The Super Paranoid's Guide to Ultimate Bed Bug Defense

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Image via liz.novak/flickrBed bug killers like Richard Cooper hate people like me, those who are freaked out by these nasty little biters but remain in denial to the point that we are partly to blame for the recent bed bug infestation problems.

I know no one, including me, is immune to bed bugs. I know I could pick up a bed bug and bring it into my home. But I don't really believe that's going to happen to me, because I'm not the type of person who gets bed bugs.

See, that's the very dangerous attitude that prevents me from taking steps to prevent infestations in my house or helping to tame the larger problem of the blood-thirsty bastards taking over the world, which, if you read the papers, is exactly what they seem to be doing.

If more people like me were simply aware, and took the risks and warnings seriously, the bed bug problem in New York City and other urban areas would not be as out of control as it is, according to Cooper, the ruthless bed bug hunter, research entomologist, and vice president of his own pest control company at BedBugCentral.com.

Staying home from the movies and passing on sexy lingerie at Victoria's Secret, sites of recent bed bug parties, is not the solution. Thinking, acting, and doing like a professional bed bug hit man is.

So, yeah, this is one instance where most of us need to get a little paranoid about the whole thing. If the thought of a hitchhiking bug from any number of public places or the picture above doesn't skive you out enough, consider some of these little known facts about bed bugs:

-- 1 in every 15 people in New York are dealing with a problem right now.

-- Bed bugs can hide ANYWHERE, not just your bed. They've been found in weird places such as the head of an adjustable wrench, on deodorant dispensers, and inside a coffee maker. It just takes one to spit out more babies and make your life a living hell.

-- A third of homeowners/renters don't realize they have bugs in their home. This from a recent university study of people with known infestations.

-- You can be bitten repeatedly and not feel it. Bed bugs could be feasting on you for days before you see a welt or feel itchy.

-- Infestations cost a small fortune. You're looking at at least several hundred dollars for a pest control expert, over several visits. You need 100 percent elimination, or the bugs will come back.

Scared yet? Works for me, which is why I asked Cooper what he does to keep his home pest-free.

1. Know the risks & signs.

What public places do the bugs like best? Do you even know what a bed bug looks like? This is important to know. Obviously, some places are at higher risk than others, namely busy public locations with upholstered chairs that supply human blood meals in them for periods of time, as well as the places that people tend to stash their belongings, especially during the nighttime hours, as bedbugs are nocturnal. Bed bugs are more likely in the city than the suburbs, in apartments more so than a house. Higher risk public places include:

Movie theaters

Libraries

College dorms and lecture halls

Offices and employee break room areas

Locker rooms

Dressing rooms

WebMD has a great slideshow of what bed bugs look like, and how to identify bites -- usually in a series of rows. That close-up horrified me plenty.

2. Encase your box spring.

If you do nothing else, do this! says Cooper. These special box spring and mattress coverings -- priced under $100 -- won't prevent the bugs from entering your home, but they will stop them from traveling deep into the bowels of your box spring and mattress, making them easier to detect. Not all are created equal -- Cooper recommends only one product that his company co-developed, and that is discussed more on his site. But it's always worth doing your own research and asking your specialist what he recommends.

3. Travel light in public.

If you're going to the movies, library, or another public place, leave unnecessary jackets or bags at home, minimizing the items onto which bed bugs can try to hitch a ride with you. When you get home, inspect your clothes and/or toss immediately into a hot dryer to kill any bugs and their larvae. Consider using a washable canvas tote instead of a leather handbag for just these purposes.

4. Bake your luggage.

Buy a device called the PackTite, a portable luggage cooker. Like I said, these tips are for the super paranoid -- $300 is a small price to pay if you can avoid an infestation, especially if you travel a lot. These are selling like hotcakes and a lot of websites are already out of stock. This collapsible, chemical-free device travels with you to hotels and allows you to heat items like luggage and bags that cannot safely go into the dryer. Watch the video.

5. Call an expert right away!

If you spot one bug in your home, there's probably more. The average person has bugs in their home for two to four months before they actually detect them. As with disease, your best shot at beating the problem is catching it early. There is no effective "natural" way to get rid of bed bugs. You need professionals armed with serious chemicals who know these critters and their hiding places inside and out.

Have you dealt with bed bugs? How did you get rid of them?

 

Image via liz.novak/Flickr


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cafemama cafemama

Oh god, I'm REALLY paranoid now.  1 in 15 New Yorkers have bed bugs?

nonmember avatar dgh

I'm going to cut to the chase: bedbugs having nothing to do with how clean or dirty you are. However, if you are dirty and your house is cluttered, this will exacerbate the problem and perhaps lengthen the time it takes you to detect them because A) they have more places to hide in clutter and B) it's harder to see their feces when your house and things are dusty or dirty. ANYONE can get them though, from anywhere, and five star hotels in major cities are being treated for them.

I think one of the most useful pieces of advice anyone who’s had them can give anyone else is that you should NOT be embarrassed about this, you MUST speak up, let your landlord, local health department if the landlord won’t respond, family, friends, etc. know if you’ve developed an infestation. Silence is the one thing that’s making this a bigger problem. No one’s talking about, sharing information, etc. This is a community problem and requires a community response.

nonmember avatar Cate

We had bedbugs this summer, and it was one of the most difficult things I've ever experienced.

We have been cleared for almost a month, but I think the paranoia will last a lifetime.

If you'd like to read our story, please visit http://notsleepingtight.com/

josep... josephsgirl86

oh my gosh im all itchy now : (

OpalG... OpalGoddess

My family just got over a mite infestation... Way to make us more paranoid... Now, I got to shower, do lundery, dust, and such... Ahh, I'm itching! Luckly, we haven't got bed bugs yet......

nonmember avatar paranoid

I experienced bed bugs when I lived in London, thanks to a flatmate. Went on for 6 months, despite repeated treatment by professional exterminators. Eventually we all moved out. I heard about 6 weeks after that that the entire house was condemned. At least in London the City Council did something about it;more than I can say about NYC.

nonmember avatar BeVigilant

While the tips are excellent, you DO undermine your own point by referring to them as being for the "super paranoid."

No. These are suggestions that should be followed by EVERYONE (save for perhaps the PackLite, which is costly and specific that it might be wise only for hardcore travelers). By using "super paranoid" you unwittingly imply that everyone else can just relax and carry on as usual.

And there should be something in the piece about inspecting hotel rooms/dorm rooms/etc. carefully before settling in. Checking the mattresses, nightstands, headboards and the like can go a long way to discovering an infestation *before* a bed bug crawls into your luggage.

ethan... ethans_momma06

Oh my gawd I hope i never ever have to deal with this (Please!!!)

nonmember avatar bb_gave_me_ocd

What is your source for the "1 in 15" statistic? Last year's DOHMH found that about 7% of NYC residents had dealt with the problem over the past year...NOT that 7% were CURRENTLY dealing with it. See http://newyorkvsbedbugs.org/2010/11/15/bed-bugs-and-poverty-in-cold-bar-chart-blue/. It's easier to believe you if you give the sources for your information.

nonmember avatar Bed Bugs

The government have to spend some money to stop bed bugs. Get bed bugs very popular in this days.

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