Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.
Considering how time-consuming and costly it can be to eradicate bed bugs, it’s prudent to take precautions and avoid infestations in the first place. Householders should be vigilant when acquiring used furnishings, especially beds and couches. Discarded items should be avoided, and secondhand articles should be examined closely before being brought into the home. Look carefully in the folds and seams of furniture for signs of bed bugs (see the previous section entitled "Description and Habits" for more details). There is no reason to stop shopping in consignment stores, yard sales, etc., but it would be prudent to run clothing and fabric items through the washer or dryer before storing them in the home. The risk of acquiring bed bugs from items purchased in antique stores would generally be insignificant.
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.
Bed bugs like to travel and are good hitchhikers. They will hide in suitcases, boxes and shoes to be near a food supply. They are elusive, nocturnal creatures. They can hide behind baseboards and in cracks, crevices, and folded areas of beds, bedding and adjacent furniture, especially mattresses and box springs. Bed bugs can also hide in electrical switchplates, picture frames, wallpaper and nearly anywhere inside a home, car, bus, or other shelter. Bed bugs usually come out at night for a blood meal. However, they are opportunistic insects and can take a blood meal during the day, especially in heavily-infested areas. Bed bugs usually require 5-10 minutes to engorge with blood. After feeding, they move to secluded places and hide for 5-10 days. During this time in the bed bug life cycle, they do not feed but instead digest their meal, mate, and lay eggs.
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Other types of bed bug traps include those that do not rely on humans as bait, but instead use CO2and/or other attractants. CO2 is thus far the most powerful lure for bed bugs, as it is the primary cue they follow to locate hosts. Traps that issue CO2 for a period of time are more expensive than Climbup™ traps, but can effectively trap bed bugs when no host is present, such as in common areas, vacant homes or units, offices, schools, and theaters. Thus they can help confirm infestation and eradication.
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.
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.
Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they're like humans—if they're hungry, they'll get up and get something to eat. "If you go away to visit a friend for a week and you come back and sit down on the couch, even though it's daytime the bedbugs will come looking for you," Schal says. Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.
First up are the contact sprays, like STERI-FAB and JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs. These will kill quickly, but evaporate shortly after, leaving no long-lasting protection. Spray along baseboards, below drawers and on drawer slides, behind cabinets, and behind night stands. Follow up with a residual spray, such as Bedlam Plus and JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus. Residual sprays will offer long-lasting protection against bed bugs and hatchlings. Bedlam Plus is ideal for cracks and crevices throughout the room, while JT Eaton Plus can be used below the cushions and bases of sofas, chairs, edges of carpets and other fabric items.
Bed bugs occur around the world. Before the 1950s about 30% of houses in the United States had bedbugs. Rates of infestations in developed countries, while decreasing from the 1930s to the 1980s, have increased dramatically since the 1980s. Before the 1980s they were common in the developing world but rare in the developed world. The increase in the developed world may have been caused by increased international travel, resistance to insecticides, and the use of new pest-control methods that do not affect bed bugs.
Scrub infested surfaces with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs. Vacuum the room extensively. Use a vacuum hose attachment to thoroughly vacuum cracks and crevices on furniture and along baseboards on the walls. Vacuum along baseboards, furniture, bed stands, rails, headboards, foot boards, bed seams, tufts, buttons, edges of the bedding, as well as the edges of the carpets (particularly along the tack strips). A good vacuum cleaning job may remove particles from cracks and crevices to encourage greater insecticide penetration. Bed bugs cling tightly to surfaces, so it is best to vacuum by scraping the end of the vacuum attachment over the infested areas to pull out the bed bugs. Caution: It is not good to use a bristle attachment, because you may transfer bed bugs to other areas since they cling to the brush. Dispose of vacuum cleaner bags after you are finished in an outdoor trashcan.
Are there pesticides that kill bed bugs? Yup. There sure are. Pest control companies often use pesticides to exterminate these bugs as part of a heat treatment, and also by themselves. But chemicals have some drawbacks that pest professionals are aware of. These products can drive bed bugs into walls, like an improperly applied heat treatment, and they can be ineffectual if bed bugs are deep inside furniture. There are also safety considerations that need to be considered when applying any pesticide.
