These 4 Facts About Bedbugs Will Automatically Make Your Skin Start Itching
Bedbugs are no joke, and the thought of contracting them probably makes you want to light your entire bed—sheets, pillows, and mattress included—on fire. But here’s what you need to know about the totally gross but mostly avoidable little insects.
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The small, oval-shaped nocturnal insects feed on human blood, and they hide in dark cracks and crevices during the day so they can come out to feed at night. They’re most likely to be found in furniture, bed frames, mattresses, and wooden floorboards—and there’s a good chance you let them inside without even realizing it. “People typically get bedbugs by bringing them home,” says Timothy Wu, M.D. “They can crawl into luggage, clothing, and purses, and can be found in hotels, motels, cruise ships, buses, trains, shelters, and nursing homes.” Human odor plays a part, too: A recent study in Scientific Records found that bedbugs are twice as likely to cling to dirty laundry than clean clothes.
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Female bedbugs lay approximately 300 eggs in their lifetime, and the eggs hatch in about 10 days. Their lifespan ranges from six to 24 months, and adult bedbugs can last up to one year without feeding. “It only takes a few bedbugs to create an infestation,” says Wu.
Since bedbugs typically feed at night while you’re sleeping, you probably won’t see the actual bug unless you’re searching for them. Instead, the first sign you have bedbugs will be a rash on your body. “Bedbugs can present as multiple red, itchy bumps all over the body,” says Wu. “Sometimes you may even notice some crusted blood in the center of the lesion from the actual bite. Depending on how reactive you are, the bites may range from small red bumps to larger, juicier wheals or hives, and sometimes even blisters.” There’s no way to distinguish a bedbug bite from another insect bite, since they both present similarly on the skin, but some bedbug bites are noted in a series of three bites in a row. “This is known as breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Wu, who also notes that not everyone will react to the bites. “If two people share a bed infested with bedbugs, it’s possible that only one person may have itchy bumps or evidence of bedbug bites.”
“Anyone can get bedbugs,” says Wu. “And getting them has nothing to do with good personal hygiene or household cleanliness.” Wu says there are a few ways you can prevent them. When traveling, place your luggage on the luggage rack, since bedbugs can crawl into your luggage from the ground. If you’re staying in a hotel, check the cracks and crevices of the mattress, bed frame, and headboard for signs of bedbugs. When you return from a trip, check your personal belongings for bedbugs before bringing them into your home. If there are signs of bedbugs, wash all your clothes in hot water and dry them in a dryer under the hottest setting. Using a fabric steamer to clean your luggage will kill the bedbugs and their eggs. Avoid purchasing secondhand mattresses or furniture. Sayonara, Craigslist couch!