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By: Jasna Aleksandrova

What are bed bugs and how do you prevent them from infesting your home?

Recent studies concerning bed bug infestations show that they are menacing pests in the modern age. A few of the reasons for their quick expansion are that more people are traveling due to globalization, inexpensive opportunities to travel internationally and immigration.  Bed bugs are known worldwide, they have persisted from ancient times and have been a big problem in the past. The western world managed to get rid of them in the middle of the 20th century when pesticides like DDT were used. By using heavy pesticides, the western world has remained largely trouble free from bed bugs until the last decade when their infestation began to grow again. Although the western world was largely rid of bed bugs they have persisted in the less developed parts of the world like Africa and Asia, and by increased international travel they are back. However, international travel is not the only reason for this return. The current use of less effective insecticides that are not as harmful to humans, cities large with populations, increased use of hotels, rental apartments and public shelters, can be added onto the list of causes.

What you need to know about bed bugs

Bed bugs are blood sucking insects but although they feed on blood and can carry pathogens there has been no evidence of them transferring infections. Bed bugs look like apple seeds in shape and size, they are reddish-brown in color, but they are flat. When they feed, their color will change to dark red. Their flat bodies allow them to easily hide in cracks and small crevasses around home, in the furniture, under and along the edges of mattresses, behind headboards or in the bed frames. They are more commonly found in bedrooms where people usually spend a longer time resting. They do not fly but they do crawl and are pretty quick. Usually people do not notice them when they are attacking and retreating into their hiding places because bites are painless. Their feeding times are estimated to be from three to ten minutes depending on how big or hungry the bed bug is. After being bitten, people will notice itchy red welts on the skin but not every person gets them. Most people don’t react to the bites at all, or have a delayed reaction that can take days or even weeks to show up. These bites are often mistaken for mosquito bites which is one of the reasons why finding out that bed bugs are infesting the house is difficult.

Important tips to remember when dealing with bed bugs

To discover an infestation one must know what to look for. The best indication is dark red or brown blood stains on the bed sheet, on or underneath mattresses, on the pillowcases, or in the area around the bed. These stains are made when the bed bugs digest the blood. You may also find skin castings left by them while they grow when looking for the bugs. The most important thing to remember is that when you find bed bugs you need to stop looking for them any further and start controlling the infestation immediately. Once you find bed bugs in your home, the best solution is to call an experience professional. It is very difficult to rid a house of bed bugs yourself and it is common to make mistakes. Bed bugs can easily disappear throughout the house once you start trying to treat them yourself. At that point, getting rid of them can be long lasting and expensive.

Steps to prevent bed bugs from infesting your home

Keeping bed bugs out of your home is the best way to protect your house, obviously, but this is easier said than done. Avoiding them is difficult because they are so hard to spot and people are not aware that they are transferring them. When staying in a hotel check the room, especially the bed, bed sheets, pillows and mattress, for small, rust colored spots. Never leave luggage on the floor, or by the bed, and use the luggage rack. Inspect your luggage when repacking and upon returning home, wash all of the clothing immediately or put them in the dryer for 15 minutes at highest temperature. You can also prevent bed bugs by keeping your home clean, changing and washing bed sheets frequently, inspecting your house thoroughly when moving in, and after guests sleep over. Check kids backpacks and clothing regularly, especially during the preschool or kindergarten years or if they are in daycare, when they generally have a nap time and are exposed to many other children. Don’t buy second hand mattresses and if you do buy second hand furniture, inspect it closely for bed bugs before bringing it home.

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