“Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite” was something I repeated every night after my prayers when I was a child. Bedbugs did not pose a threat back then but they are a potential problem now. Brought on perhaps by more international travel and the banning of the pesticide DDT, these creepy little insects are now showing up in cities throughout the country, and even in Santa Cruz.
The risk of exposure to bedbugs is greatest if you spend time in places with high turnovers of night-time guests, such as hotels and hospitals. The bedbugs may not only feed off of you during your overnight visit but they can get into your luggage and you could bring them home with you.
Bedbugs, which are reddish brown and about the size of an apple seed, need a blood meal in order to survive. They come out from hiding during the night to feast on their victim. Once they have their meal they crawl back into their hiding places. Fortunately, it appears that they do not transmit disease to their human hosts.
These little creatures are hard to find. During the day, bedbugs hide in small cracks and crevices of mattresses, box springs, headboards, bed frames, floors, and walls. To find evidence of bedbugs look for either the actual bug itself, or for small back specks which the bugs leave behind. If you think you are being bitten by bedbugs, you may find little spots of blood on your sheets.
The bites are usually small red lesions, can be arranged in a line or in a cluster, are often located on the face, arms, hands, and neck. They can be very itchy.
In order to prevent bedbugs from coming home with you, I suggest the following when traveling:
- Never put your luggage on the bed or the floor near the bed. Put suitcases in the bathroom or on the night stand.
- Examine the bed by checking around the seams of the mattress and box spring as well as the joints of the head board and frame.
- Live out of your suitcase, don’t use the dresser.
- Demand a different room if you see evidence of bedbugs and check that room as well.
Upon returning home, open the suitcase in the garage, porch, or outside. Wash all clothes in hot water and vacuum out the suitcase and store it in the garage.
If you find evidence of bedbugs in your home your best bet is to contact a licensed pest control company for treatment options. Remember that the most important thing is to keep them out of your house in the first place.