Coping with bed bugs

Due to an increase in global travel bed bugs are on the rise. Hot weather in crowded cities also plays a significant role in bed bug spread and shortens their reproductive cycle. If you are a frequent traveller or have had guests staying in your home, you may experience allergies, insomnia, and itching. If you are the owner of a hotel, there may be a rise in complaints and there is the likelihood of having to replace carpets and furnishings that have been ruined by bed bugs.

Educating yourself about bed bugs will help you to avoid bringing them into your home or business. We’ll also explain how to recognise an infestation, how to control bed bugs and what to do when you have been bitten.

Signs of bed bugs

The very first signs of a bed bug infestation are itchy welts on your body and spots of blood on your bed sheets

Finding live begs is one of the singes there may be a bed bug problem about. You may first notice them on your bed linen and pillows. but if you would like to look for them, you will find them in mattress seams, bed frames and other bedroom furniture. Check along carpet edges, curtains folds, picture frames, and around power points. Evidence of  dark brown marks, eggs and skin casings will confirm your findings. An absence of live bugs doesn’t mean you are free of these pests. Their small size and secretive nature just make them harder to detect.

If you are a hotel manager, your housekeeping staff are an asset. Train them to identify bed bugs. Never try to treat an infestation yourself. Poor management can spread bugs further throughout the building.

Some people describe the smell of bed bugs as musty or sickly sweet. The unpleasant odour is caused by bed bug pheromones. Strong odours may indicate a large infestation.

Check for dark reddish-brown spots around mattresses, headboards and other furnishings. These are from bed bugs excreting digested blood after feeding. Black bed bug droppings are also signs of an infestation.

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What do bed bugs look like?

Bed bugs resemble an apple seed in shape, colour and size

An adult bed bug measures around 5-9 mm in length. If bed bugs have recently had a blood meal, their body doubles in size. Normally it is flat and oval shaped. Nymphs (baby bed bugs), resemble adults but are smaller. They are roughly the size of a grain of rice. This makes them impossible to see, unless they have recently fed.

Bed bugs are wingless, and cannot fly or jump. Their flat body allows them to hide in tiny crevices, and to move quickly over surfaces. There are a few insects that resemble bed bugs, such as cockroach nymphs, spider beetles and even booklice.

Adult bed bugs are a rusty brown colour. This changes to rusty red when their body enlarges after a blood meal. Nymphs are pale and colourless when first hatched, th ey turn the normal rusty brown colour as they mature. After a blood meal, nymphs can appear bright red.

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs bites look like welts similar to mosquito bites

Bed bugs are a wide spread and a common problem in Sydney. They can be found in households and throughout the hotel industry, including backpackers and travellers who share rooms as well as aged care residences. Although they are prevalent in budget accommodation, upmarket hotels are not immune either. The sharp increase in tourism and a ban of harsh chemicals used for bedbug control, has strongly contributed to their resurgence. Bed bugs may be introduced to your home whilst staying overnight in already infested premises. They can be brought in with second hand furniture. They can also travel in people’s luggage, on their clothing and can easily be picked up on public transport. Once they find a happy home, it can be quite a task to eradicate them.

 It is not easy to detect bed bugs, especially when you are unaware of their presence. Although bed bugs are nocturnal, they are opportunistic feeders. They will happily take a blood meal at any time. Bed bugs inject anaesthetic into the skin, so they can feed in peace while you sleep.Their bites resemble welts, and that’s why bed bugs are often mistaken for mosquito bites. If you wake up with bite marks, you should suspect bed bugs. Some people will have no reaction at all to a bite.

The tell-tale signs of bed bug bites will be the red or black stains on your bed sheets. You may initially think the bite is from a flea or mosquito. With mosquitos the bite is visible, with immediate itching following the bite. Flea bites usually occur on ankles and lower body parts.

Bed bugs are more of an annoyance than a health hazard, however avoid scratching bites if possible. Apply anti itch cream and use antihistamine in order to reduce the burning sensation. Use antiseptic to reduce chances of an infection. Most bed bug bites heal quickly, but if symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention.

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