Bed Bug Institute
Protect Your Family
There is no way to completely prevent bed bugs, but there are ways to limit the likelihood of a problem and treat an infestation whether at home, while traveling or in multi-family dwellings and dorms. Learn what to do about infestations.
Stop Bed Bugs at Home
Even though there is no sure-fire way to prevent bed bugs from entering your home, here are some precautions to help stop an infestation before it starts:
1. Be aware. Check for bed bugs in possible hiding places like seams of mattresses and bedding.
2. Protect your bed. Use a mattress cover that is designed to ward off bed bugs, move your bed away from the wall and use a bed frame with metal legs if possible. Ask your pest management professional for a mattress encasement recommendation.
3. Regularly change and launder bed sheets in hot water that is at least 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Use detergent and or bleach as you normally do. Make sure you immediately place laundry in the dryer and dry on high heat. Laundering will eliminate all stages of bed bugs. Make sure you separate items for laundering – bed bugs can survive in rolled up socks.
4.Reduce clutter in your home to decrease the number of hiding places for bed bugs.
5. When you travel,thoroughly check your hotel room, especially the bedding and mattress, for traces of bed bugs. Also, check through your belongings before bringing luggage back into your home. Visit our Travel Tips for more information.
6. Inspect all furniture that you bring into your home. Even new furniture can carry bugs.
7. Vacuum often. Though vacuuming will not eliminate a bed bug infestation, it can help reduce the speed of spread or stop eggs from hatching.
8. Seal any openings in your walls or floors, such as where pipes or wires pass through.
9. Know the signs of bed bugs and look for them. A strong, sweet smell in a room can be a sign of an infestation. Bed bugs may also leave behind blood stains on bedding, mattresses, window treatments or walls.
10. Look for welts or rashes on yourself and your family that might have been caused by a bed bug bite. Also check pets for signs of bed bugs, but keep in mind pets can be bitten by fleas and ticks too – and bite marks are extremely hard to identify.
Multi-Family Dwellings and Dorms
Because of an increased number of tenants and higher turn-over rates, multi-family living situations are more susceptible to bed bug infestations than single-family homes. Extra precautions in these situations may help ward off an infestation.
For tips on who to contact if you think there is an infestation visit What to do if You Have an Infestation page.
1. Thoroughly check the living space before you move in, especially the bedrooms and any furniture, window coverings or fixtures that are left behind.
2. Ask the landlord, building owner and staff about any history of bed bugs in the building.
3. Do not accept used beds or furniture from someone in the building or area without thoroughly checking for bed bugs. Do not take free furniture that is being thrown out by another person, as there is no way to know if it has come into contact with bed bugs.
4. Know the signs of bed bugs and look for them. For more information on the signs of bed bugs in your home visit Bed Bugs Basics page.
5. If you think you may have bed bugs, report the problem to your landlord or building staff as soon as possible. The longer an infestation goes unreported, the farther it will spread.
6. Take precautions when you visit friends or family who live in a multi-family situation.
7. Protect your bed – use a mattress cover, move beds away from the wall, use a metal bed frame if possible.
8. Share information with other tenants, roommates, etc.
9. Look for bed bugs in typical hiding places such as mattresses and bedding. Reduce clutter in your living space to reduce the number of hiding places for bed bugs.
10. Look for physical signs on yourself and your family including red welts or a rash that might have been caused by a bed bug bite. Also check pets for signs or bed bugs.
Prevent Bed Bugs When Traveling
Whether down the street or around the world, travels can create a prime opportunity for bed bugs to transfer to your home.
Bed bugs are extremely efficient hitch hikers, easily moving across a room to jump onto luggage or clothing left on beds during the course of one night. Bed bugs also thrive in hotels because of a ready supply of fresh hosts to feed on, and the difficulty of sustaining control long-term in these short-stay facilities.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk of picking up bed bugs as you travel.
1. Inspect your hotel room when you arrive. Travelers should look for blood stains, skeletons, eggs and live insects throughout the room, in locations like:
- Bedding (mattress pads, sheets, comforters, dust ruffles and pillowcases)
- Mattresses, paying particular attention to seams and crevasses
- Headboards and other fixtures attached to walls that are adjacent to the bed
- Carpet edges, wall cracks and floorboards
- Curtains, blinds and behind wall hanging
2. Do not put luggage or clothing directly on beds. If bed bugs are present in the bed, they may climb into bags, suitcases or laundry left on a bed.
I learned this the hard way. I stayed overnight at a motel as I was driving to a client to help with their new concierge medicine marketing software. They wanted to
- Store all patient information in one location so they would spend less time chasing it down.
- Have faster lines of communication between the medical doctors, their staff and patients, and third-party specialists, pharmacies, and labs
- Convert more prospects into patients- thus the new CRM software that would help track follow-ups better
- Track and measure their marketing efforts to see what was working and what was not.
