Bed Bugs – What You Need to Know

Bed bugs are not a new problem. These pests have been around for thousands of years, but recently there has been a resurgence of bed bug activity worldwide. Bed bugs are often associated with unclean conditions, but the truth is that they are not particular; bed bugs will infest a clean home as readily as one that is dirty. Bed bugs do not transmit disease, but can cause property loss, expense, and inconvenience.

The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for signs of an infestation. Bed bugs are experts at hiding, and can fit into the smallest of spaces. They are usually transported from place to place as people travel. They can be carried in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, and bedding. Most people do not realize they are transporting bed bugs as they travel, infecting areas as they go.

How do you know if you have a bed bug infestation? One of the easiest ways to identify an infestation is if you experience bites on the face, neck, arms, hands, and other body parts while sleeping. However, the bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop, so it’s important to look for other clues:

  • The bed bugs’ exoskeletons left behind after molting.
  • Bed bugs in the folds of mattresses and sheets.
  • Rusty-colored blood spots on the mattress or nearby furniture. This is due to the blood-filled fecal matter bed bugs excrete.
  • A sweet musty odor.

In order to get rid of bed bugs, you must know what you are looking for and where to find them. Bed bugs are small, about the size of an apple seed, flattened, oval-shaped, and usually reddish-brown in color. Infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. Bed bugs are nocturnal, so during the day they may hide in places such as the seams of mattresses, headboards, behind wallpaper, or in any other clutter or objects around a bed. These are the best places to check if you are concerned about a bed bug infestation.

Infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or a professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. If the bites do not improve, see your healthcare provider.

Enjoy your travels this summer, but be sure you don’t bring home any unwanted guests! Make sure you inspect each place you stay as well as your own home. Check your hotel room mattress and the area around the bed before bringing in your luggage.  Keep your luggage off the bed, floor, chairs or other upholstered items.  If you do find that the room has bed bugs, wrap your suitcases in plastic garbage bags for the rest of the trip; vacuum them thoroughly and launder everything inside as soon as possible.  Used furniture, beds, and other items can also carry bed bugs, so use caution and carefully check any items before purchasing from thrift stores or rummage sales.

For more information about bed bugs, download our printable fact sheet or visit www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/.