Check Up: Treating bedbugs


October 27, 2015

Dear Readers,

Angela D was severely bitten by "bedbugs" and was itching uncontrollably. She is now feeling much improved after visiting her doctor but is concerned that she could have infected her family. She ask how bed bugs are truly eradicated.

Bedbugs are small insects which feed by sucking blood from humans or other animals. They do not fly and can live just about anywhere - cracks in furniture, beds, mattresses, on curtains, corners inside dressers, in wallpaper and in wicker furniture.

These insects are most active at night when they bite exposed skin while the person sleeps. Normally they have flat bodies which swell after feeding. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks.

The most common signs are:

• Redness

• Swelling

• Itching

Temperatures of 70-80 F are most favoured by bedbugs. This allows them to develop more rapidly. Bedbugs are found all over the world and while they are often reported where sanitation is poor they also live, and can thrive, in a clean environment.

Bedbugs can live for many months without feeding. One relieving factor is that they do not transmit diseases. Also, because bedbugs live solely on blood finding them in a room is not necessarily a sign of dirtiness. They can be found in clean hotel rooms also!

Most bedbug bites are not serious, although, occasionally severe allergic reactions can occur.

If an individual wakes up with itchy areas which they didn't have before they went to bed, they may have bedbugs although in Jamaica, it is entirely possible that it could be mosquitoes! Typically, bedbugs bite in "patches", travel on the skin and then bite another "patch" and may seem to track along the skin. This is very different from how mosquitoes bite.

If infestation is suspected then all bedding should be removed and the mattress seams and bed box spring and wooded seams inspected for bedbugs. Check telephones, electrical outlets and edges of carpets. Check clothings. If unsure, the pest control should be called. A number of aerosol insecticides can be used to eradicate bedbugs but must be applied to all areas where the insect can crawl to or hide.

Bedding, clothing and curtains should be boiled in hot water and mattress seams scrubbed with a stiff brush before vacuuming and emptying the vacuum where its contents can be eliminated. Anti-histamines can be taken and steroid creams applied to eliminate itching. Antibiotics may also be needed if the bites become infected.

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