How To Prevent Bed Bugs From Biting Me
Keeping Those Bed Bugs From Biting
Throughout my early childhood I was tucked into bed with a gentle admonition: “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Not that my parents or I had ever seen a bed bug or known anyone bitten by one.
But these days this old saying has resonance for many more people than in years past, including those who sleep in expensive homes and four-star hotels. Last month, a family living in a $3 million private house in Brooklyn discarded rooms’ worth of furniture, the cushions carefully slashed and notes attached saying the pieces had bed bugs and were not safe to take.
Had this been the case 40-odd years ago when I became a New York homeowner, I might have had a hard time furnishing my rooms; most were decorated with foundlings, including cushioned chairs. In those days, street scavengers like me had little reason to worry about bed bugs.
But the bed bug problem has become so widespread in 21st- century America that The Journal of the American Medical Association published a clinical review in April, “Bed Bugs and Clinical Consequences of Their Bites,” by Jerome Goddard, a medical entomologist at Mississippi State University, and Dr. Richard deShazo, an allergist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
A Growing Problem
Although this blood-sucking parasite has been around for thousands of years, it was mainly associated with impoverished dwellings and fleabag hotels. Now, as the authors pointed out, “international travel, immigration, changes in pest control practices, and insecticide resistance” have ganged up to create “a resurgence in developed countries,” including the United States.
“Bed bug infestations have been reported increasingly in homes, apartments, hotel rooms, hospitals and dormitories in the United States since 1980,” they wrote. Reported infestations in San Francisco doubled from 2004 to 2006; telephone complaints in Toronto rose 100 percent in six months during 2002; and the number of bed bug samples sent to authorities in Australia was 400 percent higher from 2001 to 2004, compared with the previous three years.
The critters can move easily from apartment to apartment through cracks in walls and floors. In the last fiscal year in New York City, a densely populated international destination with many people living in multifamily dwellings, bed bug complaints to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development rose to 8,840, nearly 2,000 more than in the previous fiscal year. And chances are, most residents of infested households, especially those in single-family dwellings, co-ops and condominiums, never complained to this agency.
There is some good news about bed bugs. The journal authors reported that although the insects have been blamed for transmitting more than 40 human diseases, “there is little evidence that such transmission has ever occurred.”
The bad news is that even if bed bugs don’t spread hepatitis or AIDS, they can engender feelings of shame and disgust, and they are difficult and often costly to eliminate.
Adult bed bugs are easy to see, but only if you look at the right time during the night on or near a human target. They do most of their feeding around 4 a.m.
The insects resemble ticks. Before a blood meal they are about three-eighths of an inch long, reddish brown, with a long nose tucked under a pyramid-shaped head and chest. After feeding, they may grow to more than half an inch. But you are more likely to see their remains in the morning: tiny black specks of excrement or perhaps a blood stain on the sheet if the sleeper happened to land on a well-fed bug.
During the day, bed bugs remain in the dark, hidden in mattress cords, cracks and crevices of box springs or seams of upholstered furniture, in the backs of headboards or joints of wooden bed frames, under loosened wallpaper, or even behind picture frames over a bed but almost always near where people spend the night.
Most people who are bitten by bed bugs do not react. Of the 30 percent or so who do, many mistake the small, pink, itchy bumps for mosquito bites, although people may become more suspicious and more sensitive with repeated bites.
People who are highly sensitive react with intense itching that prompts scratching and can lead to infections. One Brooklyn family did not know they were sharing quarters with bed bugs until a sensitive relative visited and woke in the morning with very itchy bites.
Still others may experience more extreme reactions, including asthma, generalized hives, and even a life-threatening allergy (anaphylaxis) that requires emergency treatment with epinephrine.
But most bed bug lesions can be treated with an anti-itch product like calamine lotion or a topical or oral corticosteroid and antihistamine. If bites become infected, a topical or oral antibiotic may be needed.
Prevention and Elimination
There is no effective repellent against bed bugs, so avoidance is the best protection. Resist the temptation to pick up discarded mattresses, sofas, cushioned chairs and similar furnishings that could harbor the bugs. If you can’t pass up clothes left out for the taking, carry them away in a plastic bag and then either wash them as soon as possible in very hot water, place them in a hot dryer or have them dry cleaned.
The journal authors advise that “items purchased at garage sales and resale shops, especially mattresses, box springs and bedding, be carefully inspected for bed bugs before they are brought into homes.”
It also helps to rid the house of clutter that can provide hiding places for the bugs. When traveling, check the bed for evidence of bugs before you get in. And when you return home, check your luggage for bugs that may have come along.
