Got an itch you just can't scratch?
If you've been at the same job or waking up with the same partner every day for several years, you might feel like you're just itching to try something new — or at least spice things up.
On the other hand, maybe you're just plain itchy.
If you find yourself waking up in the morning with irritated skin and raised, red bite marks in patches on your skin, you might have bed bugs.
How to Detect Bed Bugs
Your first clue that you have bed bugs in your home is, unfortunately, the bites you get. These look and feel like mosquito bites but tend to cluster together on your skin. You'll also notice signs of them in the morning if the bed bugs are in your bed. If bed bugs are in your couch, however, you're most likely to be bitten when you're watching TV or relaxing.
In addition to your physical symptoms, there are other telltale signs of bed bugs:
- Small red- or rust-colored stains on sheets, which are caused by bed bugs being crushed
- Small dark specks that look like a marker, which are bed bugs' excrement
- Small white eggs or yellow larva shells, especially in corners and along mattress piping
- A musty smell in your mattress or other furniture, due to the bugs' scent glands
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs can turn up just about anywhere. It's a myth that they're only found in dirty surroundings and low-rent neighborhoods. Bed bugs don't discriminate — they just want to suck your blood, and they can, unfortunately, gain a foothold up in any neighborhood – plus they travel.
Treatment for Bed Bugs
For starters, wash all of your bed linens in hot water and dry them on high. You should also treat your clothing, curtains and other fabrics the same way. For other fabric items that can't be washed — think stuffed animals or pillows — you can run them through the clothes dryer on high for at least a half hour. You'll also want to use a stiff brush on your mattress to loosen any eggs before giving it a thorough vacuuming. Invest in a zippered mattress cover in vinyl or a very tight weave to encase your mattress. This will keep bed bugs from reaching you, and eventually they'll die of starvation — though this could take up to a year, so keep the cover on for the foreseeable future. You can also call a professional exterminator to use a safe but effective pesticide to make sure every last bug is dead.
Additional Bed Bug Prevention
If you rent an apartment or live in a condo, you may want to check your mattress and furniture for bed bugs on a regular basis, since they can travel throughout your building by hiding in corners and crevices. You can also check with your building manager to see if they have a prevention policy in place. If you travel frequently, you're at risk for bringing hitchhiking bed bugs home with you. Inspect your hotel for bed bugs before unpacking, and use plastic bags for your laundry so you can take it directly from your suitcase to the washing machine when you get home.
Don't wait until a bed bug problem gets out of hand to get help. Bed bugs are a pesty problem, but with diligence you can defeat them.