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Skin reactions from bed bug bites vary from person to person. Bites may go unnoticed or may be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other skin conditions. The most common skin reaction to bed bug bites are itchy red bite marks that appear clustered or in a straight line, often along the edge of clothing or where sheets were pulled up to a person's skin. Small swollen red bumps are also common. In rare cases, people may develop large, often itchy, red welts. A single bed bug bite is similar to a flea bite, except that a red area does not occur in the center. Flea bites tend to be found around the ankles while bed bugs tend to bite any exposed area of the body while a person is sleeping, such as the face, neck, arms, hands, or legs.
We are often asked, "How do you kill bed bugs?" While we would love to give a simple answer, this is actually a loaded question. There are many ways to kill a bed bug but, if you want to kill all of the bed bugs in your home or business, it is important to pay attention to the details. Here are some ways you can kill bed bugs, and what you should know about each.
What’s the best way to get rid of bed bugs? Stop feeding them. To prevent those unwanted dinner guests, isolate your mattress from the rest of the room. Start by pulling the bed away from the wall and away from other furniture like nightstands and chairs. Remove box spring skirting that hangs down to the floor. Oversize blankets that drape to the floor can also act as a ladder for the little buggers.
Dogs have been sniffing out insects such as termites for many years, and are now being used as inspection tools for bed bug detection. But while companies using dogs may advertise them as being highly accurate in finding bed bugs, one should not get the impression that dogs are infallible or that they are in all ways superior to human inspectors. Research on the effectiveness of dogs as bed bug detectors suggests that for those who would employ dogs, the message is buyer beware. There appears to be great variance in the accuracy of bed bug dogs, and even well-trained dogs are subject to missing bed bugs and to giving “false positives” (signaling the presence of bed bugs where there are none).
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Many news reports in recent years have focused on the discovery of bedbugs and their health effects (even in upscale five-star hotels), and a number of lawsuits have been filed by guests of fashionable hotels who awoke to find hundreds of bedbug bites covering their skin. Searching on travel-review web sites regularly reveals information and even photos confirming the presence of bedbugs in numerous hotels.
My husband works for a garbage company (this is how we think the invasion started) and at the moment they are localized to our bedroom and our bathroom. However, the first place we found them was in our headboard & footboard. It is wood with an intricate carving. We checked the mattress and box spring and didn’t find a thing. But they LOVE that wood.
I have had one bite in threes which cleared up in days and an occasional acne looking sore on my but and arm. I have noted in my car lots of little bites but no marks. My son does not appear to have bites. once he had one on his back that cleared quickly. I really needs some help here as I am getting obsessive with cleaning and making my child change and bath. I have checked my cat for flees and bought her a flee collar as I am thinking the stinging bites I get in the day may be from flees but no itch or real marks. Help please.
The Diatomaceous Earth seems to kill them and centipedes. Didn’t even know I had those til I put powder down to prevent bed bugs and found one curled up dead. It dries them out and kills them. Works great! I’ve heard boric acid doesn’t work on bed bugs but I do know it works wonders on killing roaches. My sister had them in an apartment & boric acid wiped them out!
Bedlam Insecticide is a convenient water-based and non-irritating aerosol spray that is specially made to kill bed bugs on contact and provide lasting residual performance. It should be sprayed in cracks and crevices and around baseboards, floor/head boards, door jams, walls and other hard surfaces. Since it is water based, it is safe to use to use to treat mattresses and bedding. It will also not stain fabrics or materials.
Consider using insecticides. Residual insecticides (usually pyrethroids) are applied as spot treatments to cracks and crevices where bed bugs are hiding. Increased penetration of the insecticide into cracks and crevices can be achieved if accumulated dirt and debris are first removed using a vacuum cleaner. Many readily available aerosol pesticide sprays will cause bed bugs to scatter making eradication more difficult. Dust formulations may be used to treat wall voids and attics.
The effective use of pesticides for bed bug control typically involves a thorough inspection during which the technician will kill any bed bugs he/she discovers, applying contact or residual pesticides directly on the bugs. This is followed by residual application to all cracks, crevices and voids, likely to harbor bed bugs. The pesticide used should be one that remains active for weeks, allowing bed bugs that were missed on the initial inspection to contact treated surfaces long enough to receive a lethal dose.
Bedbugs are highly resistant to many sprays. There are, however, certain sprays that may be able to kill bedbugs. Check with a professional exterminator about advice using sprays to try and remove the bedbugs yourself. Dead bedbugs usually won't move, may be arched back, or red in color. Ultimately, you may be better off replacing your mattress and bedding and fumigating your home to kill the bedbugs.
Bed bugs are active mainly at night. During the daytime, they prefer to hide close to where people sleep. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices--especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Characteristically, these areas are marked by dark spotting and staining, which is the dried excrement of the bugs. Also present will be hatched and un-hatched eggs, the tannish shed skins of maturing nymphs, and the bugs themselves. Another possible sign are rusty or reddish smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushed engorged bed bugs. Although it’s often stated that bed bugs have a telltale “buggy” odor, the smell is seldom evident except in extreme infestations and should not be relied upon for detection.
