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CONNECT TO | Health & Wellness
June 2010

Bed Bugs
Prevention Is Easier than Elimination

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown, wingless insects, about the size of an apple seed, that feed on human blood. Their flat bodies allow them to move in and out of very narrow spaces, such as behind baseboards, around screws in furniture and, as their name suggests, in the seams and crevices of mattresses and other furniture. While not life-threatening, bed bug infestations can negatively affect a person's quality of life.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs have been found in every major Ohio city, and reports to local health departments have increased recently. The insects commonly are found in hotels, dormitories and apartments - places where the occupants change frequently - but can be spread to other locations, such as cars and homes, quite easily. Bed bugs hitch rides on clothing, luggage, bedding and furniture.

Unless an infestation is severe, you may never see the bugs themselves. Signs of bed bugs include stains or dark spots in and around crevices and creases of furniture, or itchy skin welts that result from their bites.

If they get into your home, they can be very difficult to get rid of, and special care must be taken to prevent spreading them to other locations. Your best defense against bed bugs is to prevent them from coming into your home in the first place.

  • Check your shoes and clothing before you come into your home, especially if you have been using public transportation or have been someplace where many people congregate or pass through (such as a doctor's office or meal site).
  • If you have care providers coming into your home, ask them how they have been trained to prevent bringing bed bugs into your home.
  • Inspect used furniture for bed bugs before bringing it into your home.
  • Never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs or furniture into your home.
  • When traveling, inspect the bed and furniture where you are staying for bed bug stains. Keep suitcases off the floor and bed, and inspect them before you leave.
  • Wash all clothing immediately after returning from a trip and inspect your luggage for signs of bed bugs.

If you find bed bugs in your home, you need to prevent yourself, as well as anyone who comes into your home, from carrying the insects or their eggs to other locations.

  • Alert your case manager, if you have one, about the bed bug problem. He or she will give you guidance in removing them and can help arrange extermination services, if necessary.
  • If you receive in-home services, alert your care providers so that they can prepare their workers to prevent spreading the bed bugs to other consumers.
  • If you live in an apartment, alert the property manager so that he or she can check the entire building.

If you are going into a residence that may have bed bugs, wear protective shoe covers (booties) before entering an infested residence, and wear disposable, protective coveralls if you will be moving anything that may contain bed bugs. Take only those items that are necessary for your visit into the home and do not sit on or place any items on sofas, upholstered chairs, beds or carpets. Use a plastic stool if your duties include sitting down to assist the consumer.

Once you leave the residence, remove protective shoe covers and coveralls. If in a multi-unit building, do not leave the shoe covers on as you walk through the building. Turn the items inside out as they are removed to trap any bugs inside. Place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag and immediately place the bag in an outside trash container.

To get rid of bed bugs in your home, first remove clutter such as boxes, papers and piles of clothing, as well as smaller items that may be infested, such as picture frames, books and clothing. Place anything that cannot be cleaned into plastic garbage bags, seal them and put them in the outdoor trash.

Then, clean what you can. Wash bedding, curtains, rugs and clothes in hot water (120°F minimum) and dry on the highest dryer setting. Soak delicates in warm water with lots of laundry soap for several hours before rinsing. Place wool items, plush toys, shoes and other similar items in a hot dryer for 30 minutes. Scrub mattress seams with a stiff brush to dislodge bed bugs and their eggs. Vacuum mattresses, bed frames, furniture, floors and carpets. To suffocate any bugs in the vacuum, sweep up ¼ cup of cornstarch or talcum powder. Empty the vacuum into a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in the outdoor trash. Cover infested mattresses and box springs with waterproof, zippered covers labeled "allergen rated" or "for dust mites" for at least one year. Check pets and pet bedding as you do other furnishings.

A thorough cleaning may not be enough to get rid of bed bugs. A pest control specialist should inspect your property and give you a written treatment plan. He or she will tell you what infested items can be effectively cleaned and what should be discarded. He or she also will work with you until the bugs are gone and teach you how to prevent re-infestation. Agree on a service plan and its costs before work begins. Expect at least two treatments, plus a follow-up visit to confirm that the bugs have been eliminated.

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