Human infestation with bedbugs, lice, and mites are common causes of dermatologic symptoms. Although these organisms thrive in conditions of overcrowding and decreased sanitation, Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds may be at risk for infestation. Clinicians must maintain high suspicion in the appropriate set of clinical circumstances to identify and treat infestations, as they can cause substantial dermatologic and psychological discomfort for patients. Images courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Encase Mattresses and use bed bug interceptor traps on bed frames. After everything is put back and all pesticides are dried, vacuum the area again to remove any dead or dying bedbugs and to pick up any spilled dust or pesticide. Be sure to throw the vacuum cleaner bag away outdoors. A thorough treatment is essential to achieve adequate control. It is usually desirable to apply insecticides for bed bugs early in the day, so that insecticide spray residues will have several hours to dry, or dusts will have time to settle, before the room will be used again for sleeping. As a safety consideration it is particularly important to dry and cover mattresses completely before they are reused. A mattress encasement such as The Elite Zippered Mattress and Boxspring Encasement should be used to cover and conceal the mattress and the boxsprings. It is important to use a quality zippered encasement (cover) with a special zipper closure to make sure that bedbugs do not crawl out of the zipper opening.
Once the mattress and box spring are dry, encase them in sealed bed bug encasements. Encasements are crucial, as they prevent bed bugs from entering or escaping the mattress and box spring, cutting off key hiding places. Remember to leave the encasements on for at least 18 months to ensure that any bed bugs already inside have starved to death. Once the encasements have been applied, you can put your mattress and box springs back on your treated bed frame, and put your laundered bedding back on your bed.
Discourage bed bug infestation by keeping clutter picked up, washing bedding and upholstery routinely and not buying used furniture. When you’re traveling, lower your risk of bringing bed bugs back home by opening your suitcase on a hotel desk or luggage rack instead of on the bed; keeping your belongings in your suitcase, not unpacked in dresser drawers; sealing dirty laundry in plastic bags that can be taken straight to the laundry room at home; and inspecting your luggage for bed bug activity before you bring it into your bedroom.
Some less proven heat weapons have been suggested online, such as clothes irons. Clothes irons might reach the temperature needed to kill bed bugs, but the heat won’t penetrate deep into soft materials to where bed bugs might be hiding. You also can’t iron areas besides clothes and sheets, like cracks and crevices in walls, floors, and furniture. The metal surface and high surface heat would damage many of the materials it wasn’t designed to be used on.
Bedbugs are a species of insect known as cimex lectularius (literallycimex is Latin for bug and lactularius is Latin for bed). There is a second common species of bedbugs known as cimex hemiptera. These are known as the tropical bedbugs, staying within 30 degrees of the equator. There are published reports, many without supporting evidence, that each of the common bedbug species has chemically different saliva. Some researchers, however, have found no difference in the reactions caused by each species.
“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” This horrific nighttime creature is a member of the Hemiptera order of insects that feast solely on blood. Because of the way they mate, they multiply in size while breeding. A Department of Health report claimed that if forty are placed in a room with a mild temperature, within six months their population would exceed 5,900.
Bed bug bites are caused primarily by two species of the insect Cimex: Cimex lectularius (the common bed bug) and Cimex hemipterus. Their size ranges between 1 and 7 mm. They spread by crawling between nearby locations or by being carried within personal items. Infestation is rarely due to a lack of hygiene but is more common in high-density areas. Diagnosis involves both finding the bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms. Bed bugs spend much of their time in dark, hidden locations like mattress seams or cracks in the wall.
Bed bugs were mentioned in ancient Greece as early as 400 BC, and were later mentioned by Aristotle. Pliny's Natural History, first published circa AD 77 in Rome, claimed bed bugs had medicinal value in treating ailments such as snake bites and ear infections. (Belief in the medicinal use of bed bugs persisted until at least the 18th century, when Guettard recommended their use in the treatment of hysteria.)
Prepare the room by separating treated from untreated furniture. This will involve moving all your furniture to one side of the infested room (Remember, you’ve already assessed which rooms you think are infested. You may not need to do this in every room). The process is important because if you treat half of the items in a room and leave other areas untreated, bed bugs may return to the previously treated areas from untreated sites. Take all clothes from drawers, infested closets, etc. and double bag them in clear plastic bags (clear bags are easier to see where things are). Also double bag all personal items (toys, papers, books, electronics, CDs, or anything that could serve as a hiding place for bed bugs) and set them aside until they can be carefully treated, cleaned or inspected.
Bed bugs are tiny, flat, wingless insects that range in color from nearly white to deep brown/reddish. The parasitic pests get their name from their hiding spot of choice – they prefer burrowing into bed frames and mattresses during the day, then become active at night when they feed on people and pets. Bed bugs are resilient pests that can hitch a ride on luggage, furniture, storage boxes, backpacks and clothing (but rarely humans), very quickly causing an infestation.
Pay attention to when the bites occur. Consider, for example, if you notice the bites after waking up when previously you hadn't noticed them. However, this can also be difficult to determine because each person's reaction time can vary significantly. Symptoms that result from the bite can manifest at any point from a couple of hours to more than a week after the bite occurred.
Spray all baseboards, loose plaster, behind bed frames and headboards, beneath beds and furniture, and bedsprings and bed frames. Do not apply to furniture surfaces or mattresses where people will be laying or sitting unless using a product labeled for that type of treatment. Infested bedding should not be treated, but should be removed, placed in sealed plastic bags, and taken for laundering and drying at high temperature.
They also have the ability to travel beyond the bedroom, so all adjoining rooms should be checked for infestation. Any area that offers a layer of protection, e.g. dark, isolated areas, should be checked. They do leave excrement droppings behind, so even if they are not seen, you can often see where they have been. The best method to find them is to check only at night, and with a red light.
If you suspect an infestation, experts recommend finding a professional exterminator who has experience dealing with bedbugs. Sprayed insecticides are commonly used to treat infestations, and exterminators may also use nonchemical methods, such as devices to heat a room above 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), a lethal temperature for bedbugs, according to the Mayo Clinic. Freezing infested items for a few days at temperatures below 0 F (-18 C) may also put bedbugs to permanent rest, according to the University of Minnesota. But you may have to throw out heavily infested mattresses and other items of furniture.
Low toxicity contact sprays like SteriFab™ or Bedlam® are likely to kill bed bugs only on contact. Alcohol- and soap-based sprays, are only partly effective. All of these products, once dry, are likely to provide no further control. Eggs will not be killed by alcohol-based sprays, so repeat treatments are usually needed. Be careful when using sprays containing alcohol because they may be flammable.
Treat other areas in your home. This is perhaps the most challenging part of do-it-yourself bed bug control. If you catch an infestation early you may not need to do anything more than treat and isolate your bed as described above. But if an infestation has spread to other parts of the home, bed isolation may not be good enough. Here is where professional help may be needed, especially if you’re not up to moving furniture. Still determined? Here are some tips that may improve your chances of success:
Dusts have been used to ward off insects from grain storage for centuries, including plant ash, lime, dolomite, certain types of soil, and diatomaceous earth or Kieselguhr. Of these, diatomaceous earth in particular has seen a revival as a nontoxic (when in amorphous form) residual pesticide for bed bug abatement. While diatomaceous earth performed poorly, silica gel may be effective.