Bed bugs – just the thought of these blood-sucking parasites makes your skin crawl. Yet unbeknownst to some of us, we may be sharing our bed with these tiny critters exposing ourselves to their feeding frenzy.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are a small, flat parasitic insect that only feeds on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. This wingless, reddish-brown parasite the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny, can survive several months without a blood meal.
Where are bed bugs found?
Bed bugs are found around the globe and are usually found near places people sleep. During the day they hide in places like the seams of a mattress, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper or any other place near or around a bed.
Their presence has been seen in schools, retail facilities, office buildings, libraries, five star hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains and dorm rooms.
Do they pose a health risk?
Fortunately, bed bugs are not known to transmit disease to people and are not considered a medical or public health risk. The main concern is the annoyance of their bite that can cause in some people itchiness, loss of sleep, and a rash. If a person were to have an allergic reaction to a bed bug bite, they need to seek medical attention.
How do you know if you have a bed bug infestation?
Here are some tell-tale signs you may have bed bugs sharing the same bed as you do:
· Bed bugs molt leaving behind an exoskeleton
· They can be found in the fold of mattresses and sheets
· Bed bugs will excrete a blood-filled fecal material leaving behind a rusty-colored blood spot on the mattress
· Noticing a sweet musty odor
How will you know if you’ve been bitten?
It doesn’t take long for a bed bug to finish a meal – they feed for 2-5 minutes until they are full and then move quickly away from the person going back into hiding. Typical areas bed bugs like to feast on are the head and neck but they also like arms, hands, and legs.
When a bed bug bites you it injects an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents you from knowing you are being bit. The bite mark is similar to what a mosquito or flea will leave – a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. To treat a bed bug bite, avoid scratching the area, apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine.
Unless you know you have an infestation of bed bugs, you may not even know you’ve been bitten. Some people have no reaction and will not even develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten.
How did bed bugs get into my home?
Bed bugs have a way of entering our homes by many avenues but the typical way they arrive is by being transported from another place. Bed bugs do not distinguish between a clean or dirty home and all of us are vulnerable to an infestation.
It is common for them to be transported into our homes when we travel to a place and bring the stow-aways back home with us. They will hide in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, or folded clothes and from there they make your home theirs also.
Traveling frequently and sharing beds (like in hotels) where other previous individuals have slept, can make the occurrence of bed bugs arriving at your home more likely.
How can bed bugs be prevented?
The best way to prevent bed bugs is to do a regular inspection in and around your bed looking for signs of an infestation.
Infestations of bed bugs should be treated by a professional pest control company. They will carefully inspect the bed and areas around the bed and use commercial insecticides to treat and eliminate the pests.
Other ways to prevent and keep bed bugs out of your home are the following:
· Always wash all bedding including clothing you suspect that may contain bed bugs in hot water and dry in temperatures hotter than 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
· Cold temperatures also kill bed bugs if exposed for a long enough time. Place the exposed objects into a freezer, at 0 degrees Fahrenheit and leave in the freezer for 7 to 10 days to kill all stages of bed bugs.
· When traveling, always check your hotel room. Check around the headboard and adjacent areas of the bed. Inspect the luggage stands and look for fecal spots on bed sheets. When you get back home, inspect your luggage and clothing for bed bugs that may have traveled home with you.