Bed bugs can enter your home without being detected through clothing, luggage, used couches, beds, and other items. They manage to fit into tiny spaces and they do not have nests like bees or ants, but they like to live in hiding places and usually in groups. The places where you will typically find them are in bed frames, mattresses, headboards, and box springs which gives them quick access to people during the night. They might scatter around the bedroom over time, moving into crevices and other protected locations.
They can also spread to other rooms in your home. Because they primarily live on blood, you can find them anywhere. Having bed bugs is not an indication of dirtiness, you can find them wherever there is a blood source, even in immaculate hotel rooms and fancy houses.
But what exactly are bed bugs? What do they look like, can they cause diseases and how do you get rid of them? Read on, to find out more.
What Are Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are tiny, oval-shaped insects that are brownish in colour. Their livelihood depends on the blood of humans and animals. They don’t fly, but rather scatter quickly over walls, floors, and ceilings. Females might lay hundreds of eggs over a lifetime. The eggs are the size of specks of dust. The nymphs can shed their skins up to five times before they reach maturity and need blood before every shed. The bugs can reach maturity within a month under favourable conditions and generate up to three or more generations each year. Even though these critters are unwelcome guests in your home, they do not transmit diseases.
But how do you know you have a bed bug infestation on your hands? How do you recognise bed bugs?
How To Recognise Bed Bugs
Full grown bed bugs are the size of an apple seed, and they have flat bodies that allow them to get into tiny spaces. After a feed, their bodies swell, and they have a reddish colour. These tiny insects are primarily active at night and typically bite you when you are asleep. To feed, they pierce your skin and withdraw the blood through their elongated beaks. They feed anything from three to ten minutes before becoming engorged and crawl away undetected.
If you wake up with areas that itch which you did not have the night before, it is possible that you have bed bugs, especially if you are have used furniture. Other signs to look for when you suspect you have a bed bug infestation are:
- Blood specks or stains on your pillowcases and sheets
- Rusty or dark spots of excrement on the mattresses, linen, walls, and your bed clothes
- Fecal spots, shed skins or egg shells in areas where they hide
- An unpleasant, musty smell that originates from the bug’s scent glands
Now that you know how to recognise bed bugs and possible signs that may indicate that you might have an infestation, what about the bites? Are they painful or unpleasant?
How To Identify Bed Bug Bites
The majority of bed bug bites are not painful at first, however they can become itchy welts that can be rather unpleasant. Unlike flea bites that you find primarily around the ankles, a bed bug’s bites can be found on any area of your skin that is exposed, such as the neck, arms, face, and hands while you’re asleep.
Some individuals do not develop obvious symptoms from bed bug bites. But for some, they do develop, and the bites are usually:
- Swollen and red, with a dark spot in the centre of every bite
- In clusters or lines with various bites grouped together
In more extreme cases, the bites can develop into blisters. But what can you use to treat bed bug bites and provide some symptom relief?
How To Treat Bed Bug Bites
In most instances, a bed bug bite heals within a week or two. To get some relief from the symptoms, it might help to:
- Use calamine lotion or anti-itch cream, and apply it to the affected areas.
- Take an oral antihistamine to lessen burning and itchiness.
- Use OTC pain relief medication for pain and swelling.
In rare instances, some people can experience allergic reactions to the bites. If you experience any symptoms or signs of a severe allergic reaction, see a doctor immediately. In some cases, bed bug bites can lead to infection also referred to as cellulitis. To lower the risk of infection, wash the affected areas with soap and water and avoid scratching the bites.
What to do when you suspect you have an infestation in your mattress? First, remove all bedding and see if you notice any of the signs mentioned earlier
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs In Your Mattress
Remove the dust cover from the bottom of the box springs of your mattress and inspect the seams in the wooden frame. Peel back the fabric that is stapled to the wooden frame. Also check things surrounding your bed like radios, the edge of the carpet, inside books, and also electrical outlets.
The first step in getting rid of bed bugs for good, begins with cleaning up all the places where they reside. This involves:
- Cleaning linens, bedding, and clothing by washing them and drying them on the hottest setting of your washing machine and tumble dryer. Put stuffed animals, shoes and other washable items in the tumble dryer and let it run on high for half an hour.
- Scrub your mattress using a stiff brush. Scrub around the seams to remove the bugs and the eggs before vacuuming the entire area.
- Continue to vacuum your bed and all surrounding areas regularly. Every time after vacuuming, remove the bag, place it in a plastic bag and throw it away in the garbage cans outside.
- Encasing the mattress and box springs, using a tightly woven cover with zipper to prevent the bed bugs from getting in or escaping. Bed bugs can live up to a year without a feed, so leave the cover on the mattress for at least one year to ensure all bugs are dead.
- Repairing cracks in plaster and gluing down peeled wallpaper to eliminate possible hiding places where the bugs can stay.
- Getting rid of all clutter surrounding your bed.
For many people, if their mattress is infested, they prefer getting rid of the old one and getting a new one, however, you still need to check the remainder of your home and get rid of the bed bugs, otherwise they will simply set up home in your new mattress. Check the living room couches, other bedrooms, and sitting room for signs of infestation.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs In A Couch
Once you know where the bed bugs are, you need to contain them to try and get rid of them for good. A fast and basic way to do so is by using a vacuum.
Run the vacuum over all potential hiding places. This could include carpets, the couch, and electronics, like your TV. Seal the vacuumed contents into a plastic bag and discard it. Remember to clean the vacuum out thoroughly too. Other ways to help get rid of the bed bugs fast is by doing the following:
- Vacuum and then steam-clean the couch and appliances.
