The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true for bed bugs. They stubbornly refuse to be eradicated once they get established in your home. Here are some helpful hints for how to avoid them in the first place.
Know What a Bed Bug Looks Like
Bed bugs are small, even as adult insects (about 6 mm, the size of an apple seed). They are flightless, brown, oval in shape, and are extremely flattened, top to bottom. They can run rather quickly. They leave brown or red stains from their excrement, and these stains may be all that you see when inspecting for them.
Inspect Your Accommodations
Your risk of encountering bed bugs is highest in places with serial occupancy: hotels, motels, hostels, dormitories, cabins, prisons, hospitals, clinics, and even buses, planes, trains, and taxicabs. When possible, carefully inspect rooms. Check behind the headboard if it is flush against the wall. Peer behind the carpet if it goes up the wall like a baseboard. Check mattress seams and under buttons. Keep luggage and clothing off the floor to avoid hitchhiking bed bugs from going home with you. Maybe put your suitcase in the bathtub.
Inspect Used Furniture Before Purchasing
Thrift stores can offer some nasty surprises in used furniture. Thoroughly inspect pieces before you buy. Bed bugs can slip into the thinnest cracks and crevices, so if you can literally take apart the item, do it. Even picture frames can hide bed bugs if they were hanging in an infested bedroom. Never acquire a used mattress. Ever.
Inspect Yourself for Bites
Many people do not react to bed bug bites, but if you wake up with unexplained welts or sores, inspect again for bed bugs. Bed bugs
typically leave a zigzag pattern, or trail or cluster of three wounds (“breakfast, lunch, and dinner”), so that can be a clue.
Reactions to Bites
How you react to bed bug bites is determined by your immune system. Bites are not felt initially because the bug delivers an anesthetic to the puncture site. Quick reactions occur one to twenty-four hours after a bite, and last two to five days. Delayed immune responses generally appear one to three days after a bite, and last two to five days. Extreme allergic reactions may result in boils. Products with antihistamines and corticosteroids can soothe itching, reduce swelling, and promote healing of uninfected bed bug bites. Seek a dermatologist for any complications.