Home remedies usually ineffective are legion. One family tried standing the legs of their beds in dishes of mineral oil, which stained the floor but did not deter the bugs. The family ended up hiring a professional exterminator, which is often a more cost-effective strategy than do-it-yourself methods. After repeated treatments to the family’s apartment and the neighbors’, the exterminator now does routine maintenance.
Pesticide sprays are not recommended for use on bedding. More effective, though no bargain, is to encase the mattress and box spring in covers like those used against dust mite allergy. (They can be found for around $50 for a twin bed.)
Other remedies include high-suction vacuuming or heat or steam treatments of infested furniture, also best done by licensed professionals. If space and time are available, furniture suspected to harbor bed bugs can be placed in the sun for several days or out in the winter cold for about two weeks. The bugs can survive indoors for a long time without feeding, but when they are exposed to temperature extremes outside and have no food source, they die off or disappear.
How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites
How to prevent bed bug bites. that’s front and center in the mind of anyone dealing with the irritating little critters. Here are three strategies that work – and a few important warnings. While you may not be able to get rid of bed bug bites all together, there are certainly things you can do to reduce how often these buggers make a meal of you.
How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites by the Numbers
No calculator needed. The math is really simple.
Fewer Bed Bugs = Fewer Bites
Reducing your bed bug infestation is the most obvious way to prevent bed bug bites, even if it’s not the easiest. The more bed bugs you can get rid of (or contain), the more you will prevent the bites. It’s simple math.
Use the IPM (Integrated pest management) techniques laid out in the bed bug control section of this site. Follow the plan laid out by your exterminator. Or if you are going the DIY route (not recommended unless you have no choice), create your best IPM action plan using our step-by-step tutorial. All of the suggestions below are only effective as part of a coordinated plan to eliminate the bed bug infestation in your home.
How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites by Protecting the Bed
Regardless of whether you are working with an exterminator or not,the single best thing you can do to prevent bed bug bites is to protect your bed.
Encase your mattress, pillows and box spring in a good quality mattress encasement that is designed for bed bugs.The encasements trap the bedbugs that are living there and prevents them from biting you.It also makes it easy to spot (and kill) the ones that show up from other hiding places. Obviously, that also helps you accomplish bed bug bite prevention tactic #1 above. Nice how that works, right?
Also, use bed bug detectors/traps like the climb-up interceptors to catch вЂem on the way up to the bed and on the way down. These won’t eliminate your bed bug infestation on their own, but they will help protect you from being bitten.
Prevent Bed Bug Bites by Covering Up and Getting Tucked in Tight
Bed bugs typically bite on exposed skin, so wear pajamas with long pants and long sleeves if at all possible.Even if its late July and the heat index is 100. Crank up the A/C if necessary! The middle of a full-fledged bed bug infestation isnotthe time to be sleeping in your skivvies, or worse yet, your birthday suit!
Sleep under the covers and tuck them in tight.(Maybe that’s where the old saying вЂњsleep tight, donвЂ™t let the bed bugs biteвЂќ came from?) Again, bed bugs have difficulty biting through fabric and are looking for exposed skin. So not giving them any skin to feast on is a solid strategy to prevent bed bug bites.
Note:This will really only work if you have properly protected the bed with mattress and box spring encasements.
Things That Will NOT Prevent Bed Bug Bites
Many peopleвЂ™s first instinct is to move to another room to avoid getting bitten.BAD IDEA.They will follow you and you will just spread the infestation to other parts of the house. Bed Bugs are attracted to the heat of our bodies and the carbon dioxide we exhale, so they can find you – and they will – no matter where you go to try to avoid them.
Some people also believe that leaving the light on at night will prevent them from coming out.Unfortunately, this is a myth. While they are nocturnal and prefer the cover of darkness, they are blood thirsty and they will go to extremes if necessary to get their next meal. So leaving the lights on won’t go a long way to prevent bed bug bites. See more bed bug control "DOs and DON’Ts" here.
A Few Words About Bed Bug Repellents
While it mayseemlike bed bug repellents are a logical way to prevent bed bug bites, in reality they do more harm than good.Repellents can be a bad idea for a number of reasons:
- Many repellents you spray on your skin are not intended to be applied to skin that will be covered or left on for long periods of time (Read the label!)
- You canвЂ™t wear bug repellent 24 hrs a day. TheyвЂ™ll just find you in the daytime in another part of the house (same logic as sleeping in another room applies here too)
- Repellents that you spray on the bed may not be safe for you to sleep on (again, always read the label first)
Some people have recommended using a number of essential oils as a natural bed bug repellents. They may be a safer option and may work at preventing bed bug bites in the short-term. But again, that’s not really going to solve your problem.
Notwithstanding the health and safety concerns, repellents are just going to drive bed bugs further into their hiding places – and they can live there for up to 18 months without a blood meal – so in reality, you are not really preventing bed bug bites. You are just prolonging your agony.
