Don’t let the bed bugs bite

Originally sourced from Daily News-Miner

"FAIRBANKS — It is the time of year that many of us shake the snow off and head for warmer climes. A tall drink on a warm beach may be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to getting an influx of vitamin D and some much needed sunshine. However, make sure that you don’t head back home with any unwanted pests.

Bed bugs have invaded the swankiest of establishments, and we have to be on our guard. Not only can the hotel cost you cash to stay, but it can also cost you money for medicine and irritation after you get home. Bed bugs live in cracks and crevices and have been surviving on human blood for as long as we can recall.

According to an article, “Bedbugs in the 21st Century: The Reemergence of an Old Foe,” published in the journal Laboratory Medicine, bed bug infestations were decreasing during the 21st century in most of the developed world, but, since the late 1990s, there has been a marked increase in the number of infestations. After the federal ban on certain kinds of insecticides in the 1970s, less-toxic and less-effective insecticides have been used. Additionally, there have been reports that bed bugs have developed a resistance to some insecticides.

Bed bugs are small, about the size of an apple seed. They are flat, round and reddish-brown but get plump when they have eaten. They are nocturnal feeders. The bites are hard to distinguish from any other type of insect bite. Sometimes, couples report that one person was bitten while the other wasn’t. However, it is more likely both were bitten and only one reacted to the bite. Thirty percent of people don’t react to the bite at all, according to research from the University of Kentucky.

The best way to steer clear of bed bugs in a hotel is to carefully inspect for their presence before you bring your suitcase into the sleeping part of the room. Bring a small flashlight and pull back the covers of the bed, particularly at the head of the bed. These critters are very small, usually less than a quarter of an inch long. When they have a blood meal, they defecate, which is often the easiest way to find them. Inspect the seams of the mattress and any crevices between the mattress and the box springs for the bugs or their excrement.

If you find any evidence of bed bugs, ask the manager for a new room. It’s always a good idea to use the suitcase stand to keep your case off the floor. This will help prevent any unwanted hitchhikers from returning home with you. There are bed bug registries listed on the web, but take them with a grain of salt. These sites display reports by travelers with no confirmation of actual infestations.

This also brings up the question of whether it is a good idea to buy secondhand soft furniture. Just like in a hotel, inspect any items you are planning on buying. Beds are the most common place to find bed bugs, but they can also infest sofas and chairs. Check the seams for bugs or the telltale brown spots from their meals. If there is any sign of an infestation, don’t bring the item into your home. It is much easier to prevent an infestation than to eliminate the pests once they have invaded.

If you are unlucky enough to have an infestation, all is not lost. Don’t grab the pesticide and proceed to drown the little critters. Bug bombs and sprays are not as effective as other procedures. The easiest way to control bed bugs is to encase the mattress in a plastic bag, available for $30 online or at a local store. It won’t kill the bugs inside, but it will keep them from spreading to more locations in your house. A good vacuuming can get rid of any that happened to fall off the mattress.

The two most effective treatments are heat and cold. Heating the item to 120 degrees for 90 minutes will kill the bugs. Heating times must be longer because it takes a long time for soft goods to reach these temperatures. Freezing is another option. Subjecting the item to zero or lower temperature for four days will do the job. For further information on bed bugs, check out the Extension publication here:

Bed bugs can cause havoc with your vacation or your home. Make sure you don’t give them a chance."


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