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Your Unwanted Bedmate: Bed Bugs. By Our Student Pharmacist for July, Emily Burns, Who Will Now Be Checking the Hotel Mattress Any Time She Travels.

Over the past few years, bed bugs have received much attention from the media. A recent report in USA Today showed a 47% increase in calls to exterminators because of bed bugs in Columbus.

Although these pests used to be completely wiped out, there has been an increase due to international travel (they love to hide in your suitcase) and the ban on the toxic pesticide, DDT.

These night-loving bugs have commonly been found in mattress seams and folds (hence their name), but may also hide in electrical outlets, window and doorframes, baseboards, headboards, drapes, and cracks.

Bed bugs thrive in places with lots of night-time guests such as hotels, hospitals, college dorms, and apartment complexes. They hide and burrow during the day, and come out to feed on you or your animals at night. These small pests are able to live without a meal for months, making them difficult to exterminate.

It may be tricky to determine if you have bed bugs since they are excellent at hiding. Ways to detect bed bugs include:  spotting live or dead bugs, shed skins, eggs, and/or dark reddish-brown fecal or blood spots on the mattress, sheets, or nearby walls or furniture.

Bed bug bites cause a reaction in most, but not all, people. These bites appear on uncovered areas of skin (legs, arms, neck, shoulders) and generally cause itching. The small bites will usually disappear without treatment within two weeks, but there are some measures you can take to relieve discomfort.

To help control the itching associated with bed bug bites, topical moisturizers (Aveeno, Lubriderm), corticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone), and/or oral antihistamines (like Benadryl) may help. If these do not relieve the itching and discomfort, it may be time to visit your doctor to get a prescription-strength product. It is important to not scratch these bites, as scratching could break the skin and cause a skin infection.  Luckily, there have been no reports of bed bugs carrying diseases.

To get rid of bed bugs, a multitude of tasks must be done. Mattresses, other bed linens, and drapes need to be steam cleaned, vacuumed, and encased to kill the pests. All clothing should be laundered in hot water (120°F) in case there are any bugs hiding in them. It may also be necessary to hire an exterminator to fumigate or apply pesticides. Over-the-counter pesticides are not effective in killing bed bugs.

You and your family should follow several easy steps to prevent an infestation of bed bugs:

1.When staying away from home, pull back the covers and inspect the mattress for any signs of bed bugs as listed above (mainly, look for the reddish brown fecal and blood spots). It is also good to check your home mattresses regularly in case some of the bugs hitched a ride back on your suitcase.

2. Inspect any borrowed or second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home.

3. Remove clutter around your home to eliminate hiding spots for the unwanted guests.

4. Finally, wear long-sleeves and pants to bed since bed bugs tend to not burrow through clothing.



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