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Monday, November 14, 2011

Bed bugs 101: Everything you need to know about the resurgent little horrors that follow you home

Before you confirm your next reservation at a hotel, you might google something on the Internet: Bedbugregistry.com and Bedbugger.com. You can also type in the name and location of your hotel followed by the slash symbol, then, “bed bugs.”
It should tell you whether or not your hotel has had any reports of the pests.
I visited these websites and others after hearing from a friend who had just returned home from traveling and counted 20 bites along her neck and arms. They looked like spider bites but after a visit to the doctor’s office, she learned that they were from bed bugs.
Unfortunately, this came after she slept in her bed at home. Not good.
 Hell, the next time I sleep in a hotel, I’m wearing a wet suit! 
She launched into a series of measures — washing her pillows, sheets and mattress pad. She carried her suitcase to her garage and sprayed it down with alcohol. She also hired an exterminator. These are but a few steps in the eradication process.
The devil is in the details. Seemingly, in these little buggers too.
After hearing her tell about this, I ran to my computer and googled bedbugs. I was amazed. As I read, I began itching all over. Bedbugs are serious business.
Granted, after my experience with typhus (contracted from a flea bite) I am paranoid anyway about blood-sucking parasites. But what’s alarming about bed bugs is their pervasiveness. After treating yourself, you should re-trace every step from where you contracted them, as some of these places will require treatment as well.
The Bedbug Registry explains that, “bedbugs don’t care about cleanliness! They can thrive in an immaculate, five-star hotel room just as easily as somewhere run-down. All they need is proximity to people and a crevice to hide in.”
Who in the world (including infants) doesn’t have crevices? Where in the world are there not crevices?

Protect Yourself
The website provides steps you can take while traveling as well as at home. The first step they suggest is to learn what a bedbug looks like, reddish brown in color and oval in shape. Because they are extremely flat, they can hide in surprising places.
Bedbug Registry also tells you to how to check a hotel room. This is important, folks! Click on “Resources” and you’ll see detailed photographs. Maybe more than you want.
Bedbugger.com. lists important dos and don’ts:
“Don’t assume bed bugs are only in your bed. While bed frames and mattresses and headboards are the most likely location for bed bugs, they can and often do hide out in sofas and other soft furniture, electrical sockets (behind plates), light fixtures, baseboards, floor crevices and other crevices in the bedroom and living room.”
Remember this the next time you go to buy second-hand furniture.
Here’s another warning from Bedbugger.com.:
“Do not, absolutely do not release a fogger or bug bomb. Do not allow your landlord to do so. Do not allow a so-called exterminator to do so. Bug bombs/foggers do not work for bed bugs, and in fact, will spread them. Your problem will be magnified. Trust me!”
For a comprehensive report, google “Bed bugs Mayo Clinic.” The report explains that bed bugs were prevalent during WWII but with the use of DDT (then legal), they were “eradicated from most developed nations.”
Apparently, however, there has been a resurgence of bed bugs. Some reports claim since 1980, another states that bed bugs have increased dramatically since 1995. The Mayo report links this to three causes:
“Increased international travel”
“Changes in pest control practices”
“Insecticide resistance”
The report states, “The risk of encountering bed bugs increases if you spend time in places with high turnovers of night-time guests such as hotels, hospitals or homeless shelters.”
Then, I wondered, what about movie theaters? Yikes!
My friend provided other travel tips. Don’t set your suitcase down on the floor or put your clothes inside drawers. “Set it on the luggage rack and work out of your suitcase from there,” she suggested. “Not to worry!” I said.
“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” may have a literal meaning. The Mayo report suggests that you cover up.
“Because bedbugs don’t tend to burrow under clothing, you may be able to avoid bites by wearing pajamas that cover as much skin as possible.”
Hell, the next time I sleep in a hotel, I’m wearing a wet suit!

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