No one wants bed bugs. Here is what to look for if you think you have bed bugs, the additional problems bed bugs can cause and how to get rid of them.
Here's what you need to know about these annoying insects, how bed bugs spread and how they may impact your home and your health.
Where are bed bugs found in the world?
Bed bugs can be found in almost every country in the world and in nearly every climate that humans thrive in. In recent years, infestations have happened in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The only continent they're not found on is Antarctica because human activity is minimal.
What species of bed bugs cause infestations in the United States?
There are two common types of bed bugs found throughout the world that primarily feed on humans. The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) is the most common species found in the United States. By contrast, the tropical bedbug (Cimex hemipterus) lives in tropical and subtropical climates like South America and Southeast Asia.
Where can I come into contact with bed bugs?
Bed bugs go through several immature (nymphal) stages as they grow into adults. Both male and female bed bugs require blood as nutrition for growth and molting into progressively larger nymphal stages. Female bed bugs require blood to develop eggs.
Because bed bugs need blood to survive, they are commonly found in human dwellings, like hotels, apartments, dormitories, houses and cruise ships. They're nocturnal and do everything they can to avoid well-lit areas, especially during daylight hours. This means they stick to places like mattress seams, headboards, cracks/crevices in walls and furniture, behind outlet covers and light switch plates and in and around clutter during the daytime.
Bed bugs tend to stay close to the area where they hatch but that doesn't mean they can't or won't travel. If a room starts to become crowded and feeding gets harder, they'll stray into other parts of the house to look for a better food source. And they're known to hitchhike on luggage, backpacks and jackets to help them travel to new locations.
What health risks do bed bugs pose?
If you're worried about whether bed bugs are dangerous, the first thing to know is whether they can transmit diseases that put your family's health at risk. Bed bugs can impact your health, but not necessarily in the ways that you might think.
Can bed bugs make me sick?
Bed bugs aren't known to make people sick by transmitting insect-borne viruses and pathogens. Instead, they're more likely to cause extreme discomfort as a result of their bites. Many people experience bed bug bite symptoms including welts, swelling around the bite and severe itching. That said, some people can experience allergic reactions to the bites that make the symptoms worse. In rare cases, those with severe bed bug allergies may experience anaphylaxis.
Do bed bugs spread disease?
According to the CDC, bed bugs do not spread diseases like some insects and pests can. They typically only cause skin irritation, itching and rashes. Again, the severity of your symptoms and your body's response to a bite depends on whether you're allergic to bed bugs in the first place. Some people don't experience any discomfort or skin irritation while others with more severe sensitivities may experience such symptoms.
Do bed bugs cause skin problems or infections?
Bed bugs can and will cause skin problems for most many people. Their bites often turn into raised red bumps or welts similar to mosquito bites. The bites themselves cause discomfort, but they rarely lead to ongoing skin problems or infections.
Instead, it's typically the bitten individual's actions that can contribute to skin problems and infections. In particular, scratching at a bite repeatedly can increase the likelihood of breaking the skin around the bites. When this happens, bacteria and germs can enter the wound and lead to severe skin irritation or infections that may require medical treatment.
Are there common allergic reactions to bed bug bites?
Severe allergic reactions to bed bugs are not terribly common but minor reactions can be. These range from swelling around the bite to severe itching. Those with severe reactions may experience bed bug bite symptoms like:
- Difficulty breathing
If you experience any of these more severe symptoms, consult a doctor as soon as you can.
How do I check for bed bugs when I am traveling or at home?
Bed bugs don't just wander into your home or hotel room. They hitch rides from other locations and come inside on clothes, suitcases and used furniture. This means you'll need to stay vigilant and get in the habit of looking for bed bugs whether you're traveling and staying in a hotel or trying to get a good night's sleep at home.
Checking for bed bugs when traveling
The first thing you should do when you enter a hotel room is pull back the sheets on the bed and look for fecal matter and blood spots on the surface of the mattress. In heavy infestations, you may even see bed bugs crawling on the bed seams. If you don't see anything on the mattress itself, check other parts of the room like the bed frame, beneath cushions and throw pillows and in the dresser or nightstand drawers.
If you suspect an infestation, leave the room immediately to minimize the chance you will transport bugs to another location via your luggage or other materials. Let the staff know that you've found signs of bed bugs and ask for a different room. Perform the same inspection in each room you're staying in. As long as you make sure the room is free from bed bugs, you should be able to enjoy your trip without worrying about bringing unwanted pests home with you.
Checking for bed bugs at home
If you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home, you'll want to conduct the same type of inspection that you do when traveling. Check your sheets for dark smears or stains that could be bed bug blood spots or fecal matter. Look at the seams of your mattress for shed bed bug exoskeletons. Inspect your bed frame for living bugs. You may also want to inspect your furniture, cracks in the walls, your luggage and your baseboards for unwanted insects.
If you don't find any visible signs of a bed bug infestation, but still think you may have them in your home, call an experienced bed bug control specialist. They'll be able to inspect your home more thoroughly and can help identify even minor bed bug infestations long before they have a chance to spread throughout your house.
How can I get rid of bed bugs?
Getting rid of bed bugs is notoriously difficult. They've evolved to be more resistant to many household pesticides and because they reproduce so quickly, eliminating the infestation on your own often isn't even possible. The best thing you can do is to schedule a professional bed bug treatment with your exterminator or pest control specialist. They'll be able to determine the extent of the infestation and can develop an appropriate treatment plan to help you get the problem under control.
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of bed bug bites in your home. Follow manufacturer instructions and wash your bedding in hot water and dry ita on high if possible, as this will kill any bed bugs crawling around on the sheets. Vacuum your bedroom several times each week and use a disposable vacuum bag each time.
It's also a good idea to reduce the amount of clutter you have in your home. Go through each room and get rid of items you no longer want or need. This will make it easier to spot bed bug infestations and help your pest control specialist administer treatment more effectively.
Contact a Professional Exterminator
If you've noticed strange welts and bites appearing on your body or see signs of bed bugs in your home, don't wait or try to treat the problem on your own. Leave it to an experienced professional. Contact Terminix® as soon as you can to schedule a consultation with an experienced bed bug control specialist. They'll inspect your home, identify the extent of the infestation and create a treatment plan to help get rid of bed bugs.