Bed bugs are among the most troublesome pests homeowners can encounter in their homes. They are small brownish parasites that live on human or other warm-blooded animals' blood. Mature bed bugs have flat bodies of about 5 to 7 mm in length. They don't fly, so they rely on people or animals to move from place to place.
Female bed bugs lay numerous eggs throughout their lifetime. Before reaching maturity, nymphs or immature bed bugs cast off their skin about five times and must feed before every shedding. Nymphs can develop fully within a month and give at least three generations every year when the conditions are favorable. Although bed bugs have become a public health concern, they aren't known to transmit infections via their bites.
Bed bugs can live in the bed, carpet, clothing, furniture, and other items. However, bed bug infestations commonly occur in beds, including bed frames, box springs, and mattresses. In most cases, bed bugs become active at night, biting any exposed skin areas, such as face, neck, arms, legs, shoulders, and arms, while a person is asleep. Over time, bed bugs can scatter through the home, especially the bedroom, hiding in any crevice, seams, or cracks.
Signs of Bed Bugs
Generally, the bite is painless, and thus, most people can confuse it with a rash of another cause. Bed bugs use an elongated beak to perforate the skin and suck blood. It usually takes them 10-30 minutes to get full. However, bed bugs might not feed every night. They can go several days without feeding, and thus, it might take several days to notice the bites. Most bed bug bites result in discomfort, basically itchy or swollen areas they didn't have when sleeping. Other indicators of a bed bug invasion include:
- Rusty or dark spots on fabrics due to bed bug excrement
- Bloodstains on bedsheets and other beddings
- Spotting the bugs themselves
- Clear or white skins, shed by nymphs as they develop
- Foul odor from the bed bug's scent glands
- A burning sensation
- Swollen, red welts
Although relatively rare, some people can develop severe reactions following bed bug bites. Severe symptoms that require prompt medical attention include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
Living with bugs can cause other health complications, including:
- Sleep deprivation- The thought of being fed on can be disturbing. Considering that bed bugs mostly feed at night, some individuals can avoid sleep or only get restless sleep.
- Decreased wellbeing- The misconceptions around bed bugs, particularly the mistaken relation to lack of cleanliness, can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
The best time to look for tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation is at night when they get out to feed.
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs
The best way to eradicate bed bugs is to prevent them from getting into the human environment in the first place. Tips for preventing, controlling, and getting rid of bed bugs include:
- Clean linens, beddings, and other clothing in hot water and let them dry on the highest dryer setting.
- Vacuum and steam clean the mattresses, floors, pillows, furniture, and surrounding areas regularly. After vacuuming, place the vacuum cleaner in a polythene bag and keep it outdoors.
- Use mattress covers to prevent bed bugs from entering or escaping and feeding. Bugs can survive for long without feeding, so encase the mattress for at least one year to ensure all the bugs in the mattress starve to death.
- Fill gaps and cracks in furniture with products such as caulk or glue to eliminate places where bugs can hide.
- Remove any clutter around the bed.
In severe cases, infected items or furniture might need to get destroyed, ideally by burning. Also, it might be best to have a licensed pest control company inspect and get rid of the bed bugs. Keep in mind that some insecticides can be toxic, especially to children, so make sure to purchase EPA-registered chemical products.