- Fill any gaps or cracks around the baseboards in furniture with caulking.
Don’t forget to check your clothing as well. These sneaky insects can enter your home by catching a ride in your luggage or on your clothing.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs In Your Clothes
Bed bugs can survive a washing cycle in your washing machine. While washing all linen and clothing could kill most of the bugs, the heat of the tumble dryer will get rid of the remaining bed bugs permanently since they cannot tolerate heat.
Once you know which areas are infected, sort clothing items like you would normally do into whites, colours, delicates, etc. Place each category into sealed plastic bags before taking it to your washer and dryer. This will prevent the bugs from spreading to other areas in the home. Check the washing instructions and the highest possible washing and drying temperatures before doing the different piles.
Washing And Drying
After dumping each pile in the washing machine or dryer, be sure to place the bag where it came from into a separate clean bag, before disposing of all bags to prevent any spreading of the bed bugs. Choose the hottest temperature setting that each category can handle safely. For items that need dry cleaning only, set the timer on half an hour on medium to high heat. This temperature will get rid of the bed bugs for good.
Once cleaned and folded, place the clothing in clean plastic bags until you are positive that your bed bug infestation is under control. Only remove clothes that are needed from their bags. After the infestation has been eliminated, clothes can be taken from the plastic bags and returned to the dresser or closet.
What To Buy To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs
Things like moth balls, foggers, or household cleaning products are ineffective in getting rid of bed bugs that have infested your home. These bugs do not tolerate heat therefore washing and drying linen and clothing is effective to kill the bugs and the eggs while preventing them from resurfacing.
While it helps to clean the infested areas to control the issue, getting rid of them completely needs chemical intervention. Since treating your bedroom and bed with insecticides is not an option since it is toxic, only products that are safe can be used in bedrooms. The most effective and safest method of getting rid of an infestation is through hiring an experienced pest control company to exterminate your home.
If this is not an option for you, you can try some of these natural remedies for bed bugs to see if it helps.
Natural Remedies For Bed Bugs
These natural remedies can help to get rid of bed bugs in your home:
- Vacuuming – be sure to vacuum mattresses, boxes, upholstered furniture, shelving, and carpets. Also vacuum all nooks and crannies where they can possibly hide.
- Using extreme heat or cold – this involves washing washable items on the highest possible temperature settings, steam-cleaning mattresses and upholstery, and freezing non-washable items for 24 hours.
- Borax – is a natural household item that you can use to suffocate the bugs. Sprinkle the borax generously over your mattress and leave it for 24 hours before vacuuming.
- Rubbing Alcohol – using a dilution of ninety percent or more can kill the bugs on contact. Add alcohol to a spray bottle and spray the bugs when you spot them and also target nooks and crannies where they might have laid their eggs.
- Vinegar – vinegar can be used with some of the other home remedies on this list. Add undiluted vinegar to a spray bottle and use it to spray furniture and cracks. It is not effective for killing the larvae, therefore you will need to vacuum or use alcohol as well.
You can also use certain essential oils like tea tree oil or mint to spray on infested areas after diluting it with water. See below natural remedies for treating bed bug bites as well.
Natural Remedies For Treating Bed Bug Bites
Apart from using over the counter medications, you can give these home remedies a try to relieve bed bug bites symptoms.
For soothing the bitten area, it might help to:
- Place an ice pack that is wrapped in a towel or cold cloth on the area
- Make a thin paste with water and baking soda and apply it to the area
- Use essential oils
More research is needed, but some studies suggest that certain essential oils might offer relief for bed bug bites. Individuals who seek a more natural remedy can try the following essential oils.
- Basil – a gentle anti-inflammatory remedy for relieving irritation and preventing infection. It is especially useful for bee stings and bug bites.
- Camphor – has been since ancient times for treating pain, inflammation, and irritation. It could help with lowering pain as a result of bed bug bites.
- Chamomile – is a popular ingredient in many lotions and skin products due to its calming emollient properties. The oil can help with itching, redness, and irritation. It can also speed up recovery and healing.
- Lavender – is a commonplace natural remedy choice for treating bug bites. This oil can be directly applied (unlike other oils) to bites. It has pain-relieving and soothing effects. It can be used for fire ant bites, bed bug bites, spider bites and bee stings.
- Mint – peppermint and spearmint essential oils must be diluted before application and offer cooling pain relief and help with keeping insects at bay, preventing future bites.
- Rosemary – also provides pain relief for bug bites and prevents infection.
- Tea tree – is useful for pain, swelling, and itching due to its antimicrobial properties that keep bacterial infections away.
Ways To Utilize Essential Oils for Bug Bites
Essential oils can be used in various ways.
- Topical application – always mix essential oils with a carrier oil (five drops per ounce of essential oil) before applying it to the skin.
- Diluted Spray – Mix two to three drops of essential oils with two to three drops of liquid carrier oil and mix it with water (2-3 drops per ounce of water). Shake well before spraying it on the affected area for relief.
- Ointment – Mix a few drops of essential oil to a carrier oil (2-3 drops per ounce of carrier oil) and blend well. You can also add this mixture to a salve, balm or moisturiser you are using at home.
- Bath – Add around fifteen drops of essential oil mixed with fifteen drops of carrier oil to your bath water, followed by a topical application if you have painful bites.
I hope that this post has been helpful and that some of the information or remedies will be effective in getting rid of your bed bug infestation permanently. Be sure to incorporate some of these tips to see if they work for you.