Bed bugs have been staging a comeback. Thanks in part to the ban on DDT, the use of less toxic (but less effective) pesticides, and the rise in international travel, these relentless, resilient, reddish-brown pests are quickly becoming a part of modern life.
This is important for a few reasons. First, bed bugs are surprisingly easy to pick up. Many victims unknowingly carry them home in their suitcases after traveling and staying in hotels. Second, they're as tough to remove as a months-old red wine stain. These buggers can live many months without eating. Eradicating them is no DIY job, either. A call to a pest control professional is recommended if you spot them. Third, since they shun daylight, bed bugs typically wait until nightfall to make an appearance, often nibbling on you or your pet while you sleep.
And finally, these critters don't discriminate. Anyone is fair game-whether you live in a spotless two-story home in the suburbs or a rundown studio apartment in the middle of a city.
Is your home prepared for an emergency?
Here's what you need to know to help prevent bringing home this most unwanted guest.
Signs of Bed Bugs
Know the telltale signs that bed bugs have set up shop:
• Adult bed bugs have flat, reddish-brown colored, oval bodies about the size of an apple seed.
• After eating, bed bugs will leave blood spots and dark fecal stains.
• As they grow, bed bugs shed their skins and leave behind light-brown exoskeleton shells.
Where to Look for Bed Bugs
• Pull back the bedspread and sheets to inspect the mattress seams of all the beds in the room. Run your finger along the entire seam, checking for dark brown spots.
• Check along the bed frame and, if possible, behind the headboard.
• Look inside dresser table drawers, being sure to inspect the side facing the wall.
• Examine upholstered chairs, focusing on the seams, tufts, and crevices.
• Inspect bed sheets for small bloodstains, evidence that you've been bitten while sleeping. Sometimes bed bug bites go unnoticed, because people don't get an immediate reaction or blame mosquitoes for the red bumps.
• If you're staying in a hotel, check roll-in cribs and folding beds, since they could have been in an infested room.
Rid your home of cockroaches
Protect Yourself from Bed Bugs While Traveling
• Before getting settled in your hotel room, thoroughly inspect the room for bed bugs or prior bed bug infestation. Look for dark spots or light brown exoskeleton skins that bed bugs shed as they grow. These critters like to feed on peoples' exposed skin while they're sleeping, so check hiding spots that are 5 to 10 feet from sleeping and sitting areas. Since bed bugs don't like light, they'll be hiding in areas that are usually dark or have very low light.
• Keep your suitcases elevated off the floor. When you're ready to leave, double-check your luggage and its contents for any infestation. This may be bothersome, but it reduces the chances of hitchhiking bed bugs coming home with you.
• If you do find bed bugs, report it to management and stay at another hotel, or ask to be given another room that isn't directly adjacent to, above, or below the infested room.
• Once home, launder your clothing in the hottest water safe for fabric and dry on the highest recommended setting. Vacuum the interior and exterior of your suitcases and backpacks. Then thoroughly clean the vacuum's dust canister, or discard the used vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag before vacuuming another room.
• Before your next stay, check out Bed Bug Registry, a free public database where travelers report bed bug experiences they've had at hotels in the United States and Canada. You can search by hotel name, city, and state to see if your hotel has had any reported incidences of unwanted guests.
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Tell Us: Have you ever had a run-in with bed bugs? How did you get rid of them?
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.