Bedbugs, those tiny creepy crawlers that keep you awake and make your skin crawl, are back in a big way.
To help you get a good night sleep, The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall gave some advice on getting rid of them.
Bedbugs, or cimex lectularius, are wingless parasites that feed on blood. They are flat and oval in shape and about a quarter of an inch in diameter. Bedbugs are brownish in color and become darker after they eat.
Contrary to popular belief, Marshall says, they are not invisible. Another myth, she points out, is that they are not found only in beds. They can hide anywhere it's dark, including behind baseboards and pictures hanging on the wall. But they do come out only at night.
One pest-control company says it's seen a 500 percent increase in the number of calls to get rid of bedbugs in the past two years and it expects that number to grow.
There are two primary reasons why bedbugs are back, according to Marshall. She says the increase in overseas travel contributes to the growing cases of bedbugs at home. Many more Americans are traveling abroad where bedbugs are commonplace. The parasites attach themselves to luggage and then find their way into U.S. homes.
The other reason for the increase, says Marshall, is that the pesticides that exterminators used to use to get rid of bedbugs are no longer available because of health concerns.
Marshall gave the following warning signs to detect if you have a bedbug problem:
Bite Marks and Scratching
The first sign of having a problem with bedbugs is an itchy red dot that has a lighter ring around it. Marshall says a bite mark usually means more than one bug has gotten you.
When a bedbug bites it often causes you to bleed a little, so you can expect to see small dots of blood on your sheets.
Syrupy Sweet Smell
Bedbugs emit a distinctive syrupy sweet smell. And that smell becomes stronger when the female bedbug begins to lay eggs. She can lay as many as 10 to 50 eggs a day for up to two weeks.
Do Bedbugs Spread Diseases?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, bedbugs do not appear to pass along any diseases. There have been cases where the little critters have been found to carry the hepatitis B virus, but public health officials say it's probably not something to be too concerned about. Marshall says unless you are allergic to a bedbug bite, you don't have to worry about your health.
Marshall provided the following tips to prevent and get rid of bedbugs:
Switch Hotel Rooms
Many people get bed bugs from hotel rooms. So when you get into the bed, Marshall advised, look for any signs of movement or spots on the sheets. If you see any of these signs, immediately ask to have your room switched.
Bedbugs are very attracted to suitcases. So if you think that your luggage has come in contact with bedbugs, Marshall recommends vacuuming it before bringing it into your house. It could save you a lot of trouble.
Call an Exterminator
Getting rid of bedbugs usually requires the help of a professional. The good news is that exterminators no longer have to use harmful pesticides to get rid of bedbugs. But it may require more than one trip. Bedbugs, as mentioned before, hide in many places besides the bed. So when the exterminator is at your home, Marshall says, make sure he or she is doing a thorough job.