Eeeewh! Bedbugs

bedbugs.jpg

What’s the first thing you should do when you check into a hotel? Look for bedbugs.

To be honest, I didn’t know that bedbugs really existed until my dermatology residency (they’re on our board exam). I always thought that they were the fictional creatures of a nursery rhyme: Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Well they are real. Believed to have been brought here by original colonists, bedbugs were nearly extinct a few years ago when DDT was in widespread use. They have since made a significant comeback, increasing by 500% over the last few years. They are known to infest hotels and apartment buildings and can come home with you by hitching a ride in your luggage.

Bedbugs (also spelled bed bugs, or Cimex lectularius) are small brown flat wingless insects about the size of an apple seed. They live in crevices in walls, furniture, baseboards, mattresses, comforters, and even drapes. They can live for months without a meal. In heavily infested rooms they can give off a coriander-like odor.

They come out just before dawn to grab a snack on your skin and secrete a numbing substance that prevents you from waking and discovering them biting you.

bedbugbite.jpgIf you had been bit, you would develop itchy bumps or welts, often in a straight line, on exposed areas of your skin. The bites are often in 3’s; in dermatology we call it the “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” sign.

Fortunately the bugs aren’t known to carry disease; it is possible they can carry the virus for hepatitis, but there have been no instances of the bugs transmitting that disease. The main problem is the psychological impact they can have on you. Just the idea that there might be bugs living in your mattress that come out to bite can give you plenty of sleepless nights.

Treatment is usually with a topical steroid cream or oral antihistamine for the itching (like for mosquito bites).

How can you prevent getting bed bugs the next time you travel?

  • Check the mattress, running your fingers along the seams. Make sure to check the mattress tag, bed bugs often hide there.
  • Check crevices in the box spring and headboard if possible.
  • Check the night tables. Look for signs of bed bugs in the drawers and along the wall on the side of the bed.
  • Keep your clothes in your luggage (not the hotel drawers) and keep your luggage zippered up at night.
  • Before you return home, inspect your luggage and clothing. Laundering your items with hot water and a hot dryer (97 °F) should kill all bed bugs.
  • Remember that the bugs can live in furniture for months without a meal. You should inspect secondhand furniture (including antiques) thoroughly before bringing them into your home.

So if you suspect your home might be infected what can you do?

  • The bugs can’t tolerate extremes of temperature. Freeze your pajamas, sheets, and other bedclothes for at least 24 hours or launder them in hot water and hot dryer.
  • Vacuum the area of infestation daily.
  • Caulk holes in floors and walls.
  • Consider hiring an exterminator. They can use insecticides or other techniques like icy liquid carbon dioxide or super hot room heaters to kill the bugs.

Here is an excellent algorithm from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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13 thoughts on “Eeeewh! Bedbugs”

  1. Ewww… is right! I wonder WHY they’re on the increase? And am I right that NYC is a hotbed of the little guys? I think I heard that somewhere… so attention travelers!

  2. This totally freaks me out! How prevalent is this????

  3. There is another place you can get them: moving trucks. When we moved across several states once, our truck took several days to get there. We were in our apartment in Utah (where it gets very hot and very cold) for a couple of days before our furniture arrived.

    We’d never had bed bugs before. The apartment didn’t have bed bugs. But when our furniture got there, suddenly we were getting these wierd bites. Found an odd little bug in the crevices of our couch, called the county extension and learned it was a bed bug!

    Ewwww!

    We took all those steps and used a bug bomb and never saw them again.

  4. OMFG !!! IM GETTING BIT TOO BUT NOT AS BAD AS THE GUY IN THE PICTURE…..I VISIT MY MOMS HOUSE EVERY WEEKEND AND MY GRANDMA LIVES HERE TOO !!! MY GRANDMA IS THE ONE THAT BROUGHT THESE NASTY BED BUGS TO THE HOUSE BY BUYING OLD CLOTHES FROM THE SWAP MEET N’ STUFF THEN NOT WASHING THEM !!! SHE BROUGHT THEM ALL OVER AND AROUND MY MAMAS HOUSE BUT NOW WE MOVED AND THEY FOLLOWED US
    SO WE STILL HAVING THE SAME DAM PROBLEM !!!
    PS:NO OFFENSE BUT GRANDMA DONT TAKE SHOWERS DAILY N’ SHE AINT VERY CLEANLY !!! DAz SOM NASTII SHEIITTT !!! LOLz

  5. I just wanted to say that I love this site

  6. I read a post similar to this a few weeks ago, but I think this makes more sense

  7. quite worrying, i’ll be watching out for these things

  8. Don’t forget to check for toenails too! I was in a hotel in malaysia and I was wondering what was brushing against my legs to make it itchy. pulled back the covers to discover not one, but TWO, yes TWO,toe-nail clippings! Lovely!!!

  9. susan goodine says:

    i live in small town and a friend from city. he carried beg bugs with him and althothg i have think i’ve gotten rid of them. i had an exterintor make two visits. i can’t begin to explain the phycologolical horror its inficted on me. even know i find myself horrified at the site of a fruit fly thinking “they” may still be in apt. i checked every black dot in my apt. for months and can’t get of the habbit. they’ve altered my state of mind, am crying while i type this. its going to a long road to overcome the damage to my mindset

  10. @Dr. Val The bugs are on the rise because the pesticide that was commonly used to kill them is no longer in use, and they’re resistant to many other bug killers.

  11. I know this is an old topic, but just wanted to add- not all people are sensitive to the bites of bed bugs. I had a 6-8 month period where I was breaking out in large hive clusters, like in the photo- I looked like I had chicken pox! My fiance, who slept right next to me in the same bed, never had a spot on him.

    After numerous trips to the family doctor, ERs and urgent care centers, I finally got referred to a dermatologist who immediately told me to check for bed bugs. Sure enough, we later found one of the critters. They are very tough to get rid of, after several different products and a lot of research, I found that the drug that’s in most lice control sprays (pyrethrin) is very effective at killing the insects- but you MUST treat the area thoroughly (and the spray isn’t cheap) and repeat application every 3 weeks (I think we did 3 rounds to be safe) to ensure that all newly hatched bugs are killed.

    Even after all of this, we still threw out our couch and mattress when we moved, and now the first thing I do when I get to even the nicest hotel is check the bed for the tell tale brown staining around any seam, tuft, or staple!

  12. Oh! it’s really ewwwwww!!!.. Don’t you have any remedy from that bed bugs bites?? or did you not try to do some methods in order to get rid of that itchy and irritating bed bugs. Yes, your really need to apply effective creams with this one. And try exterminator this time.

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