Noble McIntyre on September 9, 2015
Warning: Reading this post might make you feel itchy.
Just kidding. That won’t happen. But, bed bugs are very real, very annoying and very difficult to get rid of if they find their way into your home. Everyone has had some pest or another in his home at one time, but there are very few insects that are as pervasive or as hard to clean out as bed bugs.
Bed bugs are considered a public health threat even though they don’t transit or spread disease. In recent years, you’ve probably heard more and more news about bed bugs. The reasons might be that there is more international travel, increased resistance to pesticides and perhaps misinformation about how to get rid of them. Because bed bugs are so small, they can be hard to find. However, they do bite and can leave itchy spots. If you find that you have itchy spots that are unrelated to being outdoors, or if they keep recurring and you can’t figure out why, you should hire an exterminator to perform a thorough inspection.
Bed bugs are tiny and can be either pearl-white or brown in color. Bed bugs are visible, though they do like to hide. It’s a myth that bed bugs only live in “dirty” places. In fact, there are lots of five-star hotels worldwide that have had bed bug infestations—they are not limited to a “fleabag” motel, campsite or other places that might be less clean. One of the most common ways to bring bed bugs into your home is when they travel in on your luggage, even if you have stayed at an upscale, clean hotel. They could get into your bags from the hotel, or even from touching other people’s luggage on a flight or in a taxi. Bed bugs could come into your home from backpacks, handbags, furniture, bedding, shoes or clothing that have been in close proximity with an infested item.
Hotel rooms: When you enter your hotel room, do a basic inspection. Look at the mattress, box spring and headboard, especially at the edges. You can look at the ribbing and corners of the mattress under the sheets. Look for either the bugs themselves or for little brown spots, which could be an indication that they’ve been there. And, if you wake up with bites, report it to the hotel manager right away. It is a good idea to avoid placing your bags on a hotel bed. Instead, put all bags and clothes on the dressers or on raised stands, even if you don’t see evidence of bugs. If you are planning a trip, you can check the Bedbug Registry to see if there have been problems reported at a hotel you’re considering.
Bringing your luggage home: Whether you suspect that you might have stayed someplace that had bed bugs, or if you just want to be on the safe side, you can unpack all of your luggage outside when you return home. Wash every item of clothing and dry on your dryer’s hot cycle. Washing doesn’t necessarily kill the bed bugs, but the heat will. If you think that there could be bed bugs in your suitcase, load it into a large garbage bag and seal it. Purchase pesticide strips that are specifically for bed bugs, and leave them in the garbage bag with your luggage for two weeks.
At the laundromat: If you use a shared laundry facility, dry your clothes on high heat and remove them directly from the dryer into a clean laundry bag. Don’t put the bag on the floor or on top of the machines. Fold the laundry at home rather than laying it out on a public table.
In a multi-family home: Bed bugs can crawl through tiny cracks in walls or vents from one apartment, unit or hotel room to another. If you live in a multi-family home, be sure to seal cracks or crevices in baseboards, light sockets, or anyplace else where a bug could crawl through. Install door sweeps to try to prevent as much movement as possible under your doors.
If you believe that your home might have bed bugs—even just a few—call a reputable professional. Don’t try to apply pesticides yourself, as the chemicals in pesticides can be very harmful if not applied properly. Home remedies are not recommended for treating a bed bug infestation, but there are some safe chemical treatments available that can be used in homes with pets and children.
Be sure to find a reputable exterminator. Check with friends or coworkers to get referrals, and get more than one estimate. Bed bug infestations can cost over $1,000 to treat, so you want to make sure that the extermination company you hire is a good one and that you will only need to have the problem treated once.
Remember, although clean hotels and homes can have bed bugs, it’s easier for these critters to hide when there is a lot of clutter. Frequent vacuuming and keeping your home free of dust and clutter could help to keep the bed bugs at bay.