“Sleep Tight – Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite.”

Why did I decide to write about bed bugs? I teach a class on communicable diseases and this has caused me to follow this growing concern in the United States. I also have family members who travel and personally I believe bugs can live as long as they want – outside of my home. I have taken the time to learn about this to do my part and try to prevent spreading these ectoparasites. I might also add it is October, and getting near Halloween so what better time to write about these creepy crawly blood sucking pests.
Many of us grew up hearing our grandparents say “Sleep tight – don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Well for most of us we probably thought this was just one of those things our grandparents said, until now.
Here is some history: bed bugs were a problem in the United States before WWII. With the introduction of pesticide DDT they were pretty much eradicated.  There is an entire generation or more that have  never been exposed to bedbugs – until now. It has become a growing issue in the United States, particularly in populated areas, however entomologists do believe that we should all become aware of bedbugs because they hitchhike so well and it is only a matter of time before other areas and regions become highly populated by these bugs. Entomologist believe the bed bug infestation will get worse before it gets better. Education on bed bugs can prevent or limit the social stigma and help prevent spread of bed bugs. Bedbugs are a growing issue because they have become resistant to our pesticides making it harder to get rid of them. Also we are a global society – this makes it easier to transport them around the world, without notice.
What are bedbugs?
They are small flat oval red colored insects that live in cracks and crevices, behind old wall paper. They live off of blood. They do not like light; they seem to become very active around early morning, around 3am to 5am. They live off of blood and are attracted to heat. They are often found around the bed area because obviously you are their warm breakfast and are non-moving easy target. Once they get their meal they retract to their dark home. They can live for months without a meal. Their bites look like little red marks and for some people they itch. They can also feed off your pets if they need a meal and you are not available. Although they most commonly live around the bed area they can live in other areas of your home, furniture and clothes.
Where are They Found?
Bed bugs are very live with any socioeconomic class and take residence in any type of living conditions. They have been documented to be found in government buildings, hotels, schools, homes, movie theaters, college dorm rooms, apartment complexes, etc. They are found in new clothing that you just brought home from the store. They are found in very clean homes and hotels. Yes they are found in expensive and inexpensive hotels, cruise ships, and airplanes.
What Diseases to Bed Bugs Transmit?
Bedbugs, despite being annoying, creepy, and leaving you with tell-tale red bit marks, are not believed to spread diseases.
Bed bugs seem to carry with them an unwarranted social stigma. Some people may have allergic reactions, and some may suffer from insomnia and anxiety as a result of bed bugs. Bed bugs are an economic burden to our society as well. However, they have not been shown to transmit any diseases, as other blood sucking parasites are known to do.
How Can I Prevent Bed Bug infestation or Get Rid of Them If My Home has been Infested?
A little knowledge you can prevent a home infestation and allow you to continue to get a good night’s sleep.
Should your dwelling be infested a good pest control service can help you successfully rid your home of theses pests, but it does take about 4 or 5 treatments. There are some non-chemical ways to also fight and prevent bedbugs. High heat, freezing, and the use diatomaceous earth have also been shown effective in the fight against bedbugs. You may want to research these non-chemical ways that can prevent or work jointly with pest control. If you do decide to use diatomaceous earth as a means of pest control do not buy from the pool supply store. This type is used for pool filters. It is treated differently and is not meant for indoor home pest control purposes and can be harmful to you and your pets.
I travel what can I do to prevent bringing bedbugs home?
At the hotel inspect the room: check the mattress, headboard, luggage rack for dark blood spots and bedbugs. MSNBC and Bed Bug Central provide excellent resources on how to do this. Their links are at the end of this post. The following suggestions and video was listed on MSNBC Dateline http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11877871/

• Peel back the bed sheets and check the mattress, running your fingers along the upper and lower seams. Make sure to check the mattress tag, bed bugs often hide there.
• Experts recommend removing and examining the headboard if possible. Check for tiny black spots (excrement) that are smaller than poppy seeds. You may also see translucent light brown skins or, in the case of an infestation— live bugs.
• Check the bedside table. Look for signs of bed bugs in the drawers and along the wall on the side of the bed that is less likely to be disturbed by cleaning staff and guests.
• You may want to elevate suitcases and keep them off the floor, like on a luggage stand.
• If you see powder in the drawers or on the headboard, it is likely that the room has already been treated for bed bugs by an exterminator.
• If bed bugs are detected, travelers should request for another room. Be sure to inform hotel management.
• Just moving to a different room may not be the total answer. You should repeat the thorough inspection of any new or different room you are offered.
• When you pack to leave, inspect your luggage carefully first, and inspect every item as you pack to help detect any bugs or their signs. Laundering most cloth items with typical hot water and detergent followed by drying on low heat for at least 20 minutes (or standard dry cleaning) should kill all bed bugs in or on such items. Sealing freshly-laundered items inside a plastic bag should help keep any more bed bugs from getting in those items later to hide (and be carried back with you).

I hopes to increase your awareness and connect you to some resources that can educate you more on how to prevent spread of bedbugs, which are free loading hitchhikers. Contact your local health department or a reputable pest control service if you have specific questions. Remember, lice, mice and cockroaches pose much greater health risks, as far as disease transmission is concerned. I have compiled a list of website links that can be helpful to you. Bookmark them for future reference:

About Donna M. Post, RN CLNC/Mid-Valley Legal Nurse Consulting, Inc.

Donna M. Post, RN, BSN, MBA/HCM, CLNC, LNCP-C is a Registered Nurse with 25 years of experience ranging from critical care to healthcare management. She currently is a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and Certified Life Care Planner and the founder of Mid-Valley Legal Nurse Consulting, Inc. http://www.mvlnc.com.
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