Bed bugs & Lice: Creepy crawlers that make you tick

February 4, 2011 — Don't judge a book by its cover. A clean environment and a well-kept person do not promise to be bug-free zones. There are things you can do to prevent pesky bugs, like bed bugs and lice, from invading your home and body. And if you’ve been invaded, you’ll need a plan of attack against the unwelcome visitors...

Bed Bugs: In the news, but are you in the know?

What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?
Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts, and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep, including apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed.

Do bed bugs spread disease?
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. They can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?
A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?
Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

Bed Bug Tips for Travelers...
If travel is in your future keep in mind the following suggestions to prevent hitchhikers from coming home with you.

The Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force recommends...

At your travel destination:

  1. Ask to inspect your hotel room before you accept it. Turn back the comforter, sheets and mattress pad. Look for bed bug fecal spots.

  2. Don't place your suitcases on the bed or on the floor. Store them on the luggage rack.

  3. Keep your belongings in the suitcase.

  4. Don't put things that you've worn back in the suitcase. Put them into a sealable plastic bag.

  5. Don't put things that you buy on the trip - especially shoes and clothing- in your suitcase. Put them in sealable plastic bags.

  6. Before packing to leave the hotel, inspect your luggage for bed bugs. Place everything in plastic bags in the suitcases.

At home:

  1. Leave your luggage in the garage, or outside. Do NOT take it in the house!

  2. Remove the things in your suitcases and inspect them for bed bugs. Store clothing in the garage or outside until they can be washed and dried in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Things that cannot be dried at a high temperature should be dry cleaned.

  3. Leave your luggage in the garage, if possible. If you must bring it in the house, place it in heavy, tightly sealed plastic bags.

source: www.centralohiobedbugs.org

Did you know? Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night, but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
If your home is infested you'll need a plan of attack against bed bugs...the Ohio Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Remove clutter such as pictures, books and clothing from the infested area, so there are fewer places for the bugs to hide.

  • Vacuum to remove some of the bed bugs; eggs are glued in place and can't be removed by vacuuming alone. They must be scraped off. When vacuuming, concentrate on mattress seams and around any tufts or buttons. Vacuum wherever your inspection revealed the presence of bed bugs—furniture, box springs, bed frames, floors and baseboards. Remove and discard the vacuum bag immediately; place it in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in an outdoor garbage can.

  • Infested items such as clothing, shoes, bedding and blankets can be placed in a clothes dryer on high heat for 20 minutes to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

  • Mattresses and box springs may be enclosed in a bed bug-proof zippered cover to kill the bugs inside. The cover should remain in place for more than one year, because bed bugs can survive a long time without feeding.

  • Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying.

  • If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs.

Head Lice: A hairy subject worth inspecting

What are head lice & who's at risk?
Head lice are a hairy subject worth inspecting. These parasitic insects live on the human head and can infect anyone who comes in contact with contaminated clothing, materials, or an individual who has head lice (ie: hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, combs, brushes, beds, carpets, stuffed animals); and are most likely to affect preschool and elementary children ages 3 to 10.

Use your head...prevent lice:
The following are steps that can be taken to help prevent and control the spread of head lice:

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities at home, school, and elsewhere (sports activities, playground, slumber parties, camp).

  • Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, or barrettes.

  • Do not share combs, brushes, or towels. Disinfest combs and brushes used by an infested person by soaking them in hot water (at least 130°F) for 5-10 minutes.

  • Do not lie on beds, couches, pillows, carpets, or stuffed animals that have recently been in contact with an infested person.

  • Machine wash and dry clothing, bed linens, and other items that an infested person wore or used during the 2 days before treatment using the hot water (130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.

  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. However, spending much time and money on housecleaning activities is not necessary to avoid re-infestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.

  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Curious to learn more about these creepy crawlers? Search Lorain County General Health District’s online resource center.