Though all but eradicated for the past 50 years, bedbugs are making a comeback around the world. In fact, reports of bed bug infestations have grown dramatically in the U.S. over the past year and are increasingly becoming a major concern.
Reddish-brown, wingless, and oval-shaped, bed bugs can be as big as apple seeds when bloated with blood (which they suck from humans with their long, sharp beaks).
Their bites, though not painful at the time of impact, result in red, itchy, and sometimes painful welts that usually last for three days or longer. Bed bugs typically attack at night while their victims are fast asleep and can consume their entire weight in blood in a mere five minutes.
Most unlucky folks pick up bed bugs from traveling. The tenacious insects latch on to luggage or clothes and unknowing travelers carry them into hotel rooms or back home. They can also be transferred by old mattresses or sometimes even new ones, if a furniture store happens to pick up old beds and carry them in delivery vans alongside new mattresses.
Most of the time, the bites give the bugs away. But looking for tiny bloodstains or light brown marks on mattresses and sheets can also spot bed bugs.
If you suspect you have them, check underneath the seams of your mattress, the box spring, behind your headboard, your rugs, and the corners of your room. To catch them at night (they are most active between 3 and 5 a.m.), turn off the light, grab a flashlight, and inspect your sheets for any signs.
The bad news is that bed bug infestations are extremely difficult to eliminate. If your house is infested, you need to call an exterminator. And more than likely you'll need to toss out your mattress, too.
At the very least, you will need to thoroughly vacuum your mattress and scrub it with a stiff brush to dislodge the bugs and their eggs, then cover it in a high quality "barrier bedding," like Allergy Luxe's Bed Bug Barrier, available at Bed, Bath and Beyond, which seals tightly around the infested mattress, trapping the bed bugs inside.
Vacuuming and scrubbing your entire house, as well as washing all bedding, clothes, and linens in hot water is also a necessary step to banish the bugs. Just be sure to remove and seal the vacuum cleaner bag immediately to prevent the bugs from escaping back into your home.
Don't wait until the critters are biting before you do something about getting rid of them. Safeguard your bed with a barrier pillow and mattress encasement (like the one offered by Allergy Luxe), and then follow these top tips when traveling:
1. Invest in smooth, hard luggage as opposed to the cloth variety, which gives bed bugs plenty of nooks and crannies to burrow in.
2. Booking a hotel room? Do a quick Google search on the place you're thinking of staying with the words "bed bugs" (for example, XYZ Hotel and bed bugs) and see if anything comes up, like a previous guest complaining of an infestation.
3. Always use the suitcase stand provided in your hotel room, but check it out first to be sure there are no pests hanging out on it.
4. Keep your clothes off the bed - use the closet or keep them in your suitcase.
5. Inspect your items carefully for any signs of bugs before you enter your house. Then unpack your suitcase on a light-colored surface, like a bathroom counter, to see if you brought bugs home with you.
6. Wash all of your traveling clothes with hot water (and keep them sealed in a plastic bag until you do laundry).
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