It seems everyone, from friends and neighbors to blogs and newspapers, is discussing the spread of bed bugs -- those biting pests that, like mosquitoes, live on blood. No doubt you want to keep the bugs out of your home. They migrate toward beds, which give them a warm, dark place to live and ready access to humans, so having good mattress covers is essential. However, you can take other steps to keep bed bugs at bay or at least to find them before early, when it is easier to get rid of them.
Know the signs of an infestation. Generally, the first sign of a bed bug problem is having itchy red bite marks on your skin. If you see this, or have heard of a bed bug invasion in your neighborhood, check your bed; the bugs are flat, reddish brown and about the size of an apple seed. They leave rust-like red spots on bedding and mattresses. The insects also leave shed skin frequently, so look for brown sheddings on furniture, walls and floors.
Give your home a thorough inspection and cleaning. Bed bugs hide in the dark cracks and crevices of a house, so check out all those crevices in walls, cabinets, picture frames and furniture. Wash drapes and bedding and inspect the window frames, bed frames and mattresses. Vacuum fabric furniture and mattresses, especially in the seams and behind the cushions. Having a clean house won't necessarily prevent a bed bug invasion, but the routine cleanings and inspections give you the chance to discover the insects during the early stages of an infestation if they do arrive. If you've found the bugs in your home, it is best to enlist the help of an exterminator.
Put protective covers on your beds. After inspecting and vacuuming the beds, carefully checking the frames, headboards, mattresses and box springs, encase the mattresses and box springs in bug-resistant covers. Choose mattress pads that cover the entire surface and close with zippers. Put pillow covers on all the bed pillows, too. The casings help keep bed bugs from out of mattresses and pillows. Read our anti-allergen bedding guide to get more information on protecting your beds from common allergens.
Protect your belongings from bed bugs when you travel. One common reason for the spread of bed bugs is an increase in travel. Bugs from infested areas move into non-infested areas by getting into luggage and clothes. Use luggage racks in hotel rooms to keep luggage and other belongings off the floor and furniture. Keep clean and dirty clothes in sealable bags. Ask for freshly cleaned blankets for the beds. Finally, inspect your luggage and clothes thoroughly when you get home and wash and dry all your clothes on the highest heat settings allowed by the fabrics.