BED BUGS: THE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
Having bed bugs in the house is totally embarrassing. Once bitten, you cannot hide it, as there will be obvious bite marks that come with the intense scratching because of the itchiness. People will look at you and talk behind your back, “Hey, they have bed bugs at home!” Kids would be isolated socially, as other kids would make fun of them.
Getting rid of bed bugs is not really something you can put off for another day. They can be not just on your bed, but all over the house in no time. They spread fast, and once they do it would be very hard to get rid of them. This is why it is so important that you do something about the bed bug infestation just when it is starting, so knowing how to look for signs of bed bugs would be vital to a bedbug-free home.
Introduction to bed bugs
Bed bugs have been feeding on human blood for quite some time now. They are not just a nuisance but are also considered as high-risk pests by at least three government agencies in the United States, namely the Environment Protection Agency, The United States Department of Agriculture, and the Center for Disease Control. This is despite the fact that bed bugs do not transmit any diseases. Bed bugs seem to attack us psychologically.
Bed bugs became prevalent in the United States in the early 1900s but have seen its numbers diminish during the ’50s and eventually disappeared due to improvements in pest control methods. Unfortunately, bed bugs made a huge comeback beginning in the 1990s, and are actually stronger than ever.
It is believed that the increase in the number of bed bugs is due to, ironically, the modern way of life. The rate of travel among Americans has increased. Americans travel all throughout the world, including places where bed bugs are aplenty. They sleep in places where there might be bed bugs; even 5-star hotels have them.
Other reasons for the continued increase in their number is the lack of awareness, ineffective bed bug control methods, and the bed bugs have increased resistance to pesticides.
What do bed bugs look like?
To be effective in getting rid of them, we must first learn how to identify bed bugs.
Bed bugs are tiny insects that are oval in shape. They are just the size of an Appleseed which is about ⅚ mm long, with flat bodies, and are brown, red, or yellow in color. After a blood meal, however, their bodies bloat and turn red. They are nocturnal, so they feed on human blood while we are asleep. They are said to be attracted to the heat of the human body. The female bed bugs lay over a hundred eggs over their lifetime, and they spread very fast so immediate detection and extermination are very important.
Bed bugs are a public health concern
Bed bugs are high health risks, though they actually do not transmit any diseases. They do deliver a variety of negative physical, mental, and economic consequences.
While some people would simply brush of bed bug bites as it heals on its own, some people exhibit allergic reactions which can be severe. In rare cases, people have anaphylaxis.
These bites can also lead to secondary infection on the skin, like impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis.
Bed bugs also impact people mentally. There are reported cases of insomnia, stress, social isolation, and even depression.
Studies about the health effects of bed bugs are actually limited, probably because bed bugs disappeared in the mid-1900s and only resurfaced in the 1990s. Now that they are back and are stronger than ever, more research is needed. Are they really not capable of transmitting diseases? What was the reason for their resurgence? What are their other impacts on public health? These are questions that needed to be answered.
Signs of bed bugs
Early detection of bed bugs is very critical. The clock starts ticking once a couple of bed bugs gets inside a home. Once they start to multiply, it would be very difficult to get rid of them. It is cheaper and easier to get rid of them when you discover them early on.
While bed bugs declined in population in the middle of the 1900s, they are very common nowadays. Pest control companies have reported that the majority of the calls they received are about bed bugs.
Bed bug bite marks are not accurate indicators, because it takes several days before these marks appear on the skin. By that time, bed bugs would have spread.
Listed below are some of the more accurate signs that get away the presence of bed bugs in your home:
- There are red stains on your mattresses caused by the bed bugs. Sometimes, you would unconsciously crush some bed bugs while you sleep, hence the blood spots.
- You smell sweet, the musty scent coming from the bed bugs. This is due to pheromones that bed bugs release that can give off quite a strong smell.
- You notice some dark, rusty spots on your mattress which are actually bed bug feces.
- You may also find dark spots on the walls. Bed bugs sometimes leave fecal marks on the walls, and this could only mean that the infestation has gotten heavy.
- You may find bed bug eggshells. These eggshells are white and appear as husk-like specs. You might find these shells in the mattress, or in the headboard. It is also possible that these could be found in between sofa cushions or under the furniture.
- Tiny white spots in the joints of the furniture. When you find these, inspect the rest of your things inside the house for possible bed bug infestation.
- If your neighbor has bed bugs, you should also be wary. Bed bugs can spread from person to person. Or their clothes may have bed bugs, and they come to visit you.
- Bringing in used furniture might also bring in bed bugs, so be careful when buying second-hand stuff.
- As for the bed bug bites, they appear in a line. This bite mark appearance is distinct to them, so you would know that the bites are from bed bugs. Mosquito bites do not appear in a pattern and are usually scattered all over the skin. Bed bug bites are itchy, followed by a burning sensation on the skin that may last for a few days. Redness on the skin will also be visible.
- Seeing actual bed bugs as described above.
The places to look for bed bugs include the seams of your mattresses, chairs, couches, and cushions. You should also look for them in the folds of your curtains, electrical receptacles, appliances, in the cracks of the bed frame, and the headboard.
Getting rid of bed bugs
Once you discover bed bugs in your home, act on it at once. There are several ways on how to stop them from spreading. It may not be easy and would take lots of patience. Here are some ways to get rid of them:
- Use your vacuum cleaner and vacuum the mattresses, sofas, chairs, beds, and anywhere you see or think the bed bugs may be hiding. Afterward, seal the bag and throw it outside the house. This will ensure that the bed bugs that got caught in the bag would not be able to return.
- If you live in an apartment with several units, it is much better to tell your landlord. They would be the ones to call the professional experts. This would need a large-scale control system to get rid of the bed bugs. Like we said earlier, bed bugs spread quickly, and your neighbors might have bed bugs too.
- Wash your bedding in hot, soapy water to kill the bed bugs. After washing, dry it using a dryer and set it on its maximum setting. Do this for 30 minutes. You may also put beddings in the freezer if it has bed bugs. Leave the item there for 4 days. Freezing the bed bugs also kills them. To achieve this, the temperature must be 0 degrees.
- Try to invest in bed bug proof mattress encasements. These are fabric sacks in which you can slide your mattress or even box springs into. This will protect you from bed bug bites as they would not be able to pass through it. These encasements are very smooth on the outside, making it hard for the bed bugs to latch on to.
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