There’s also one reason why it would be a good idea to just go ahead and "let the bed bugs bite". Ormore accurately(if you’ve protected the bed correctly), let themtryto bite.
You Need to Bait Them to Get Rid of Them
What? Let the bedbugs try to bite me?!That’s right, and here’s the reason why.
If you want to get rid bed bugs, you’re going to have to draw them out and so they can meet their death on their way to you. Unfortunately, that meansyouare the bait. If you’re using residual spray insecticides or bed bug dust (DE) they have to come in contact with it for it to kill them.
The bottom line is this. in most cases you are going to have to endure at leastsomebites for at leasta little whileto effectively get rid of the bed bugs. The trick is to make it as few bites as possible, for little time as possible.
ThereвЂ™s no doubt about it вЂ“ bed bug bites are a pain! So to ease your mind (and soothe your itch), here are some treatment tips for making your bed bug bites a little more bearable.
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How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites
Each of us needs a good night’s rest to function properly the next morning. Naturally, the last thing one wants is to wake up with bed bug bites. In this guide, we shall discuss a few ways to prevent bed bug bites at home or when traveling or sleeping in infested hotels. We will also discuss a few natural ways to prevent bed bug bites and stop further scarring.
How to prevent bed bug bites at home
The best way to prevent bed bug bites at home is to eliminate these pests completely. To do so, one can use a number of methods and techniques. There are many efficient ways of killing bed bugs ranging from DIY (do-it-yourself) treatments to professional ones.
- The natural DIY techniques include application of diatomaceous earth powders, CO2 traps, borax, and steam or heat treatments. These can get rid of the larvae, eggs and adult bed bugs slowly yet effectively.
- One can also make a natural bed bug trap using sticky tapes to catch and eliminate the bugs.
- It is important to vacuum the entire home and wash all bedding material and clothing in hot water laundry to kill all the larvae, eggs and adult bed bugs. This is an important step to prevent bed bug bites.
- When using chemical treatments like sprays and powders, care must be taken not to spray them on electrical outlets or other electronic goods etc.
- It is necessary to avoid picking up furniture from the curbside or garage sales etc as this is one of the most common ways of bringing in these unwanted pests into the homes.
How to prevent bed bug bites when traveling or staying in hotels
The last thing you want is an uncomfortable night due to bed bug bites when staying in a hotel. Experts recommend several tips to prevent bed bug bites when spending a night or two away from home.
- As soon as you check into the hotel, stash the luggage in the bathroom (as this is the only place where bed bugs will not hide in).
- Next, you must check the bedding by pulling back the linen and inspecting all areas behind the headboard.
- Look out for red/brown stains which are the fecal matter or discarded exoskeletons of the bed bugs.
- It is also important to check furniture, art frames and cushion seams in the hotels order to prevent bed bug bites when staying away from home.
Naturally, if you do see these tell-tale signs, you must call the hotel management and ask for another room or, better yet, move to another hotel.
How to prevent bed bug bites naturally and prevent further scarring
- There are many natural, essential oils that can help relieve itching and pain associated with bed bug bites.
- To prevent bed bug bites in the first place, you can even use certain organic soaps and lotions that help repel these pests. Bathing with chamomile soap or applying calendula lotion to the body can help prevent bed bug bites. These products are also gentle enough for use on baby’s skin.
- Witch hazel lotion and organic apple cider vinegar can also help prevent itching and pain on the affected region.
- Lavender, rosemary, and eucalyptus oils can also be added to rubbing alcohol for spraying on headboards, mattresses and the legs of the bed to prevent bed bug bites.
- If the bed bug bite marks are already present, ensure washing the skin with hot water to dry them out. Apply aloe vera gel or an anesthetic lotion immediately to prevent scarring.
- Rubbing an ice cube on the skin can also numb the area to prevent pain and scarring.
- If needed, take an antihistamine like Benadryl to prevent itching caused by the bed bug bites.
Bed bug infestation can be a pesky problem that can ruin a good night’s rest. The best way to prevent bed bug bites is to ensure taking care of the infestation by using one of the bed bug elimination methods described on this blog.
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How to Prevent Bed Bugs
Updated: April 11, 2019
This article was co-authored by Jurdy Dugdale, RN. Jurdy Dugdale is a Registered Nurse in Florida. She received her Nursing License from the Florida Board of Nursing in 1989.
There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
Bed bugs are a growing concern since they’ve become more common in recent years and are extremely difficult to exterminate. While hotels are high on the list of bed bug concerns, any public place can be a haven for bed bugs. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent a bed bug infestation in your home. By avoiding contaminated materials, avoiding bed bugs while traveling, and protecting your home, you can prevent bed bugs.
