Originally published April 2018. Updated July 7, 2021.
Warmer weather has finally arrived. Weekend beach trips have begun and summer vacations are being planned. While you may be dreaming of warm, sandy beaches or mountain-top views, don't forget the little menaces that may be hiding in your home away from home. Bed bug infestations have risen over the last decade and even the nicest of hotels and resorts can fall victim. You can significantly reduce chances of bringing bed bugs home by following a few simple precautions and pest prevention tips.
Health risks associated with bed bugs
There has been no confirmed link to the spread of any types of diseases through bed bugs, which is unusual since other blood feeders play a large role in these epidemics. They are, however, considered a public health issue. The main proven source of health-related risks stems from the site of the bite.
The most common areas to find bites are around the face, neck, arms, and hands. Some people will experience bite marks similar to those of a mosquito or flea. The bites may appear in a straight line or in sporadic groupings and typically occur while sleeping. Others may have no reaction at all. Time frames for reactions are also variable and could appear up to 14 days later. Allergic reactions to these bites most often involve itching similar to other bug bites of the same nature. Because these bites sometimes itch, skin infections from excessive scratching can occur, sometimes requiring treatment with antibiotics.
Mental health effects are also sometimes reported. Those most commonly found are anxiety, insomnia, and systemic reactions. The reasons behind these effects are unclear, although we can speculate that fear of an unknown pest and loss of sleep due to itching may play a part. A recent study also found elevated levels of histamine in homes with bedbug infestations. While we don't know yet the impact of these findings, it raises concern that they could trigger allergic or asthmatic episodes.
Aside from direct health effects of an infestation, there are also risks involved with DIY treatments. There is always a risk when handling chemicals. When used incorrectly or against what is stated on the label, injuries can occur. Some bed bug "bombs" have been known to explode and catch fire.
Tips to prevent bringing bed bugs home
Bed bugs do not discriminate and anyone is susceptible to bringing home an unwanted guest while traveling. Anyone who shares living or sleeping areas with other people is also at an increased risk. (Think college dorms, apartments, hotels, etc.) The best way to prevent an infestation is with a thorough inspection.
Wonder what you are looking for? These insects are characterized by their reddish-brown color and flat, oval bodies. Adults are approximately the size of an apple seed with newly hatched nymphs being about the height of the word "Liberty" on a penny. (Go ahead and reach into your pocket, I'll wait.) Since they are most active at night, you may not see bed bugs themselves, but you can look for signs of activity.
- Inspect the areas around the bed for signs of bed bugs.
- Pull back the sheets and inspect the piping, seams, and tags of mattresses, as well as the cracks of bed frames and headboards.
- Look for any exoskeletons that may have been shed, as well as rusty-colored spots that may be present on sheets, mattresses, or furniture.
- Remember that nymph bed bugs that have not yet fed will be harder to pinpoint, as they are typically clear or pale yellow in color. If a crack is wide enough to insert a credit card, then it is big enough to hide a bed bug.
- Do not place your luggage on the bed, floor, or upholstered benches/furniture at foot of bed.
- Store any luggage you may have in the bathroom.
- If you do find any bugs or evidence of bugs, request to change rooms to one that is not in close proximity of the room where the evidence was found.
After returning home from a trip, always carefully inspect luggage and bags for any signs of these insects. Unpack your clothes in the garage or an outside area before going inside. Place your clothes inside a sealed plastic bag until you are able to wash them. Clothes need to also run in the dryer for a minimum of 30 minutes at the highest temperature that won't damage them. Delicate items should go directly to the dry cleaner.
What should you do if you bring bed bugs home?
If you do find yourself dealing with bed bugs, do not hesitate to call a professional. At-home treatments can be difficult, as well as dangerous. Those who try to treat on their own often end up needing a professional treatment. By that time, they've spent countless dollars and time on an ineffective treatment and now have to pay for a professional. Once you've scheduled a treatment from a licensed company, there are steps you need to follow to ensure the treatment is as thorough and successful as possible.
- Do not move items from one room to another, as this may spread these pests throughout your home. Only move items that are absolutely necessary and be sure to inspect them thoroughly before doing so.
- Clothing should be placed in sealed bags until they can be placed in the dryer. Cleaned and dried clothes will need to be stored in sealed bags or containers until the home has been treated and is bed bug free.
- Be sure to inspect all toys and stuffed animals, along with anything else that may be on the floor. These items will also need to be placed in a sealed bag or storage bin for your service professional to inspect.
- Remove clutter, as it makes treating and eliminating these pests very difficult. Clutter gives them ample hiding places and hinders a thorough treatment.
- Be sure to vacuum your floors and empty the canister into a bag that can be tied off and discarded outside.
- Do not store anything underneath your bed.
- After the treatment is completed, it is recommended to place bedbug encasements on your mattresses and box springs. Be sure to purchase woven polyester encasements with a zipper, as vinyl encasements are more likely to tear. These encasements need to be left in place for a minimum of one year.
Bed bug treatments can cost upwards of $2000. Customers with a Cingo Prevent or Prevent Plus plan can rest easy knowing that if they happen to bring these critters home, they are covered. Cingo even provides a preparation list for bedbug treatments to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Peace of mind is just around the corner. Complete our Pest Quiz to find the best pest control option for you and your home.
About Cingo: The name Cingo means to surround and secure, conveying the company's commitment to home protection. The company has been protecting families in the Southeast since 1974. It provides home protection services throughout Georgia and South Carolina, including Atlanta, Augusta, Charleston, Douglas, Dublin, Milledgeville, Savannah, Vidalia, Waycross and all points in between. Cingo was named a Best Place to Work in Georgia by Georgia Trend Magazine and listed as a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Learn more at www.cingohome.com.