Bedbugs are found all over the world. Bed bug infestations were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the insecticide DDT for pest control began in the 1940s and 1950s. They remained prevalent in other areas of the world and, in recent years, have been increasingly observed again in the U.S. Increases in immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of stronger pesticides may be factors that have led to the relatively recent increase in bedbug infestations. While bedbug infestations are often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are poor or when birds or mammals (particularly bats) are nesting on or near a home, bedbugs can also live and thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bedbug infestations.
Some people develop allergic reactions to bedbug bites, which can include a fever, difficulty breathing, hives, or a swollen tongue. Others may develop an infection where the bite starts oozing pus. If you experience either of these reactions or you develop blisters where the bites occurred, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a dermatologist.
Just to be clear, you can kill bed bugs with heat. It’s just a matter of using the right equipment. A high-pressure steamer is the weapon of choice for killing bed bugs on contact, since their steam can surpass 200 degrees, and can penetrate deep into soft materials like mattresses and upholstered furniture. You can also use a steamer on more than just clothes or other fabrics; a steamer can kill bed bugs hiding along baseboards, floorboards, window sills, door frames, and the edges of the carpet.
Bed bugs were once a common public health pest worldwide, but declined in incidence through the mid 20th century. However, bed bugs have undergone a dramatic, worldwide resurgence since they have now evolved resistance to common insecticides. Bed bugs are one of the great travelers of the world and are readily transported via luggage, clothing, bedding, and furniture. To get rid of bed bugs, act at the first signs of infestation and use an integrated pest management approach involving prevention, sanitation, and chemical treatment. Bed bugs can be persistent, so you'll need to demonstrate a greater level of persistence if you want to eliminate them.
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Select and use insecticides safely. There are no magic sprays that kill bed bugs very well. Most commercial insecticides will kill bed bugs if applied carefully and directly to the insects and their hiding places. An exception is “Bug bombs”, or aerosol foggers. Foggers are mostly ineffective in controlling bed bugs. Because bed bugs hide in crevices and voids where aerosols do not penetrate, they are able to avoid contact with these insecticides. Their use is not recommended. Some of the products you may find helpful include:
Ticks are known transmitters of disease to humans and animals. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, tularemia, babesiosis, and Southern tick-associated rash illness. Infected ticks spread disease once they've bitten a host, allowing the pathogens in their saliva and mouth get into the host's skin and blood. Tick bites are typically painless, but the site of the bite may later itch, burn, turn red, and feel painful. Individuals allergic to tick bites may develop a rash, swelling, shortness of breath, numbness, or paralysis. Tick bite treatment involves cleaning and applying antibiotic cream.
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.
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.
Discard affected items. In some cases, infested mattresses and box springs will need to be discarded. Since bed bugs can disperse throughout a building, it also may be necessary to inspect adjoining rooms and apartments. Pay it forward: chop up and/or damage the items you discard so nobody will be tempted to take them home and spread the problem further.
Occasionally, you might find other bugs which resemble the common bed bug including the bat bug and swallow bug. Both of these species superficially resemble the common bed bug. However, their primary hosts are bats and birds and there are small but diagnostic morphological differences. Problem infestations with these bugs may occur in attics or unused chimneys. Typically, when one host is gone these bugs seek an alternative host blood meal. This is when humans are bitten. It is important to differentiate between the common bed bug and other bugs that feed on bats and birds because control efforts can be targeted at the wrong sites and infestations can continue.
To prevent bringing bed bugs to one's own home, travelers are advised to take precautions after visiting an infested site: generally, these include checking shoes on leaving the site, changing clothes in a garage before returning to their home, and putting the used clothes in a clothes dryer outside the house. When visiting a new lodging, it is advised to check the bed before taking suitcases into the sleeping area and putting the suitcase on a raised stand to make bedbugs less able to crawl in. "An extreme measure would be putting the suitcase in the tub." Clothes should be hung up or left in the suitcase, and never left on the floor. The founder of a company dedicated to bedbug extermination said that 5% of hotel rooms he books into were infested. He advised people never to sit down on public transport; check office chairs, plane seats and hotel mattresses, and monitor and vacuum home beds once a month.
One method of applying freezing temperatures to bed bugs entails the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) applied as “snow” with a portable application device, i.e., Cryonite™. When applied directly onto bed bugs, the frozen CO2 will kill them. However, this method is similar to using contact pesticides, that is, there is no residual activity. It can kill only as many bed bugs as the applicator can find. The advantage of using this type of freezing device is that bed bugs may be killed quickly and without the use of more hazardous pesticides. Again, this is not a stand-alone treatment, and it is recommended that it be used as a supplemental to the application of residual pesticides and/or other means of control.
Dismantling bed frames in infested areas typically exposes bed bug hiding sites. Having access to these areas during cleaning is important. Stand up the box spring and shine a flashlight through the gauze fabric and look for bed bugs. If the fabric is torn (possible hiding place), remove fabric to prepare for spraying. If the mattress and or box springs are infested, you may want to consider Encasements by Mattress Safe. Once covered with these encasements, bed bugs can not enter or exit. There is no need to treat the mattress or box spring when using these encasements. Keep them on for a year.
If you arrive home and discover that you have brought some unwanted guests home with you, immediately notify the hotel of your discovery. Having a possible infestation in hotels and motels can be a public relations nightmare for the owners. Politely ask them to pay for any and all costs incurred to rid your clothing and home of a possible new infestation.