About this article
To prevent bed bugs, use protective plastic covers on your mattress and box springs so bed bugs will not be able to infect your bed even if you accidentally bring them home. When you’re staying in a hotel, check the sheets, mattress, and headboard for small brownish bugs, and contact management if you find any. Wash your travel clothes separately from your regular laundry and dry them on the highest possible heat setting. To learn how using essential oils can help repel bed bugs, read on!
How to prevent bed bugs from biting
Bed bugs or their eggs get into clothing, furniture or suitcases and are then transported wherever these items go. As they are small and like to hide in cracks and crevices during the day, it can be very easy for bed bugs to be brought into your home or hotel.
How do you get bed bugs?
Typically, bed bugs are transferred from one spot to another when individuals travel. These pests can move via furniture, luggage, and more. You may not notice a bed bug infestation for several months or longer.
Bed bug prevention tips
There are some preventative steps you can take, especially if you are a frequent traveller, to prevent this pest from invading your home or business.
Preventing bed bugs in your home
If you are worried you have brought bed bugs back home after your travels, there are a few things you can do to reduce them from spreading to your home:
- Leave your luggage in your garage or in the bathroom. Bed bugs don’t like the tiles or concrete and if they are present you will see then easier than on carpet!
- (If you’re REALLY worried), take your clothes off in the garage or bathroom and put them straight into the washing machine.
- Wash and dry clothes at the highest possible temperatures.
- Professional bed bug treatments are always the best solution to get rid of bed bugs. However as a precaution and if possible you can put your suitcase in the sun, away from the house for a couple of days, to help eradicate any bed bugs.
- Vacuuming can greatly reduce the size of the bed bug population, but only when they’re clearly visible. It cannot guarantee total elimination. (Empty and clean the vacuum to avoid transferring eggs to other rooms.)
How hotels & universities can prevent bed bugs
With the number of guests moving in and out of your hotel or dorm rooms, it is impossible to completely prevent bed bugs. However, there are ways you can prevent an infestation taking hold and moving from room to room and that is via early detection:
- Train your staff on how to identify common signs of bed bugs.
- Ensure thorough checking for bed bugs is written into your room cleaning processes.
- Have a procedure in place for handling bed bug complaints.
- Inspect adjacent rooms to identify if the bed bugs have spread (although Ehrlich will do this as part of our emergency response survey).
- Immediately contact Ehrlich to arrange a thorough inspection and bed bug control program.
Call Ehrlich at 1-800-837-5520 orcontact usfor expert bed bug treatment and prevention for your home or business.
Avoiding bed bugs while travelling
One of the most likely ways a property becomes infested with bed bugs is when people accidentally bring bed bugs home with them after travelling. Hotels are frequented from travellers from all over the world, including some people who live in areas of the U.S. or the world where bed bugs are more common. Fortunately, there are some things you can do decrease the possibility of bed bugs hitching a ride on you or your luggage to your home.
- Inspect your hotel room upon arrival looking for live bed bugs or discarded bed bug exoskeletons. Spots in your room to check include:
- Beds – focusing on the mattresses and behind the bed frames
- Any furniture in the room
- Closets and dresser drawers
- Stands for luggage
Bed bug mattress encasements
Encasing your mattress in a high quality encasement that is designed to control bed bugs is a good preventative measure for keeping bed bugs out of your box spring and mattress. Bed bug mattress encasements are designed to provide complete protection against allergens, dust mites and bed bugs.
Encasements eliminate bed bug entry and escape points. Allowing for a healthy, allergy free sleep zone, mattress encasements also provide moisture protection while still allowing for breathability.
The benefits of mattress encasements include:
- Prevent bed bugs from invading or escaping
- Helps prevent re-infestations
- Aids in early detection of bed bugs
- Chemical free
- Easy to use and install
- Cool and comfortable to sleep on
- Enable easy bed inspection and bed bug removal
Mattress encasement features:
- Bed bug and dust mite proof
- Reduces the number of pest harborage areas
- Helps protect new or salvage infected bedding
- Washable, absorbent, waterproof and breathable
- Sealed seam zipper closures
Contact Ehrlich online or call 800-837-5520 for more information on bed bug mattress encasements and other bed bug treatment solutions.
Can you see bed bugs?
You may wonder whether bed bugs are even visible, if you are planning to check for them. Yes, you can see these pests – but they are small. Adult bed bugs are about 3/16 inch in length and brown in color; after they feed, their color is reddish brown.
How to not get bit by bed bugs
Here are some other prevention tips to follow:
- To avoid bed bugs, examine used objects (such as furniture) that you have bought for bed bugs, prior to taking the objects inside.
- Clean up, so bed bugs don’t have as many spots to hide.
If you do have a bed bug infestation, learn what to do. Remember to contact Ehrlich for help with any bed bug difficulties!