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sleep tight....and don't let the super bed bugs bite!!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

sleep tight....and don't let the super bed bugs bite!!

I apparently live under a rock, and I needed my mother to truly explain to me that bed bugs were creatures that you could actually visualize.  i thought they were kind of like mites, and unseen to the human eye....and with things like that I do the "out of sight, out of mind" technique, especially since staying at The Ritz or Four Seasons doesn't mean that you are ensured a bed bug free night!  Once she told me, I basically freaked out, and am now obsessed, so this one goes out to me and everyone else who wants to know about these creepy crawlies, how to know if you have them and how to get RID of them!!

What are they?
They are small, oval, flat, wingless parasites that are the size of an apple seed from the Cimicidae family and they feed on human blood.

They got the name "bed bug" because that is where they most often live and easily hide so that they can come out at night and feast on you (Um, can you say gross?!?!) but they were also known as the wall louse, mahogany flats, and crimson ramblers.  They like to live close to their hosts so usually beds or couches, but they can also live in cars, luggage, and clutter which makes them hard to find, unless you have physical signs on your body, wake up with blood spots on your sheets, or find their poop around. When they bite you to eat your blood they can case skin rashes which can be small or their bites can cause full allergic reactions and result in blistering.

Apparently they were completely eradicated in the 1940's after major infestations through the use of DDT (which is now since banned), but there has been a significant resurgence in worldwide starting around 1995 which has many causes such as: increased foreign travel, increased trading of furniture/second hand furniture in homes, and a focus on other household pests (not worrying about bed bugs) leading to a pesticide resistance .  Now they have come back and are like super parasites, they can live at extremely high and low temperatures, their lifespan is totally bug dependent, and they only thing that they can't live in is carbon dioxide (but can still they can live for up to 7 days in straight CO2).  Really? AND they can live a YEAR without feeding but choose to eat every 5 to 10 minutes, so they totally aren't greedy little suckers (pun intended).  The good news is that their natural predators are spiders, mites, and cockroaches; I am not sure which I would prefer more, cockroaches or bed bugs, hmmmm....

The other good news is that they are not known to transmit disease, they are just gross and totally stress people out; on top of causing rashes!

How do I know if I have them?
You only really know if you have bed bugs by having random rashes, find blood spots on your sheets in the morning, and you can find with their carcasses (from when they die) or their poop around your dwelling.  A diagnosis of rash due to bed bugs is made by both the physical rash on your body and after searching for signs of them in your home.

What puts me at risk?
Living/staying at military barracks, apartment complexes, homeless shelters, dorms, hotels, refugee camps.

How can I find them?
Some pest control companies have detection devices that use heat and low amounts of carbon dioxide to trick the bugs into thinking that there are humans present and they come out of hiding.  There are also bed bug sniffing dogs that have been trained to find them and they have over 97% accuracy in finding them in homes, and take a matter of minutes as opposed to hours by a human pest control practitioner.

What do I do for treatment?
So, to treat your skin rashes, usually hydrocortisone cream will aid to diminish swelling and itching and an oral antihistamine (such as benadryl) will help to make the rash go away BUT you need to rid your home of the bugs and end exposure.

How do I rid my home?
Vacuuming: all rugs, beds, furniture with a good strong vacuum....maybe even rent one to ensure that you are sucking out the bugs
Hot Water: Wash all clothes, bed linens, towels, etc in water that is at east 120F to kill off the bugs
Heat: Ensure that once you wash your clothes in hot water, put the clothes in the dryer at medium to high heat for at a minimum of 20 minutes to kill bugs and their eggs.
Enclosed Vehicle: if you can't get access to a washer/dryer, just bag up the clothes, linens, etc, and park your car with closed windows directly in the sun for one day during the summer. The heat will get hot enough to kill off the bugs.
Freezing: If you live somewhere cold, bag everything and out it in weather that is below 32F for a few days, and that should also kill off the bugs (more time consuming, but it depends on the time of year and where you live!!)

**If these fail, then call an exterminator, and they can use harsh chemicals to treat the infestation, but be careful with children and animals and you will need to vacate your home for a while.

How do I prevent bites?
Wear long sleeved pajamas with pants to bed (if their is no exposed skin, they have nothing to bite!), and some studies suggest using mosquito netting around your bed (they are coated in pesticides).

How do I prevent infestations?
Inspect (thoroughly) second hand items for signs of bugs before bringing them into your home, and steam clean with high heat of necessary. At hotels, check mattress seams for bed bug excrement before laying in the bed, and place your luggage on top of dressers instead of on the floor.  Also, get rid of any bird/bat homes that may be in/on the outside of your home.  At your own home, mattress wrapping has been suggested as a treatment to contain them (see the added link).

So, now that I am totally creeped out and inspecting every single hotel and home I go to for bed bugs, I at least feel better knowing the deal and what to look for!  I hope you guys all stay bed bug free and know how to treat and prevent if you do have infestations!!

Yours in Good Health!
                                     B

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