Reducing Bed Bug Infestations

by Amanda Cupp on April 29th, 2015

A resurgence in bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) across the country has occurred. Hotels, schools, movie theaters, retail establishments, and other public areas have been hit hard. Bed bugs can easily move from a public space into your home, apartment, or student dorm — these tiny insects love to travel. Fortunately, if your living space does become infested, there are things you can do to eliminate bed bugs and their spread, helping to reduce the negative health affects often suffered from their bites.

Health Effects of Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs are not attracted to dirt or grime; they’re attracted to warmth and blood. For many people, a bed bug bite results in a small bump and some mild itching. However, bed bugs can and do pose a health threat. Secondary skin infections around the original bite can develop, resulting in conditions such as ecthyma, impetigo, and lymphangitis.

Recent scientific research has linked bed bug bites with several deadly illnesses, including Hepatitis B and Chagas disease from the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Hepatitis B is responsible for about 780,000 annual deaths worldwide, while Chagas disease currently affects about 300,000 in the U.S. alone.

People dealing with bed bug infestations also suffer from mental and emotional issues, such as stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

3 Ways to Stop the Spread of Bed Bugs

1. Clear clutter
If you can reduce the number of places the bed bugs can hide, it’s easier to see and eliminate them. Clear clutter from nightstands, headboards with built-in shelves, dressers, bookcases, and any storage chests that sit at the foot of the bed, encasing everything in clear plastic bags. Encase decorative pillows and plush animals/toys in sealed plastic bags as well. If you’re bagging things that may tear through plastic, double-bag those items.

2. Thoroughly clean bedding
Heat wash and dry all bedding: sheets, pillow shams, dust ruffles, pillow cases, blankets, duvet covers, and any decorative pillows that are machine washable and able to withstand a heat drying. Heat kills bed bugs. Also heat wash and dry any curtains or other linens in the affected room.

Clothing from closets and drawer storage will need to be thoroughly heat washed and dried as well. Items not machine washable must be encased in plastic bags to contain and eventually kill the bed bugs. Don’t forget to clean out the laundry basket and hamper, thoroughly disinfecting to remove any lingering bed bugs or their eggs.

3. Vacuum daily
The risk of spreading the infestation decreases when you remove as many bed bugs from the room as possible daily. Fewer bed bugs in the room also means fewer bites.

The E.P.A. recommends to “Carefully vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture, bed frames, under beds, around beds, and all cracks and crevices around the room.” Be sure to change the bag or clean the filter after vacuuming, placing the contents in a sealed plastic bag before adding to an outside trash bin.

When living in an apartment community, student housing, or dormitory, it’s extremely important to be proactive against the spread of bed bugs. If your living space is infested, immediately contact your landlord or resident hall advisor. Follow all bed bug eradication protocols. Always bag items for disposal securely, and if trashing any bedding, pillows or mattresses, bag it or label it infested so someone doesn’t recycle items from the trash pile.

Source (quote from EPA) (bed bugs and disease)


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