GETTING rid of bed bugs can be an unpleasant and tricky job which can often require the help of professionals.
But what can you do to tackle an infestation, how does it occur and how can you treat bites? Here's all you need to know…
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, blood-sucking insects that can be found in the joints of your mattress.
They crawl out at night and feed on human blood after biting through exposed skin.
Typically they are brown, dark yellow or red in colour, are flat and oval-shaped and are the size of an apple seed.
Although they aren’t dangerous, they can cause extreme discomfort and stress to those who are bitten by them.
They can’t jump or fly, but can crawl long distances, so can quickly spread throughout a building.
Baby bed bugs – called nymphs – shed their skin five times before reaching adulthood and need a blood meal before each shedding.
Adults are about 5mm long.
How can you spot a bed bug infestation?
Usually small, red bites on your skin will be one of the first indications that you have a bed bug problem in your house.
You can then spot further signs of small bugs, tiny white eggs in mattress crevices, or tiny black spots which could be their dried poo.
While you might not spot the creatures at first, an infestation will also see blood spots appearing on your sheets, as you squash the bugs in your sleep, and an unpleasant, musty scent in your bedroom.
Some people may also have a reaction to bedbugs in the form of itching and swelling.
The NHS also warns that a severe allergic reaction is possible, albeit rare.
How can you get rid of bed bugs?
It can be extremely difficult to get rid of an infestation, so your best bet may be to get professional help.
Once in your home, bed bugs can quickly spread from room to room. Wait too long before you identify the problem, and they could completely contaminate your home.
The NHS advise contacting your local council or a pest control firm that's a member of the British Pest Control Association or National Pest Technicians Association.
Here’s what you should do to prevent an infestation:
- If you suspect you’ve been infected, the first thing you need to do is strip your bed and wash the sheets and blankets in 60C water, before tumble drying for at least 30 minutes.
- Better still get rid of them altogether by wrapping in bin bags and disposing in a bin.
- Make sure you either throw your mattress away, or thoroughly vacuum it, and your carpet under your bed. Then make sure you take the vacuum outside and dispose of the contents.
- Because 30 per cent of bed bugs live in your bed frame and headboard, it’s vital that you clean those thoroughly, too.
- While vacuuming will get rid of the bugs themselves, it won’t get rid of the eggs. To do that, you’ll need to wipe everywhere with a good pesticide.
What causes bed bugs?
British Pest control expert Ranjen Gohri, from 24/7 Home Rescue, said that growth in bed bug numbers can be down to the amount of people travelling between countries, as well as their growing resistance to chemicals.
Once in your home, bed bugs can spread from room to room on luggage, clothing and furniture so can quickly be a large problem.
He warned: “Bed bugs are becoming more and more common in the UK, and we’re close to approaching epidemic levels.
“We estimate there has been around a three-fold surge in bed bugs in recent years, based on information from our pest controllers. It is a particular problem in highly-populated areas where the bugs can spread easily.”
How can you treat bed bug bites?
Bed bug bites are painless and often clear up themself, but some people can have a reaction to the red, itchy bumps on the skin.
In some cases people can experience a rash or fluid-filled blisters and they can get infected with bacteria if scratched.
You can put something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling.
Keep the infected area clean and prevent infection by not scratching the bite.
You should see your GP if you have any signs of skin infection such as swelling, redness and pain as you may need antibiotics.
The NHS also says you should see a GP if a redness around the bite is spreading.
If they are very itchy you can use antihistamine tablets to relieve the itch and apply a mild steroid cream (such as hydrocortisone).
You should also clean your bedsheets.
How can you prevent a beg bug infestation?
Inspect your mattress and bed regularly for signs of an infestation. Avoid buying second-hand mattresses and carefully inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home.
Keep your bedroom tidy and remove clutter. Bedbugs aren't attracted to dirt, so they're not a sign of an unclean home, but clearing up any clutter will reduce the number of places they can hide.
If you live in an apartment, you could be more prone to infestation, as bed bugs can move between flats.
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