NEWARK—While visiting relatives may be a welcome addition in your home, a bedbug infestation is the last thing any family would want. Although bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, their presence is concerning and they are often difficult to eliminate. Bedbug bites can cause a skin rash and repeated bites may lead to an allergic reaction.
“Bed bugs attack their hosts at night, so the person may wake with no knowledge of the bites for hours,” reports Joel Mendelson, MD, Director of Allergy and Immunology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC), “The bites are often misidentified, allowing infestations to go initially go unnoticed. Bed bug bites can cause welts and a patch of redness around the bite itself. There may also be scabs, especially if you scratch the bites.”
Experts suspect the resurgence of bedbugs comes from an increase in international travel and increased resistance of bed bugs to pesticides, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports.
The following are suggestions from the Department of Allergy and Immunology at NBIMC and the EPA on preventing or eliminating bed bugs:
- Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any sign of bug infestation before bringing them home.
- Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs to eliminate hiding spots. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check regularly for holes.
- Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
- When traveling, use luggage racks when packing or unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor. Check the mattress before sleeping.
- Upon returning from a trip, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully.
- When changing bedding or staying away from home, look for: dark spots, which are bed bug excrement, tiny white eggs and eggshells, skins that nymphs shed, live bed bugs, reddish stains on bed sheets.
- Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs.
- Currently, there are over 300 chemical treatments registered by EPA for use against bed bugs – the vast majority of which can be used by consumers.
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