What to do if you have bed bugs

bed bug crawling on white material

I am sure you have heard the rhyme, Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. My mom used to chant it to me every night as little girl and I remember feeling so comforted by it as I peacefully dozed to sleep.

Now, I shiver when I hear the rhyme. Bed bugs are real. The havoc they reap is anything but peaceful and endearing. In fact, my college neighbors picked up an old abandoned couch near a dumpster. The couch was decent looking and we were all poor college students, so finding a free piece of furniture was a total win, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Within just days after finding the couch, my neighbors complained about red bumps that marked their arms and necks. Next were the suspicious sightings. Little reddish brown, oval–shaped bugs were spotted near the couch and in their beds.

The warning signs were everywhere, but much like the seemingly innocent rhyme, nobody thought much of it.

As the bumps became more frequent, one neighbor grew concerned and visited the doctor. Expecting an allergic reaction as the diagnoses, my neighbor was left dumbfounded and disgusted with the doctor’s remarks.

You got it—bed bugs.

Now that we are all starting to itch, allow me to share a few facts I learned about these creepy crawlers from Infection Prevention at Banner Health.

Bed bugs are small, oval non-flying insects that are the size of an apple seed. Adults are reddish brown and nymphs are clear in color and appear bright red after feeding.

While they can appear anywhere in the home, they are more commonly found where people sleep in mattresses, box springs and bed frames.

“Bed bug bites are painless, but redness, swelling and itching are common. Bed bugs have not been proven to carry infection and usually no treatment for the bites is required.”

Long story short, my neighbors were forced to up their entire house, wash every article of clothing they owned at a Laundromat, and spend hundreds of dollars on pest control fees to rid their home of these six-legged, tiny vampires.

Having witnessed my neighbors alarming and expensive experience left me anxiously thinking, how can I prevent bed bugs?

First, you have to understand how they spread.

Bed bugs, eggs, or excrement can be present in furniture, clothing or bedding. They can also be found in boxes, suitcases or other articles and can be spread when these objects are moved around.

Second, you need to know how to detect them.

“Look in crevices and cracks on or near beds, under wallpaper, behind picture frames, in furniture, in bedsprings and under mattresses, and even articles of clothing,” according to Banner Health’s Infection Preventionists. “You may find fecal stains, egg cases, shed skins or the actual bed bug.”

Finally—and most importantly—you have to know how to get rid of them.

Hire a licensed pest control expert. Insecticide must be applied in all areas where the bugs were found as well as in their hiding places.

“Clothes and bedding need to be washed in hot water and then use a hot dryer.  You may want to take your clothes and bedding to a laundry mat instead of using your own washer and dryer,” is an additional recommendation.  “As a preventive measure, mattresses can be sealed in a bed bug prevention casing.”

My advice? Stay away from dumpster couches, seal your bed with prevention casing and take the nightly rhyme more seriously.

Check out more information on Infection Diseases.

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