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Bedbugs are on the rise, sparing no socioeconomic group. Several reasons for this are hypothesized including increased travel (hitchhiking in luggage), immigration, increased exchange of second-hand furniture, and resistance to common insecticides. Bedbug infestations in San Francisco doubled between 2004 and 2006, and in 2008 there were over twenty thousand bedbug-related calls to New York City’s information line.
The bedbug bite goes unnoticed and intense itching develops later, the result of an allergic reaction. Often the bites are arranged in groups of three, appetizingly referred to as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes the tiny buggers can be seen; wake up in the middle of the night and shine a flashlight on the bedsheets. The insects are small and flat, less than one-quarter of an inch in diameter. Infestation can also be recognized by the presence of red-brown specks (bedbug excrement) on sheets and mattress seams. The bugs can also live in cracks and crevices and under baseboards. Bedbugs avoid light and roam at night, drawn to a human host by body heat. They dine (suck blood) for five to ten minutes during which time their body weight swells some 200 percent, and their length increases by 50 percent.
A 2009 review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association notes that bedbugs fortunately do not transmit diseases. The problem is that, along with the severe itch, they do transmit fear and loathing.
Bedbugs are tiny parasitic insects.
Treating bedbug bites is easy. A topical steroid cream and oral antihistamines will do the trick. Ridding one’s residence of these nasty critters is the hard part. Bedbugs can survive for up to a year after a single meal. Scrub infested areas with a stiff brush, and vacuum cracks and crevices. Use of special mattress bags will entomb the bugs and eventually kill them but will not rectify their using wall cracks and crevices as hiding places. Heat kills bed bugs and their eggs so entities such as clothes, bedding and stuffed animals are best placed in a clothes dryer set on the highest setting for at least 20 minutes. Bug bombs are not effective. A professional exterminator is often the best option usually requiring more than one visit. Although bedbugs are creepy, try not to panic.