Bed bugs are invading, and they’re making a big comeback for two reasons. The original pesticides that were once used to kill the little buggers are no longer allowed, and the more the city population continues to grow, the larger the problem becomes. With a lot of information available online, in forums and in the comment section of news articles, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the tiny undying creatures. If your room has become invaded, or you’re looking to prevent the problem read on for helpful information:
Bed bugs are mischievous and can crawl into almost every tiny little crack and crevice possible; their small size and hard shell body make this extremely easy. Although it is said if they’re trying to get in, they’ll get in, there are a few affordable steps you can take to help prevent the problem, or identify it early on.
Away from Home
Bed bugs all come from somewhere, whether they crawled into luggage from the hotel you were at last week, scurried up your backpack while on the bus, or even onto your sweater while at a movie theater or library. When you’re away from home be aware of where you’re putting your belongings at all time (hotels, hostels and college dorm rooms especially).
When staying a hotel never put your belongings on the floor. Instead, opt for the luggage stand that most hotels provide, and keep it a distance away from walls or furniture. Although bed bugs cannot fly, they definitely have no problem crawling up walls or furniture. If you would like even more sense of security, put your luggage and belongings into garbage bags (either in clear bags or keep them labelled so housekeeping doesn’t throw them out). Thankfully, if the garbage bags are sealed, bed bugs cannot get in. *Note: If the hotel you’re staying at does not have a luggage stand, put them in a tiled area. Bed bugs much prefer carpet and hardwood over tile, as they find the surface somewhat difficult to crawl on.
Inside the Home
A few adjustments in and around the home can make a big difference in preventing an invasion – especially if there are rumoured bed bugs in your building complex. First start by clearing clutter and vacuuming your house at least once a week paying close attention to baseboards and tiny cracks at the bottom of your walls. Then, buy a mattress and box spring cover. These covers don’t have to be expensive and can be easily found at your local department store or home furnishing store such as Bed Bath and Beyond or Beddington’s. Before covering your mattress and box spring thoroughly vacuum them (with a cleaned vacuum head), then zip up the cover and leave it on. Move the bed and bedding away from the walls, just enough so that it is not touching. This makes it more of a challenge for them to get to the bed.
Believe it or not, identifying bed bugs isn’t always an easy process. Bed bug bites are usually the first sign that you may have a problem, however medical professionals sometimes have difficulty determining whether or not they are bed bug bites as everyone reacts differently. Bed bug bites are usually in groups of two or three. This happens because often when sleeping we move our bodies, and the bug will bite again in a nearby area. They can appear in a clump or line formation. You will not feel the bed bug biting you, as they inject an anesthetic just like mosquitoes do. It’s not until the day after or two (depending on how your body reacts) will you notice small tiny, itchy red bumps.
Other signs of an infestation include bed bug feces around the seams and lining of your mattress, small blood stains on your pillow, sheets or pajamas. To be sure that it is a bed bug problem, and not something else, it is recommended that you have a professional come in and assess the problem. If you do have an infestation, they will then give you thorough instructions on the process of elimination.
As mentioned earlier, the bed bug elimination process was once much easier with the help of stronger pesticides. Today, although it takes quite a bit of time, the elimination is much more environmentally friendly, and is better for us and our pets.
A big misconception when it comes to treating bed bugs is that spraying is all that needs to be done. This is false. The part you play in your home also has a big impact on whether or not the problem will disappear, or will return after a brief break.
Generally, professionals will recommend that your home be sprayed twice, within two weeks of each other. This is due to the fact that one treatment will kill off the living bed bugs, and the second treatment is to kill off any that withstood the first round of treatment, or the little ones that may have just hatched. Before treatment it is imperative that your home is ready, and that you’re willing to work hard to ensure the problem will be eliminated once and for all.
To prepare for the treatment get rid of any and all clutter that you possibly can, and empty your drawers of all old clothing that you no longer wear and dispose of it. For items that you wish to keep separate them into two piles: things you will need within the two rounds of treatment, and things that can live in storage for a while. For the items you need to store, if you live in a home consider renting a POD for the time being (as recommended by your bed bug professional), and if you live in an apartment invest in several big Rubbermaid containers. All other items that you will need for day-to-day living during treatment will need to be washed and dried in warm to hot temperatures. If items need to be dry cleaned, call them prior to your visit with all items sealed tightly in garbage bags. Over time, every clothing item you have in storage will also need to be thoroughly cleaned.
After treatment, your bed bug expert will instruct you to keep things tidy and clutter free. This also includes vacuuming regularly, continuing to keep your bed and other furniture away from the walls, even if only by an inch or two, and encasing your mattress and box spring.
Sure, the physical side of bed bugs is certainly not a walk in the park, but the emotional side effects of bed bugs can wreak just as much havoc if not more on your mental state. The entire identification and elimination process can be extremely taxing, especially for those who are extremely hygienic, tidy, or are afraid of bugs. The bedroom is usually a safe place, it’s where we go to unwind after a long day and take in everything, so it can be hard having that safe space jeopardized. Having a good support team of family and friends can make a big difference during the process, and there is no need to be ashamed of the issue – bed bugs happen, and they’re a growing problem. If you’re having a lot of trouble sleeping, or coping, speak to your doctor about how you can work on once again becoming your normal self. Chances are they’ve seen the emotional side of bed bugs before, and can provide you with the help you need.
For more information, please visit the City of Ottawa’s website for public health information about avoiding bed bug bites. Let’s work together to keep our bedrooms safe!