SLEEPING can be hard for some – you might not get enough and it might be disturbed.
But the last thing you want to have to contend with when it's time to hit the hay – is bed bugs.
Just the sight of them alone is enough to make you want to hop in the shower and have a good scrub – and the last thing you want is for your sheets to be crawling with them.
Bed bugs can be nasty and even more so if you're unlucky enough to be bitten by one of them.
You might even come across the critters on holiday and bring them home with you as a unhelpful souvenir.
When you are on holiday you should avoid putting your suitcase on the bed and keeping clothes in the wardrobe in order to make sure you don't transport the critters.
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You should also examine your bedding for signs of an infestation and keep worn clothes away from clean ones.
But what can you do to tackle an infestation, how does it occur and how can you treat bites? Here's all you need to know…
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny, blood-sucking insects that can be found in the joints of your mattress – adults are about 5mm long.
They crawl out at night and will then feed on human blood after biting through exposed skin.
Typically they are brown, dark yellow or red in colour, are flat and oval-shaped and are the size of an apple seed.
Although they aren’t dangerous, they can cause extreme discomfort and stress to those who are bitten by them.
They can’t jump or fly, but can crawl long distances, so can quickly spread throughout a building.
Baby bed bugs – called nymphs – shed their skin five times before reaching adulthood and need a blood meal before each shedding.
How can you spot a bed bug infestation?
There are quite obvious signs that you have been infected with bed bugs, the first indication shows up on your skin…
- Usually small, red bites on your skin will be one of the first signs you have a bed bug problem
- You can then spot further signs of small bugs, tiny white eggs in mattress crevices, or tiny black spots which could be their dried poo
- While you might not spot the creatures at first, an infestation will also see blood spots appearing on your sheets, as you squash the bugs in your sleep.
- There might also start to be an unpleasant, musty scent in your bedroom
- And finally some people may also have a reaction to bedbugs in the form of itching and swelling, which can be severe – although this is rare
How can you treat bed bug bites?
Bed bug bites are painless and often clear up on their own, but some people can have a reaction to the red, itchy bumps on the skin.
In some cases people can experience a rash or fluid-filled blisters and they can get infected with bacteria if scratched.
You can put something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling.
Keep the infected area clean and prevent infection by not scratching the bite.
You should see your GP if you have any signs of skin infection such as swelling, redness and pain as you may need antibiotics.
The NHS also says you should see a GP if a redness around the bite is spreading.
If they are very itchy you can use antihistamine tablets to relieve the itch and apply a mild steroid cream (such as hydrocortisone).
You should also clean your bedsheets.
How can you prevent a bed bug infestation?
Inspect your mattress and bed regularly for signs of an infestation.
Avoid buying second-hand mattresses and carefully inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home.
Keep your bedroom tidy and remove clutter.
Bedbugs aren't attracted to dirt, so they're not a sign of an unclean home, but clearing up any clutter will reduce the number of places they can hide.
If you live in an apartment, you could be more prone to infestation, as bed bugs can move between flats.
How can you get rid of bed bugs?
It can be extremely difficult to get rid of an infestation, so your best bet may be to get professional help.
Once in your home, bed bugs can quickly spread from room to room.
Wait too long before you identify the problem, and they could completely contaminate your home.
The NHS advises contacting your local council or a pest control firm that's a member of the British Pest Control Association or National Pest Technicians Association.
Here’s what you should do to get rid of an infestation:
- If you suspect you’ve been infected, the first thing you need to do is strip your bed and wash the sheets and blankets in 60C water, before tumble drying for at least 30 minutes.
- Better still get rid of them altogether by wrapping in bin bags and disposing in a bin.
- Make sure you either throw your mattress away, or thoroughly vacuum it, and your carpet under your bed. Then make sure you take the vacuum outside and dispose of the contents.
- Because 30 per cent of bed bugs live in your bed frame and headboard, it’s vital that you clean those thoroughly, too.
- While vacuuming will get rid of the bugs themselves, it won’t get rid of the eggs. To do that, you’ll need to wipe everywhere with a good pesticide.
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