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Bed Bug Control ~ Not a DIY Project!

October 6th, 2011

Not a DIY Project: Eradicating bed bugs can make you sick

By Rita Colorito

In an effort to sleep tight and not let the bed bugs bite, some Americans have gotten sick from do-it-yourself eradication methods, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The FYI on bed bug DIY

Researchers used federal data on illnesses linked to bed bug eradication efforts reported between 2003 and 2010. Of the 111 cases reported in seven states, 93 percent were among people who tried the DIY method to solve the infestation.

Most of the illnesses reported involved headache and dizziness, pain and difficulty while breathing, and nausea and vomiting. Many were workers who visited the homes, such as carpet cleaners or EMS technicians, and who had not been told that insecticides had recently been used. Though most of the illnesses resolved on their own in about a day, but 18 percent of the cases required medical attention.

In one extreme incidence cited by the CDC report, a woman in North Carolina, with several existing health issues, died after her husband used too much of a bed bug-ineffective pesticide, over several days, to get rid of the nighttime bloodsuckers. She also sprayed her arms, hair and chest with the pesticide, and with a flea insecticide, before going to bed.

Get professional help instead

“If you can’t control bed bugs with non-chemical means, such as washing and vacuuming, that means it’s probably going to be difficult to eradicate them, and we would recommend that people enlist the services of a pest control operator,” said report co-author Geoffrey Calvert, M.D., M.P.H., a medical officer at the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in a released statement.

But make sure the exterminator you hire is licensed and qualified; if not, the results can be disastrous. One uncertified exterminator used malathion, an organophosphate insecticide not registered for indoor use, up to five times a day over three days in an apartment to treat a bed bug infestation, saturating beds and floor coverings, according to the CDC report. He pleaded guilty to criminal charges and was fined after children living there required medical help and the apartment was rendered uninhabitable.

An ounce of prevention

The National Pest Management Association has an All Things Bed Bugs page with information on bed bug prevention as well as breaking news of bed bug infestations nationwide, i.e., places you’ll want to avoid. In addition, check out BedBugRegistry.com, a free, public database of bedbug sightings in the United States and Canada.

Travel site Frommers.com also put together a recent piece on how to stop bed bugs from hitchhiking home from your travels. Prevention tips include using hard sided luggage which makes it more difficult for the pests to settle in, inspecting your room thoroughly upon arrival, especially any nooks and crannies near the headboard, and keeping your luggage in the bathroom while you inspect said room.

In fact, use this check-in checklist to make sure your home away from home won’t send critters back with you:

* Throw your luggage in the bathtub, it’s usually white so it’s easier to see any creepy crawlies and also a bit too smooth for them to easily crawl into.

* Then, yank all the bedspreads, sheets and mattress covers off the entire mattress perimeter and get on your hands and knees to inspect the baseboards in the room. If you see brown spots or other obvious signs, call the front desk and ask for a new room.

* Repeat the process with the new room.

But you can ease your anxiety, by perusing online hotel review sites to see whether anyone has complained about bedbugs at a hotel you’re considering booking. If you read online reports of bed bugs, call the hotel to confirm what you’ve read — something to do whenever you read online complaints of any ill service somewhere. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself what is a legitimate complaint and what is simply Internet badmouthing. When it comes to bed bugs, prevention definitely beats eradication.

One Response to “Bed Bug Control ~ Not a DIY Project!”

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