Some preparation is still required (e.g. removal of heat-sensitive items such as aerosol cans, indoor plants and medications), but it is seldom necessary to bag, launder and/or hot dry bedding and clothing since these items will be heated along with other furnishings. Another advantage of heat treatment is that infestations can often be eliminated in one day, rather than over multiple days or weeks. Conversely, heat treatment alone has no lasting (residual) effect should bed bugs be reintroduced into the dwelling. Consequently, some companies recommend concurrently applying residual insecticides. To further minimize reintroduction, occupants are advised to take as few belongings as possible with them while the heat treatment is in progress.
The bites do not usually require medical treatment. Secondary bacterial infection of the skin may develop in areas that become irritated due to prolonged scratching. Topical antibiotic creams or ointments may relieve symptoms of a secondary infection. Antiseptic lotions may also be beneficial. If you've had an allergic reaction to the bedbug bites, your doctor may recommend oral antihistamine medications or corticosteroids.
Bed bug infestations have resurged since the 1980s for reasons that are not clear, but contributing factors may be complacency, increased resistance, bans on pesticides, and increased international travel. The U.S. National Pest Management Association reported a 71% increase in bed bug calls between 2000 and 2005. The number of reported incidents in New York City alone rose from 500 in 2004 to 10,000 in 2009. In 2013, Chicago was listed as the number 1 city in the United States with the worst bed bug infestation. As a result, the Chicago City Council passed a bed bug control ordinance to limit their spread. Additionally, bed bugs are reaching places in which they never established before, such as southern South America.
Once you have a suspicion or a confirmed infestation, do not spread things outside of the bedroom. Don't take linens off the bed and go to sleep somewhere else—that will just move the infestation to other rooms. Ultimately pest control operators will tell you to put everything you can through the washer and dryer, since bed bugs cannot withstand high temperatures. I don't think bed bugs would be able to survive solvent-based dry cleaning, but I don't have any first-hand knowledge that that's true. Unfortunately, dry cleaners and Laundromats can be places where people pick up bed bugs. I think it's a low probability, but it only takes one adult female bed bug that has been mated to get an infestation going.
The treatment of bedbug bites depends on the symptoms and their severity. The bites should heal and disappear in one to two weeks whether you treat them or not. The goal is to prevent scratching the itchy rash, which can lead to a skin infection. You can use over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch creams such as calamine lotion or those containing diphenhydramine or cortisone. Be sure to read the product label and don't use these creams around the eyes, anus, or genitals.
Bed bug bites occur most frequently while you’re asleep. As bed bugs bite they inject their victims with an anesthetic (as well as an anticoagulant), numbing the area and making it very rare for someone to wake up when bitten. Bites normally take a day or two to appear, although depending on your individual reaction they may be more visible sooner.
However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else's house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.
Bed bugs are small, brownish, flattened insects that feed solely on the blood of animals. Although the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) prefers feeding on humans, it will also bite other warm-blooded animals, including dogs, cats, birds and rodents. It has done so since ancient times; bed bugs are mentioned in medieval European texts and classical Greek writings back to the time of Aristotle.
Vigilant travelers may also want to elevate suitcases off the floor on a stand, tabletop or other hard surface rather than storing them on the floor or another bed. Hyper-vigilant travelers may further opt to keep belongings in sealed plastic pouches and their suitcase in a zippered tote — however each traveler must decide how cautious they wish to be.
While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.