Some firms want beds stripped and furniture moved before they arrive, while other firms prefer to inspect first and perform these tasks themselves. Clutter and belongings on floors (especially beneath beds) must be removed since they impede treatment and afford additional places for bugs to hide. Bedding and garments normally will need to be laundered and/or hot dried (120°F minimum) since they cannot be treated with insecticides. An effective and efficient alternative to laundering is to simply place bedding, clothing, toys, shoes, backpacks, etc., in a clothes dryer set at medium-to-high heat for 10 to 20 minutes. This can be done in lieu of washing and will kill all bed bug life stages.
Flat surfaces can be wiped with alcohol or sprayed with a bed bug—killing contact pesticide, but all items that have a small nook or cranny where bed bugs could hide (which is most stuff) need to be treated with penetrating fumes. Build yourself a kill chamber out of a large storage bin. Tape a pesticide strip to the side or lid of the bin, and seal your stuff inside for a couple days or however long the manufacturer recommends. Seal the lid of the bin with duct tape.
Today, bedbugs can be found in every State in the United States, and almost every city. Bedbugs are so common now that the federal government considers them almost "epidemic". The National Pest Management Association has declared war on bed bugs and has held bedbug meetings all across the Nation to help educate pest control companies in an effort to help control them.
Treatment for bedbug bites is typically supportive. Local antiseptic lotions or antibiotic creams can be applied for secondary infections, whereas corticosteroid creams and oral antihistamines can be used for allergic reactions. Bedbugs can be eliminated through the use of permethrin insecticides, baited traps, special bedbug-free beds, and bed nets. Homemade methods, such as wrapping duct tape around bed legs as shown, may be effective, but bedbugs have been known to climb other objects and then fall down onto a bed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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.
Mechanical approaches, such as vacuuming up the insects and heat-treating or wrapping mattresses, are effective. An hour at a temperature of 45 °C (113 °F) or over, or two hours at less than −17 °C (1 °F) kills them. This may include a domestic clothes drier for fabric or a commercial steamer. Bed bugs and their eggs will die on contact when exposed to surface temperatures above 180 °F (82 °C) and a steamer can reach well above 230 °F (110 °C). A study found 100% mortality rates for bed bugs exposed to temperatures greater than 50 °C (122 °F) for more than 2 minutes. The study recommended maintaining temperatures of above 48 °C (118 °F) for more than 20 min to effectively kill all life stages of bed bugs, and because in practice treatment times of 6 to 8 hours are used to account for cracks and indoor clutter. This method is expensive and has caused fires. Starving them is not effective as they can survive without eating for 100 to 300 days, depending on temperature. One expert recommends not trying to get rid of bed bugs exclusively on one's own.
Check the mattress throughly, paying close attention to seams and tufts along the edges. Flip the mattress over and inspect the bottom carefully as well. Pay particular attention to any rips in the fabric. View the fabric on the bottom of the box spring and shine a flash light to verify that bed bugs have not penetrated the interior of the box spring.
Insecticide Application This is the most common way to get rid of bedbugs, Lazarus says. Oftentimes, the professional will use several different products to effectively treat the area, though it may take a few rounds to ensure removal. “The advantage to this method is that the residual insecticide will continue to offer protection for a period of time,” Lazarus says. “The biggest drawback is that the preparation for service is time-consuming and must be repeated prior to each service.”
Bedbugs are parasitic arthropods from the family Cimicidae. They are typically less than 1 cm in length and reddish brown in color. Bedbugs can be found in furniture, floorboards, peeling paint, or other small spaces, most commonly in areas of clutter. These insects come out at night in search of prey upon which to feed, with peak feeding times just before dawn. Bedbugs are typically attracted to body heat, carbon dioxide, vibration, sweat, and odor. The image of a Cimex lectularius is shown courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).