Bed Bug FAQ

What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs (Cimex Lectularlarius) are small, flat parasites that feed on human blood. Adult bed bugs are about the size, shape and color of an apple seed. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln's head on a penny). They are found wherever humans sleep, feed mostly at night, and can reproduce very rapidly.

How do I know if I have bed bugs?
Look for signs that may include:

  • Itchy skin welts on your body
  • Small blood smears on bedding from crushed insects
  • Tiny dark spots on your sheets, mattress or box spring which are their fecal droppings
  • Dried remains of shed bed bug skins

Bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs are present. Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Be aware that other insects, such as fleas, ticks and mosquitos, can leave bites that look like bed bug bites. Bites alone are not an indication that you have a bed bug infestation.

*Important note: The only way to be sure you have bed bugs is to find and positively identify a live bed bug.

What should I do if I think I have bed bugs?
If you think you see a bed bug, capture it if at all possible. Place it in a leak-proof container, or between a piece of tape, and bring the specimen to the Residence Life offices as soon as possible to confirm its identity. Even if you cannot capture one of the insects, you should inform Residence Life if you suspect you have a bed bug problem.

Do bed bugs spread disease?
Bed bugs should not be considered a medical or public health hazard. Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and a loss of sleep.

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.

How does one get bed bugs?
Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

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. These areas include 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. 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.

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.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?
Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and applying antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. The best form of bed bug treatment is using high heat for a concentrated amount of time. Often this is referred to as "Thermal Heat Treatment."

A simple way to replicate a high heat treatment is to dry any clothing, bedding, luggage, etc., on a high heat cycle for one hour.

The use of bed bug mattress covers has also been shown to be effective in preventing bed bugs from hiding within a mattress. The microfiber material keeps bed bugs from burrowing in a seam and increases the likelihood of an effective thermal heat treatment.

The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection, washing and drying all clothes or bedding that may have been exposed to bed bugs during travel, avoiding second-hand furniture, and increasing awareness of high-risk areas, such as hostels.

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