The decline of bed bug populations in the 20th century is often credited to potent pesticides that had not previously been widely available. Other contributing factors that are less frequently mentioned in news reports are increased public awareness and slum clearance programs that combined pesticide use with steam disinfection, relocation of slum dwellers to new housing, and in some cases also follow-up inspections for several months after relocated tenants moved into their new housing.
Avoidance is the best means of preventing bedbug infestation.8 While traveling, sleeping quarters and bedding should be closely inspected for signs of bedbugs. Suitcases should be placed on metal racks away from walls and furniture. Frequent travelers might consider obtaining a portable heating unit for luggage and clothing (e.g., Packtite) as an additional precaution. Items at yard sales and secondhand stores should also be carefully examined before purchase.8 All potentially infested items should be sorted and sealed in plastic bags and removed only when ready to be disinfested (see Table 36 for instructions regarding effective care of infested items). Wearing long-sleeved nightclothes can minimize exposed skin, and although insect repellants have not been shown to be reliably effective, oil of lemon eucalyptus or diethyltoluamide (DEET) might help deter bites.44,45
Preparing for bed bug treatment is tedious yet important. Very comprehensive preparation is necessary when infestations are heavy and the bugs are widely dispersed. More limited prep may be adequate for light infestations since at these levels the bed bugs typically are more confined to sleeping areas (beds, sofas, and recliners). Pest control firms have their own policies, however, regarding preparation requirements which may also depend on the manner of treatment.
Unlike those of other insects, bed bug bites may sometimes appear in tight lines of multiple, small, red marks where multiple bed bugs have fed along an exposed area. Bed bug bites can cause itchiness. Initially, a victim may detect a slight burning sensation. The burning area then develops red bumps, known as papules or wheals (rash). In extreme cases, bites may swell dramatically or turn into blister-like skin inflammations.