items that cannot be exposed to high temperatures, seal them in plastic bags for travel. As for the luggage itself, there are PackTight portable units you can purchase that plug into the wall and heat your suitcase to destroy bugs and eggs or use a luggage spray specifically designed to kill bed bugs.