Health A to Z

Bed bugs

bed bugs, bed bug symptoms, treatment, prevention

Anyone who travels and stays in hotels is probably worried about catching bed bugs. With good reason: thanks to more international travel, bed bugs can come home with you from your vacation on your clothes and luggage. And getting rid of bed bugs can be difficult. These small biting insects are a growing problem that can affect anyone. They feed on human blood and bed bug bites can cause secondary infections and allergic reactions.

Bed bug causes Bed bugs can be found in hotels, private homes and apartments and in public places, such as offices. Usually in hiding during the day, they come out at night and can bite. They tend to hide near beds or where people normally sleep. Adult bed bugs can live for a year or more in the right conditions. Having bed bugs doesn’t mean your home is dirty.

Bed bugs symptoms You may notice that you have red itchy welts on your skin and/or black or brown spots on mattresses, sheets, bed frames or walls. Bed bug bites may appear in a pattern, in a line of three or four. Because they are extremely small and flat, they can hide behind wallpaper or in electrical outlets. If you are exposed to bed bugs for a prolonged period, you may become more sensitive to them but bed bugs do not pose a major health risk.

Bed bugs diagnosis/tests If the bed bug bites appear infected, see your doctor who may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear them up or antihistamines to help stop the itching.

Bed bugs treatment If you are infested with bed bugs, wash the bites and try applying some calamine lotion. Bed bugs are difficult to kill. Treatment usually involves more than one chemical treatment. Vaccuuming, steam cleaning and disposing of infested bedding and furniture can also help kill bed bugs. Contact your local public health office for information about pest control treatment for bed bugs.

Bed bugs prevention It may be possible to prevent an infestation even if you come into contact with the little critters. While bed bugs can be hard to see, they are visible to the human eye and are about the size of an apple seed. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can inspect your hotel room for bed bugs. When you travel, inspect the mattress and headboard in the hotel room; do not bring your pillow from home, and do not place your suitcase on the bed. Avoid putting your luggage close to walls or furniture and inspect your shoes and clothing after you leave. If you spot any bed bugs, kill them. In your own home, be cautious about bringing in second-hand furniture, bedding, mattresses or beds or inspect them extremely carefully.

Outside resources
Health Canada – Bed Bugs