Bringing Home Bedbugs
If you’re planning a summer vacation, you may want to take steps to avoid bringing home any unexpected souvenirs.
Bedbugs are small, flat parasitic insects that thrive on human blood, and they’re especially fond of travelers. Unnoticed, they can hitch a ride in luggage seams, folded clothing, and personal items, quickly creating an infestation in your home.
The most common sign of bedbugs is a zigzag pattern of bites that appear on the body. The red welts may not feel itchy at first, but once the body develops a reaction to the bites, the itch can be intense.
Bedbugs are hard to spot, since they are speedy crawlers that prefer to feast at night. Feedings last only 4 to 12 minutes before the parasites, which are about the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny, slip back into hiding.
It’s easy to mistake a bedbug bite for a mosquito, flea or spider bite, so the best way to determine if you have bedbugs is to look for the telltale signs:
- Remains of the hard outer shell, or exoskeleton, shed by the bugs
- The bedbugs themselves, which can hide in mattresses and sheets
- Rusty or bloody spots on linens and furniture
- Sweet, musty odor
- Black specks of excrement
- Bedbug eggs
If the bites are not infected and you don’t have too many of them, clean them with soap and water and apply an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream to quiet the itch.
See your dermatologist for treatment if you have multiple bites, blisters, signs the bites are infected (pus, tenderness or discharge), or experience an allergic skin reaction.
A pest control company can use an insecticide spray to get rid of any bedbugs currently in your home. Prevent re-infestation by:
- Avoiding secondhand furniture
- Checking beds and upholstered furniture for signs of bedbugs when you travel
- Using the luggage rack in a hotel so bedbugs are less likely to crawl into your suitcase
- Inspecting clothing and luggage for signs of bedbugs after traveling
- Washing all clothing from the trip in the washing machine on the hot setting
- Vacuum your luggage
Remember, anyone can get bedbugs and the problem can quickly grow. Bedbugs can survive up to 24 months, and females lay several eggs in a lifetime.