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Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite! By Our September Pharmacy Student, Michael Salem.

Bed bugs have been a household pest for thousands of years. These bugs are small, elusive, difficult to detect, and can be very tough to eradicate from your home. Here are some tips for the detection, eradication, and prevention of bedbugs.

Signs of a bed bug infestation are brown fecal and blood spots on clothing, bedding, or furniture. Additionally, bed bugs have a distinct sweet, musty smell. If you suspect an infestation, it may be wise to inspect the area with a flashlight about an hour before dawn, as these bugs are nocturnal and most active at this time. The picture to the right gives you a perspective on the size of an adult bed bug, so you know what you are looking for.

Bed bugs, just like mosquitoes, feed on human blood. The appearance of the bite is similar to that of mosquitoes. One characteristic of the bites to look for is if they are in a series of three bites in a straight line- they call this “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” bites. The picture below does a good job of depicting this, you can see four distinct sets of bites.

Treating the bites is really just treating the itch associated with it, so oral antihistamines (i.e Benadryl®) and topical steroids (i.e Cortisone®) will usually do the trick.

Getting rid of bed bugs is a real challenge, and requires both physical removal and chemical eradication. What you can do at home is vacuum any infested mattresses/furniture daily until the bugs are removed. Then the mattress/furniture should be sealed with an encasement for at least one year, as a bed bug can survive one year without a meal. Bedding, clothing, curtains, children toys (i.e stuffed animals) should be washed in HOT water and dried for 30 minutes on the HIGHEST HEAT setting. Chemical treatment by a licensed pest control company is also necessary to ensure complete eradication of the bugs.

Measures can be taken to prevent these little pests from entering your home. To start, eliminate clutter in the house and seal any cracks or crevices. Next, regular inspection of mattresses, headboards, bedding, and linens can go a long way to prevent an infestation. Any used furniture, clothing, or linens should be thoroughly inspected before bringing them into the house. If you can, make it a policy to never purchase a used mattress!

Finally, when spending the night in a new place, do a quick check of the bedding for those fecal and blood spots and that sweet, musty smell mentioned earlier. Nothing would be worse than bringing the bugs home with you after a trip or vacation! If you want more information, two great internet sources are listed below.

And remember, SLEEP TIGHT!!!




McKenzie MC, DeSimone EM. The Rise in Bed Bugs; Prevention, Management, and Treatment. U.S Pharmacist. 2012;37:47-50.

Photos Sources:



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