“Sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite”

Goes the serenade we have known since childhood. It is not as cute since bed bugs have become a greater concern in homes, hospitals, businesses, dorm rooms, public transportation, and popular resorts and hotels.

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With bed bug occurrences on the rise, it is important to identify these pests and know how to treat their itchy bites. According to a new survey from the University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association, more than 95 percent of 519 U.S. exterminators reported finding at least one bed bug infestation in the past year. They are also noting that calls to exterminators have increased by 57 percent.

So, what exactly is a beg bug? Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown non-flying insects that are oval in shape with flat bodies. Adult bugs are ¼ of an inch long with six wings, no wings, and no antennas. Bed bugs can be found in and around beds, chairs and sofas, window treatments and rugs, cracks of walls, floors, and even behind wallpaper! Because bed bugs can survive months without a meal, they can even be found in vacant living spaces.

These hard-to-control pests are often mistaken for ticks. Bed bug bites are itchy, much like mosquito bites, and form little red bumps often in a line. Should you scratch them, an infection can ensue. Treating a bed bug bite or rash is fairly easy. You can try calamine lotion, an over-the-counter topical steroid cream such as 0.5%, and 1% hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamines like Benadryl. If an infection is present, a doctor may need to prescribe an antibiotic.

While these bugs are not proven to carry infectious diseases, researchers believe that they could be possible carriers of Chagas disease.

Like ticks and mosquitoes, bed bugs have a taste for human or animal blood. It is at night when they feed and once they are full, they retreat to find a close crevice to relax after a tasty meal. To prevent future bites, guests are advised to keep their belongings on the luggage rack provided by the hotel or resort and hang clothes to prevent taking these pesky creatures home as souvenirs.

Before traveling, be sure to go online as many cities and hotels now report on their bed bug status. In fact, there are several public databases reporting on over 12,000 locations across North America.

Once you have arrived at your destination, look for telltale signs of these little visitors. Signs include tiny blood spots on linens, mattresses, headboards, and footboards. Should you find any indication of bed bugs, be sure to request another room and be sure to inspect it until you find bug free room or hotel. After arriving home, wash your clothes immediately and place them in the dryer for at least 20 minutes. You can also put them in the freezer for five days.

While treating bed bug bites is quite easy, getting rid of them is much more difficult. In the event that you have bed bugs in your home, try vacuuming to capture the bugs and scraping the surface to hatch their eggs. After completing this task, place the vacuum bag in an airtight bag and toss it into a garbage receptacle, preferably outside.

You can have them removed by a professional pest control company. They will be able to offer a variety of treatments including low-odor sprays, dust, and aerosol insecticides. Mattresses are often difficult to treat as applying a pesticide that would touch the skin can be dangerous. In some cases, mattresses will need to be discarded. It is also a good idea to de-clutter areas around your beds such as clothing and toys and attempts to keep all sheets and blankets off of the floor.

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