Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite—Ever!
“Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite.” It’s a cute bedtime phrase many of us heard as children while being tucked into bed. Some of us may even continue to say this to our children. But did we ever really think about it—a bed bug bite? Maybe it’s just an old wives tale? While generations of us have not been affected by these creepy critters, bedbugs are very real and are making a bold comeback across the United States. Huffington Post reported on the top ten cities for bed bug infestations in 2012. In fact, Los Angeles is one of the fastest growing hot spots for bed bug activity in the U.S.
Read below to learn more about what you can do to protect your family from these pests.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small insects that feed on blood of people and animals. They are mostly active at night, especially when we sleep. Adult bed bugs are brownish-reddish in color and about the size of an apple seed (one fourth inch long, oval and flat). Adult bed bugs are easier to see than young ones. Young bed bugs (called nymphs) are smaller and lighter in color. Bed bugs normally feed every five to ten days but can go six months or more without feeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bed bugs do not spread disease. Scratching the itchy bites, however, can lead to a secondary infection. Although rare, some people can also have a severe allergic reaction to the bites. If there is a serious infestation, a person can be bitten up to 500 times in a single night, which can eventually lead to anemia.
Where are bed bugs found and why are they more common now?
Bed bugs can be found everywhere, including homes, dorms, hotels, retail stores, schools and day care centers. They are “equal-opportunity pests”—they love everyone. Bed bugs aren’t just found in low-income or dirty areas; they can be found in clean homes and five-star hotels.
Bed bugs are more common because:
- People are traveling more, bringing bed bugs to and from travel locations.
- There is little information about how to prevent infestations.
- These pests have developed resistance to pesticides.
How do I find out if I have bed bugs at home? (Tweet this)
One of the most common signs of bed bugs in a home are bed bug bites. They may look like bites from other insects, a rash or hives. Sometimes, the bites can be in clusters or rows of three. Some children may not have a reaction when they are bitten but if your child has a rash and you suspect bed bugs, the best way to confirm whether you have any in your home is to find:
- A live bed bug or the remains of one.
- Fecal spots, which are small rusty-colored spots in the seams of your mattress, box spring, sheets or pillowcases.
Check the rest of your child’s room, like the headboard and furniture near the bed. Bed bugs like to hide eight to ten feet from where we sleep, especially in cracks and crevices.
Four Tips to Prevent Bed Bugs (Tweet this)
- Be vigilant when you travel. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers—they love to travel. Always do a quick check of the mattress, headboard and furniture for signs of infestation before settling in. Also use a suitcase stand to keep your suitcase above the ground. Keep it tightly closed when you are not using it. When you return home, unpack outside or at least in the garage. Vacuum your suitcase inside and out. Make sure you are using a bagged vacuum and discard the bag in a sealed plastic bag when done. Finally, wash all clothing in hot water and dry in high heat. This will kill the bed bugs.
- Examine items you bring into your home for bed bugs and their eggs. Eggs are hard to see—they are about the size of a grain of rice and sticky. For example, never bring second-hand furniture into your home without closely examining it for signs of infestation.
- Limit clutter in your home so bed bugs have fewer places to hide. Remove toys, clothing and stuffed animals around and on your child’s bed.
- Depending on your child’s age, teach them what bed bugs look like and to let you know if they see one in your home or other places. Do not encourage your child to share clothing.
Remember that bed bugs are easier to treat if they are caught early so it’s a good idea to do periodic inspections in your home. When you take off your sheets to wash them, look for signs of bed bugs. If you do find signs, know that controlling bed bugs takes time and patience. It is not a do-it-yourself project. Contact a pest control company that has experience with bed bugs for help.