December 23, 2014 by Doug Moore
With popular New York clothing stores like Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollister temporarily closing their doors due to bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), many of us are wondering if it’s safe to shop, travel, or go to the movies anymore.
So how worried should you be? First, the good news: Bed bugs are not passed from person to person – they’re only attached to humans for five or ten minutes while they feed on blood (yes, a skeevy factor of 10+ !). But – and here comes the bad part – they can crawl onto your clothes, or into your handbag or shopping bag. And if they do, they’re on a free ride to your place.
It’s often hard to spot bed bugs, but they’re flat, oval, rust-colored creatures, up to a quarter-inch long – and the instars or nymphs are the size of a pin head. There are several look-alike insects; check out bed bug videos here. Also inspect your furniture, mattress, and curtains for little brown spots, which are bed bug droppings. And be alert for small itchy red bumps in clusters or a row on your skin, signs the critters are feeding on you.
If you suspect you have them, call in a pest control professional (maybe even a K-9 bed bug scent detection service) as soon as possible. In the meantime, remove all bed linens and wash – along with towels and potentially contaminated clothes-in hot water and laundry detergent. Then dry them using the hottest setting on your dryer. You’ll have to wash your sheets often, at least every three days, until the infestation is gone.
Also, thoroughly scrub furniture, flipping over nightstands and removing drawers. Vacuum all cracks and crevices in furniture; also vacuum along the walls. Then dispose of the vacuum bag or empty the canister immediately (deposit contents in a plastic bag, tie it off, and put it in the outdoor garbage can). Repeat frequently until the infestation is cleared.
To avoid taking them home from stores in the first place, keep your handbag and other totes off carpeted floors and furniture.
If you have to go to the movies (we personally subscribe to NetFlix!), don’t place your jacket or purse on the floor. Take a flashlight and check the seat for signs of bed bugs. And always, always, always, wash your clothing immediately upon returning home!
In dressing rooms, hang your bags and jacket on the hook. If you really want to be proactive, as soon as you get home take off your clothes and throw them, along with your new purchases, in the wash. And steer clear of hot spots by checking out The Bedbug Registry for reports of bed bugs in hotels, apartments, and stores. You won’t believe how many swanky hotels are bed bug-welcoming!
For more information about bed bugs, heat treatment, and canine bed bug scent detection, click here.
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