Bed bugs bite outside the bedroom

Despite their name, bed bugs will quite happily exist outside the bedroom. From the Houses of Parliament to passenger airliners, these blood sucking parasites are infesting unusual areas. Surprisingly to many, bed bugs can travel on people and survive in our bags, on our sofas and most upholstery.

The parasites are most commonly found in the bedroom because they are attracted to the warmth and carbon dioxide that sleeping humans generate, and they are nocturnal. But the truth is that they can thrive in just about any crack and crevice, biding their time to emerge at night to feed.

A bed bug problem is not a sign of poor hygiene. The UK was virtually free of the pest many years ago, but they have resurfaced in recent years, most likely fuelled by the rise in frequency of international travel. They are commonly brought unknowingly into the UK, and spread by those who travel frequently.

There are four tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation. The first clue is that they will leave dark, black stains on a mattress or other surfaces, caused by their excreta. There could also be small, dark spots on furnishings which are known as ‘faecal pellets'. It is also possible to see live insects, particularly after feeding, as they will swell to almost double their normal size – though they can be difficult to spot because they can move quickly. You may also notice an unpleasant, sweet, sickly scent in the infested area.

It isn’t always easy to identify bed bug bites from other insect bites you might find on you. As with most insects, bed bug bites come in the form of small red lumps, or swellings on your skin. When bed bugs bite they will inject an anti-coagulant to prevent your blood from clotting, so they can easily feed, and an anaesthetic which means you don’t initially feel the bites. Quite often it’s a person’s sensitivity to the anti-coagulant that determines the size of the bites and their itchiness.

How to get rid of bed bug bites

There are many natural remedies and ‘old wives tales’ on what you can use to help reduce the inflammation and itching associated with bed bug bites. Below are just a few of these you may want to try after washing your bites with soap and water, and then drying:

  1. Calamine lotion: This relieves itching and also helps to dry rashes and protect the skin 
  2. Baking soda and water: Make a paste with baking soda and water, and apply it directly to the skin. Let it dry before wiping away with a cotton pad
  3. Toothpaste: The menthol contained in toothpaste is said to be a good anti-itch remedy. Apply a generous amount to the bite to soothe the burning sensation and relieve the itching
  4. Witch Hazel: This provides a mild anaesthetic effect that helps to calm the itching caused by bites
  5. Aloe Vera: Both “fresh” Aloe Vera or gel works well against insect bites. The active substances and amino acids present in Aloe Vera help relieve itching and burning sensations 
  6. Lemon juice:  This has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is also a natural astringent. Lemon juice can help dry rashes and itchiness while reducing redness and swelling

 If the bites continue to bother you, and you have also tried antihistamine tablets then it’s advisable to see a GP as you could be developing a skin infection.

Preventing a bed bug infestation

Here are five tips to help ensure you don’t bring an infestation home with you from your hotel or your flight:

  1. Before you travel, check sites like TripAdvisor for customer reviews: - Has your hotel had a problem with bed bugs in the past? If so, there’s a fair chance guests will have taken the time to share their story to warn others. It’s always best to check ahead of time so you don’t encounter any unwanted guests
  2. Check your case and hotel room when you arrive: - When you enter a hotel room, make sure you check for signs of bedbugs before you start unpacking. The usual signs to look for are live insects, or blood spotting around your bed frame, mattress or headboard. In hotels, they’re usually found on the bed, but can also be found behind skirting boards, under loose wallpaper, pictures, mirrors and furniture, so ensure you undertake a thorough search before you settle into your room.
  3. Don’t put your case on the bed when you arrive: - It’s the first thing many of us do when we arrive somewhere new, but if you suspect that there's an issue, put your case in an empty bath or shower. This helps to reduce the risk of 'bed bug hitchhikers' – bugs crawling from the bedding to your clothing and vice versa – by avoiding unnecessary contact with any fabrics which may be affected.
  4. Ask to change rooms: - If you suspect bed bugs are present, then ask to change hotel rooms. Should you make this request, then if possible request a room on a different floor, which is not directly above or below the suspected room. This is because bed bugs can travel up and down between rooms.
  5. Search and wash your belongings as soon as you return home: - When you get back home after a trip, make sure you do the same as when you arrived at your hotel: put your case in a bath and check for signs of bugs before you start unpacking clothing. Even if you don’t find any evidence of bugs, it’s also good to wash any clothing you took with you on a 60-degree wash to help kill any live bugs or eggs.

 

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Preventing a bed bug infestation

Here are five tips to help ensure you don’t bring an infestation home with you from your hotel or your flight:

  1. Before you travel, check sites like TripAdvisor for customer reviews: - Has your hotel had a problem with bed bugs in the past? If so, there’s a fair chance guests will have taken the time to share their story to warn others. It’s always best to check ahead of time so you don’t encounter any unwanted guests
  2. Check your case and hotel room when you arrive: - When you enter a hotel room, make sure you check for signs of bedbugs before you start unpacking. The usual signs to look for are live insects, or blood spotting around your bed frame, mattress or headboard. In hotels, they’re usually found on the bed, but can also be found behind skirting boards, under loose wallpaper, pictures, mirrors and furniture, so ensure you undertake a thorough search before you settle into your room.
  3. Don’t put your case on the bed when you arrive: - It’s the first thing many of us do when we arrive somewhere new, but if you suspect that there's an issue, put your case in an empty bath or shower. This helps to reduce the risk of 'bed bug hitchhikers' – bugs crawling from the bedding to your clothing and vice versa – by avoiding unnecessary contact with any fabrics which may be affected.
  4. Ask to change rooms: - If you suspect bed bugs are present, then ask to change hotel rooms. Should you make this request, then if possible request a room on a different floor, which is not directly above or below the suspected room. This is because bed bugs can travel up and down between rooms.
  5. Search and wash your belongings as soon as you return home: - When you get back home after a trip, make sure you do the same as when you arrived at your hotel: put your case in a bath and check for signs of bed bugs before you start unpacking clothing. Even if you don’t find any evidence of bugs, it’s also good to wash any clothing you took with you on a 60-degree wash to help kill any live bugs or eggs.

 


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