Get the Facts - Six Myths About Bed Bugs

 By Linda Stevens Jones

1. Stories in the news about a bed bug resurgence are largely media-hype, right? After all, isn't "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite" just a cute poem from our grandparents' day?

Well, it's true that our grandparents and earlier generations were quite familiar with these troublesome bloodsuckers. But thanks to powerful pesticides like DDT, they were largely eradicated after World War 2. But a combination of factors have led to a resurgence. DDT and similar pesticides were banned. The bugs developed a resistance to other chemicals. There's been an increase in travel, allowing them to spread from other areas where they were not eradicated. And until recently, the public was largely unaware that these little creatures were on the upsurge once again-- and so our guard was down, allowing them to spread even faster.

2. Bed bugs are only found in certain parts of the country.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Thanks to inexpensive, wide-spread international and domestic travel, they have made their way across the country. They're not just found in big cities or in impoverished regions of America. Bed bugs are inconspicuous hitch hikers. Plus they thrive in places where there are constant turnovers of lots of people -- such as apartment buildings, dormitories, health care facilities, and hotels. They travel from place to place, unnoticed, in luggage, backpacks, purses, clothing, and other belongings.

3. Bed bugs are found only in "seedy" hotels.

Nope -- they don't discriminate and have been found in some of the finest 5-star hotels in the country.

4. Bed bugs carry disease.

No -- but their bites can be large, unsightly, and itch even worse than poison ivy. And if scratched, they could become infected. An over-the-counter anti-itch cream will help. It's also important to note that some individuals have developed allergic reactions or experienced asthma attacks as a result of having been bitten.

5. Well then, you'll know you have bed bugs because you'll have obvious bites.

It's true that their bites can be pronounced. Many people do report being covered in those large, swollen, intensely itchy and hard-to-ignore welts. Yet, depending on body chemistry, others can be bitten and not even know it -- they have no symptoms at all. When this miniature parasite bites, it injects an anesthetic, so you won't even feel the actual bite. It's only afterward-- if you have a reaction-- that you'll know you were bitten... by "something". Additionally, bed bug bites can be confused with those of other bugs or with other skin conditions; and they can even be mis-diagnosed by physicians, many of whom have never seen bites from this type of bug.

The only way to know for sure if you have bed bugs is to actually see the creatures themselves or find evidence that they're around. Adults are visible to the naked eye and resemble apple seeds in size and shape. Although they only come out at night to feed, you can use a bright LED flashlight to check the dark areas they favor during the day. Look between your mattress and box-springs, in the seams of your mattress and under the tags, behind picture frames near the bed, behind your headboard or around your night stands. And that leads us to our 6th myth...

6. If I have bed bugs, I'll just get rid of them myself. I'll cover everything I can with bug spray and wash everything else that I can't. Getting rid of these bugs is definitely not a do-it-yourself job. In fact, you'll need to call in a specialized exterminator who is knowledgeable in dealing with bed bugs -- one who knows that he will need to do bi-weekly exterminations. And it may take 3 or more of them to do the job. So don't be afraid to ask what his credentials are. You don't want to take chances where bed bugs are concerned!

Linda S. Jones has a Master's Degree in Library Science and has worked as a Medical Librarian for over 20 years. Her passion is helping patients and their families connect with the best and most reliable health information online. Her two strongest pieces of advice: start any search for health-related information at and ALWAYS consult with a medical professional before making changes of any kind based on Internet information or hearsay from others.

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