Bed bugs can cause annoying bites and sleepless nights for people who have them in their homes. Some people do not know where bed bugs like to hide or do not know how to kill bedbugs. “My children got itchy red spots all over their chests from crawling on the floor. I didn’t know what to do or where to go for medicine. Back in my home country we didn’t have beds or couches for the bugs to hide. I knew very little about bed bugs,” said a community member.
What is a Bed Bug?
Bed bugs are small insects that live off of the blood of humans. They are reddish brown, oval and flat before feeding. As they feed they stretch their bodies and become longer. A full-sized adult is similar to the size of an apple seed. Bed bug eggs look like small grains of rice and are extremely small. Bed bugs can live in the same type of temperatures that humans enjoy. They can live a long time without feeding on human blood or other animal blood.
Signs of Bed Bugs
Usually, bed bugs bite humans at night while asleep and hide during the day. Bed bug bites may cause itchy red spots that make it difficult for people to sleep. The bites can appear in a line or in small clusters on the skin. Usually bed bugs bite the skin where it is not covered by clothes. Some people who are bitten do not get any red spots from the bites. Bed bugs can hide in mattress seams, bed frames, couches, carpets, behind wallpaper, pictures or posters, in cracks on floors or walls, and in any dark place. They can spread by hiding in clothes, shoes, bags, furniture, luggage, or by walking inside of walls. They cannot fly, but they are very fast when moving in the open. Bed bugs are very common in places with many people such as apartment buildings, homeless shelters, and hotels.
What to Do
If you have a bed bug bite use an anti-itch skin cream that can be found at most drug stores. Bed bug bites usually go away in a week or two, but if the bites do not go away or if they get worse, you should contact a doctor.
If you find bed bugs at home do not panic.
¥ Clean the whole house and keep it clean.
¥ Do not store clothes, shoes, or school packs, on beds and tables as bed bugs can hide in these items. Boxes with clothes, books, and toys are excellent hiding places for bed bugs.
¥ Vacuum every room and every place where bed bugs can hide. When finished cleaning with the vacuum cleaner, take it outside and remove the replaceable bag. Remove the vacuum bag immediately by placing it in a plastic bag, seal it and place in outside trash container. If this is not done, bed bugs could escape the vacuum cleaner if left in the house.
¥ Wash your clothes and sheets in very hot water (too hot to touch) and dry them at hot temperatures for at least 20 minutes. Unwanted clothes can be washed and then sealed in plastic bags for storage or for donation.
¥ Check with your trash collection company on how to dispose of unwanted furniture. Do not place bed bug infested furniture on the street as this only spreads the bugs.
¥ Sweeping will not kill bed bugs.
¥ Talk with your landlord to have any leaks, cracks or openings fixed in your home.
¥ If bed bugs are still a problem, call a pest control company or have your landlord call one.
¥ Do not use insecticide ‘bombs’ or other chemicals at home because they can be harmful to children and pets.
¥ Do not bring furniture found on the street into your home. Only use furniture that you know has been cleaned and does not have bedbugs.
Keeping your home clean, looking for bed bugs in your home and acting quickly when bed bugs are found can help stop the spread of bed bugs.
This article was contributed by the Karen Organization of Minnesota as part of an ongoing series by the MDH Refugee Health Program. Special thanks to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Division of Environmental Health at the Minnesota Department of Health and the St. Paul-Ramsey County Department of Public Health.