Bed bugs. The mere phrase makes you itch, right? No wonder. Once thought to be nearly eradicated, bed bug infestations are on the rise in North America, and people are not happy about it. One thing to know about bed bugs is that they’re a lot easier to prevent than to remove once they’ve taken up residence in your home. In the interest of non-itchy nights, we are pleased to present a few helpful tips that can help to ensure you never fall victim to the tiny and nefarious creatures.
What exactly are bed bugs?
The scientific name for bed bugs is Cimex lectularius. You don’t really need to know that, but you should know how to identify a bed bug when you see it. Their small size, reddish-brown coloration and location makes it easy to differentiate bed bugs from other parasites. Wingless and sneaky, bed bugs generally range in size from a single millimeter wide to around seven millimeters, or roughly the dimension of the presidential profile on a Lincoln penny.
As a rule, bed bug infestations are almost always found within eight feet of a human sleeping area. Infestations happen in hotel rooms, apartments, cruise ship cabins and dorm rooms. The wee bugs can be found in sleeping cars on trains, on buses and in homeless shelters. If there are humans in the area, bed bugs can be there.
Where are bed bugs found?
At one time considered a third world problem mostly found in developing countries and disadvantaged areas, bed bugs have been discovered in some of the most posh resort properties in the world, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The tiny biters can live almost anywhere, and cleanliness has little if anything to do with an infestation. Bedbugs can go for many weeks or even months without a blood feast. For this reason, they have the ability to remain well hidden in bedding for a very long time.
Although not known to be disease vectors, bed bugs leave a distinct mark when they bite. According to the CDC, bed bug bites affect each person differently. Bite marks can range from barely noticeable to red and swollen in persons with sensitivity to their bite. Bites generally occur on legs, arms, hands, trunk and other body parts that touch a mattress while a person is sleeping or lounging. Due to an anesthetic injected by the bug when it bites, most people don’t even notice when they’ve being bitten, says the Environmental Protection Agency.
Best practices for preventing bed bug bites
When you visit a hotel, place your luggage on suitcase racks and never atop the bed. Hang clothes on hangers and always check the seams of any mattress on which you intend to sleep. As an added precaution, use a diatomaceous earth product such as that found at BedroomGuardian101.com to destroy any bed bugs that happen to be around. Diatomaceous earth is made of microscopic algae that, when dried, literally shreds the bodies of bed bugs. Because it’s so small, diatomaceous earth is harmless to humans, pets and anything larger than a bed bug. Bedroom Guardian products may be used at home, too. Cedar oil sprays may also be used to alleviate infestation.
How to determine if you actually have bed bugs
Typical signs of bed bug infestation include tiny red-brown spots of blood in the bed, especially in mattress seams. A sweetish, slightly musty smell may be present in a bed bug infestation, and you may notice the shed exoskeletons of bed bugs, too. Bed bugs are small and flat and can hide almost anywhere. To find them, one must look carefully.
Because bed bugs are known to live quite a long time without feeding, every stitch of bedding must be thoroughly disinfected before returning to a freshly cleaned and disinfected mattress. Use the hottest water possible, and wash blankets and sheets at least twice. Pillows and stuffed animals should be thoroughly disinfected, as well. Better yet, thrown them away and buy new sheets, pillows, and teddy bears.
Bed bugs are a tiny horror that are unlikely to make you sick, but they can still wreck your rest. Prevention is a better option than eradication of bed bugs. Keeping bed bugs at bay is possible, if you heed the above advice.
Tina has been a Stay at Home Mother for 6 years now. She embraces a natural, organic lifestyle. When it comes to common household problems, she aims to find the cleanest, most-natural solution that is effective while protecting her family and 2 dogs. She’s been freelance blogging for the last 3 years about home remedies to common household problems.