We have all heard (and probably been terrified) by the above phrase. Chances are though many of us do not know what these creatures really are and how to deal with them if we had them. In this article we will explore a little more into this topic.
As the name suggests, these creatures are found in sheltered areas of your bed* and thrive at night time by biting human skin to feed on the blood which we have. Despite many of us having images of these being ‘big creatures’ this is only when viewed under the microscope thankfully! An adult bed bug is generally no bigger than 5mm – similar to a seed of an apple.
* Bed bugs can be found in other places – not just beds!
The main signs
Generally you can tell quite easily if you have a bed bug problem because some or all or the following will normally exist:
- Bites on the skin – these are not dangerous in the same way as other bites can be, but they can be uncomfortable and are identifiable by markings on the skin (similar to how a spot looks.)
Appearance of something which looks like:
- Black spots (this is likely to be waste material from the bugs) or,
- White spots (this is normally eggs of new bugs.)
- Blood spots or stains on bedding and sheets.
- A stagnant smell which is something often described as musty.
Above: A bed bug on human skin.
What to do
Due to the fact that bed bugs are quite small and can exist in large numbers, they can be very difficult to get rid of, therefore it is normally recommended that a professional is involved in ensuring the problem is properly eradicated. There are however, some ‘self-help’ tips that you can follow, which can at least slow the problem or act as preventative options.
1) Ensure all bed sheets and linen are washed with the emphasis on a high temperature. Additionally, tumble dry the linen on a hot setting after being washed. This will kill bugs and eggs.
2) Use the hose of a vacuum cleaner and run it over the mattress and surrounding area. This will extract the bed bugs from the surface and some deeper layers. Ensure the contents of the vac is disposed of as soon as you have finished.
3) If you have a steam cleaner, use this to treat the mattress / headboard and nearby area. This will use a targeted ‘dry heat’ to kill the bedbugs.
4) Consider purchasing a mattress protector, which acts as a cover on the mattress and will make it more difficult for bed bugs to access it, reducing the chance of an infestation happening inside and around the mattress.
5) Inspect your bed regularly for signs of anything that shouldn’t be there. The quicker you spot any potential problems, the easier they are to deal with.
6) Reduce clutter around the home which act as attractive hiding places, and be wary of any furniture item that isn’t newly purchased (e.g. a second hand mattress) as this could already be infected.
Some final thoughts…
Bed bugs cannot fly but they are able to crawl great distances, so it is easy for them to spread around the house quickly.
Despite what you may think, bed bugs are nothing to do with being dirty (similar to how head lice in hair aren’t) as they are not attracted to dirt. Don’t feel ashamed if this happens to you.
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