Bed bugs tap-danced their way across New York City this summer, and now there's news of more bed bug infestations across the country.
Fall and winter mean holiday travel, and travel presents some of bed bugs' favorite opportunities to spread: They love taxis, hotel rooms, seats on subway platforms, coat checks, airplane cargo holds...if you thought bed bugs spiked this summer, just wait until the season gets into full swing. (Get a head start on the season with these fun ideas!)
There's no foolproof way of keeping bed bugs out of your life (and thinking you're immune makes you a fool), but there are ways to minimize your risk and catch infestations before they get serious. Here's what you need to know.
Bed bugs are skilled travelers. They can hitch a ride into your home on used furniture (upholstered AND wooden pieces; they love small spaces, and can both hide and lay eggs in the tiniest crack). They can infest your luggage via hotel rooms and taxi trunks (a favorite hiding place). They can hop between garments in a coat check. Bottom line: Don't think they can't get to you. Know what they look like and how to get rid of them. Bed bug fear got you down? Making over the bed won't prevent the critters, but it will brighten your spirits.
Bed bugs look like this, and this (when they stain your furniture and bed), and this. Unless you can't see them, that is - and if they're hiding from the light or they're eggs that haven't hatched, you can't see them. (That last link will walk you through how to stay clear of bed bugs while traveling - it's worth a look.) Beware of these other dangers that might be lurking in your home.
You might not be able to tell that bed bugs are biting you. The bites themselves are painless, and some people don't react to being bitten by developing lesions (i.e., redness). Learn to diagnose these common kid rashes.
You need professional help to get rid of bed bugs. If you live in a rental, your landlord is probably responsible for pest control; he or she will arrange for inspection and extermination, if necessary. Alert him or her immediately if you think you're infested. If you own your home and think you might have bed bugs, call a local exterminator ASAP.
Sounds like fun, right? If none of these things apply to you and we've made you feel unnecessarily itchy, we apologize. If some of them do apply to you, you have our condolences: Know that while bed bugs are awful, they're the sort of awful you eventually get through and then feel tough and useful for surviving. Really.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.