The Bed Bug Epidemic: How to Protect Yourself

Remember that old expression, “sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite?” For many of us, it was nothing more than a cute saying. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. There has been an epidemic of bed bugs across the United States with more and more cities being affected every day. Worried about these blood-sucking little critters? Whether you’ve been infested or are trying to avoid them, there are ways to protect yourself from these troublesome insects.

About Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that live by sucking on the blood of humans and warm-blooded animals. They are quite small, only a few millimeters in length and not much bigger than an apple seed.

It’s often hard to spot these critters, as they like to hide and only come out at night to feed. There are some telltale signs, however. If you notice brown flakes, splotches or tiny bloodstains on your sheets or mattress you likely have an infestation.

Common hiding areas for bed bugs obviously include mattresses, box springs, headboards, and bed frames, but they can also be found in sofas, curtains, carpet edges and any other soft, warm and dark place.

As for those pesky bites, they will appear as small raised, red rash-like bumps on arms, hands, neck, and face. Most people experience mild itching and discomfort, but some can have rare and severe allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock.

Protecting Yourself

If you’ve already been infested with bed bugs, the only real option is to have a professional exterminator remove them. Sprays, bug bombs, and other treatments rarely work. You can, however, help things along by vacuuming bedding and spraying rubbing alcohol on affected areas. It should slow down the infestation until the exterminator can take over.

To avoid an infestation or prevent one from returning, there are several things you can do:

  • First, understand where you are most likely to pick up bed bugs. Hotels, hospitals, schools, dorms, movie theaters, mass transit trains, planes, cruise ships, and multi-dwelling units are all possibilities.
  • The cleanliness of a place is not a factor. Any area with a high turnover rate of people is a potential bed bug zone. While you may not be able to avoid these areas, do be aware.
  • Next, when coming into contact with a bed bug zone, inspect your bags, luggage, and clothing for bed bugs. Try to do so in the garage or another isolated area away from carpets, bedding, and furniture.
  • Keep your bedding and bed area clean. Vacuum mattresses and carpets regularly and wash bedding in hot water and dry on high heat.
  • Consider buying bed bug encasements for your mattress, box spring, and pillows.
  • Avoid buying used bedding, couches or clothing.
  • Always research hotels when traveling and inspect the room and bed when you arrive.
  • Keep luggage on luggage racks and away from the bed. Wrap in a plastic bag for extra protection.

Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years and aren’t leaving anytime soon. Be forewarned, forearmed and protect yourself.

Photo: Pexels

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