One trick to make this disposal easier involves using the cut-off end of a nylon stocking (or a knee-high nylon stocking) and a rubber band. Insert the stocking (toe first) into the end of the vacuum suction wand/tube, leaving the opening of the stocking protruding out of the end of the suction wand. Then fold the stocking opening back over the end of the wand and use the rubber band to secure it there. When the vacuum is turned on and the bed bugs are sucked into the tube, they will be trapped in the stocking. Afterwards, carefully remove the rubber band and retrieve the bug-filled stocking. Then secure the end of the stocking with the rubber band and dispose of it.
Waking up with bites might be the first indicator that you have a bed bug problem. Their bites are often arranged in lines or clusters on the face, neck, arms or hands. Where there are bed bugs in large numbers, you might smell a sweet, musty odor (from the bugs’ scent glands) or see rust-colored spots on your bedding or mattress caused by bed bug blood or excrement. If you look closely, you might see adult bed bugs themselves, usually in mattress folds or seams or on the wall behind the headboard. Bed bugs prefer to stay close to their food source and are typically found hiding out within 1 to 5 ft of infested beds or furniture.
Minimize its spread. First, notify your landlord if you rent in a building to control its spread to other units. Thoroughly vacuum any infested areas, including carpets and mattresses, and then empty the vacuum bag into a plastic bag, seal it, and throw it in the trash outside. If you can’t get the bed bugs out of your furniture, discard items in a responsible manner. To avoid someone else from salvaging infested furniture or mattreses, rip, remove stuffing, or spray paint with the words “bed bugs.”
We recommend spraying Steri-Fab in areas where live bed bugs are visible. Steri-Fab combines a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide and isopropyl alcohol to kill bed bugs fast on contact. Steri-Fab also acts as a sanitizer. Steri-Fab does not leave any residual, meaning it can be applied virtually anywhere. Simply shake well, then apply to desired treatment areas. Insect mortality is imminent, generally within 10 minutes of spraying.
While the mattress and box spring are left to dry, spray down the joints of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard with a contact spray and residual spray. The contact spray will kill bed bugs quickly and then evaporate, while the residual spray will kill bed bugs over several weeks. Remember to follow the sprays’ product labels and MSDS for safe and effective usage.
With the bed now fully isolated and elevated, bed bugs hiding elsewhere in the room won’t be able to feed on you or hide in your bed. You can also use the ClimbUps to monitor the changing population of bed bugs in your home. Hopefully, you will see less and less bugs appear in the traps as you go through the next steps. Now that you have created a safe haven in your bed, you can move on to treating the rest of the room.
Bag and launder (122°F/50ºC minimum) affected items. Smaller items that cannot be laundered can sometimes be de-infested by heating. Individual items, for example, can be wrapped in plastic and placed in a hot, sunny location for at least a few days (the 122°F/50ºC minimum target temperature should be monitored in the center-most location with a thermometer). Bedbugs also succumb to cold temperatures below freezing, but the chilling period must be maintained for at least two weeks. Attempts to rid an entire home or apartment of bed bugs by raising or lowering the thermostat will be entirely unsuccessful.
When people are bitten, they often do not notice at first. It’s a possibility that one reason could be that these blood sucking insects feed late in the night, before the breaking of dawn. Humans are often in a deep REM sleep during that time. Upon arising, individuals can find bite marks; however it can take up to ten days for adverse or allergic reactions to develop.
Bites on dogs and cats will look much like bites on people, and the pet owner may actually suspect a mosquito or flea bit the pet. As with people, bed bugs do not stay on pets, but return to a protected harborage site after feeding. In addition to bites, the presence of the bug’s feces, cast skins and the animal’s irritation at night are also indicators of bed bugs biting pets. Therefore, one of the best things to do is inspect the pet’s bedding and frequently groom the animal while being vigilant for the telltale signs of bed bug presence.
Some preparation is still required (e.g. removal of heat-sensitive items such as aerosol cans, indoor plants and medications), but it is seldom necessary to bag, launder and/or hot dry bedding and clothing since these items will be heated along with other furnishings. Another advantage of heat treatment is that infestations can often be eliminated in one day, rather than over multiple days or weeks. Conversely, heat treatment alone has no lasting (residual) effect should bed bugs be reintroduced into the dwelling. Consequently, some companies recommend concurrently applying residual insecticides. To further minimize reintroduction, occupants are advised to take as few belongings as possible with them while the heat treatment is in progress.
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.
Bedbug bites may go unnoticed or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other types of rash or skin conditions, since the signs of bedbug bites are difficult to distinguish from other bites or skin conditions. Bedbugs also have glands whose secretions may leave musty odors, and they also may leave dark fecal spots on bed sheets and around places where they hide (in crevices or protected areas around the bed or anywhere in the room).
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.
Bring in only what is needed, and avoid sitting or placing coats and other items on beds, floors and sofas where the bugs commonly reside. Essential items can be placed on a tabletop or other hard surface, preferably away from bedrooms and sleeping areas. Better to sit on a hard (non-upholstered) chair than on sofas and recliners. Also try to avoid leaning or brushing against beds and upholstered furniture. If such items are carried out of infested dwellings (e.g., by sanitation workers or firefighters), it’s best to wrap them in plastic or at least not hold them against your body during transport. Emergency Medical (EMS) personnel may need to take additional precautions, such as removing a patient’s bed bug-infested shoes or clothing, or installing plastic sheeting before transporting them in the emergency vehicle.