My team had already installed the software for the clients' concierge medical practice, but their people needed training. I was going to assist with that aspect. Well I foolishly didn't inspect the room carefully. I should have not stopped at the motel, but it was late and I needed sleep. Fortunately I discovered the bed bug infestation before heading home. I also notified the hotel management where I was staying once I had arrived in Chicago. They were not pleased, but did appreciate the fact that I was honest about the problem. After getting all my clothes cleaned and fumigating my luggage, I still continued to feel paranoid. By the time I arrived home, I felt quite certain I was not bringing the little buggers home. However, my wife refused to have the luggage in the house. And the car was sent down to the local garage for a thorough cleaning. I ended buying some new luggage since I travel a lot. And now check for bed bugs in every hotel room I stay in!
3. Use metal luggage racks at all times. Bed bugs cannot easily climb metal surfaces, so they are an ideal overnight home for your suitcase. It is also advisable to keep the rack away from walls and any wooden furniture.
4. Pack clothing, shoes and other personal items in smaller plastic bags. This can help prevent bed bugs that climb into your suitcase from getting into your house with your clothing. Keep in mind that bed bugs can hide in books, cloth toiletry kits and other non-metal personal items.
5. Pack a large plastic bag that can encase your suitcase. If there is no metal rack for your luggage, this bag can help seal off invasion pathways for bed bugs during overnight hours. If you do not feel that this is enough protection, but you must remain in the hotel room, leave your luggage in your vehicle overnight.
6. Check for bites before you leave the building. While bite marks will not always appear immediately, it will be easier to document and report an infestation while you are still a hotel guest.
7. Report an infestation to the hotel manager, and to local public health officials. Hotels typically take a suspected bed bug infestation very seriously, and if you do not report your suspicion (or proof) they may not be able to detect it in a timely way to protect other patrons and avoid further spread. See the What to Do About an Infestation section for public health officials in each state.
8. When you return home, leave your luggage in the garage, and launder all cloth items immediately. Since bags and suitcases are the first places bed bugs typically encounter, keeping your luggage outside may help keep them out of your home. Depending on where you live, keeping luggage outdoors may also leave bed bugs outside their comfortable range of temperatures. Laundering (washing and drying) all fabric items in hot water can also eliminate bed bugs that may have gotten into clothing.
9. If you are a repeat user of a hotel in which you find bed bugs, ask about treatments completed. A past infestation may not be a reason to cross a hotel room off your frequent travel list, since treatments can be completed effectively in a matter of several weeks. Hotel management will typically keep a treatment record that can be made available to patrons upon request.
10. Hotels aren’t the only bed bug travel threats. Bed bugs thrive in dark, cool places with long-term access to humans. Bed bugs may also be found on airplane and train seats, buses and in rental cars. Even though it’s possible, picking up bed bugs in places like these is extremely rare.
Bed Bug Frequently Asked Questions
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, nocturnal insects that are part of the Cimicidae (pronounced (sah-miss-a-dee) family. Adults are reddish-brown in color and resemble an apple seed. Bed bugs are attracted to the exhaled carbon dioxide and body heat of warm-blooded mammals. Bed bugs feed on the blood of humans and some animals.
Can you see bed bugs?
Yes, bed bugs are visible to the naked eye. Adult bed bugs are about an eighth to a quarter-inch in length, tan to reddish-brown in color and their oval shape resembles an apple seed. Young bed bugs are translucent and begin to turn brown as they reach maturity.
If bed bugs are in my home, does that mean I need to be cleaner?
No, bed bugs aren’t attracted by dirt or unsanitary conditions. Instead, they are drawn to humans because of the carbon dioxide and body heat we emit.
How do they get inside a home?
Humans often come in contact with bed bugs while traveling both inside and outside the United States. Bed bugs can hide inside clothing, luggage and furniture that is brought into a home. Bed bugs usually enter a home by hitching a ride on your luggage or personal items. Friends or family members, even pets can bring them in. Furniture, especially used or antique furniture, can be a major way bed bugs get transported to our homes.
How can I prevent bed bugs from infesting my home?
There is no way to completely prevent bed bugs from coming into your home. People often don’t know that they have come in contact with bed bugs, which can make a problem worse if it goes untreated. To avoid bringing bed bugs into your home, do not accept second-hand furniture or bedding unless you are certain that it has not been infested.
Am I at a higher risk of coming in contact with bed bugs when I travel? What should I look for when staying in a hotel?
Staying in hotels and hostels can put you at higher risk for contact with bed bugs. Thoroughly check your hotel room when you arrive. Travelers should look for blood stains, eggs and live or dead insects on bedding, mattresses, headboards and other fixtures that are close to the bed, curtains and blinds. Do not put luggage or clothing directly on beds and use metal luggage rack, if provided.
What are the signs of a bed bug infestation?
A sweet pungent smell, blood marks on sheets, red welts or rash on your skin from bed bug bites may all indicate the presence of bed bugs.
Can I get sick from a bed bug bite?
While bed bug bites might cause an itchy rash for some people, you are not likely to get sick from a bite. Bed bugs have not been shown to transmit disease.
What are my options for treatment? Do I need to contact a pest management professional?
Bed bug control is extremely complex and requires experience and expertise. You are dealing with a very opportunistic insect that hides areas that are difficult to find. The best way to eliminate a bed bug infestation in your home is to work with a pest management professional who will take the necessary time to thoroughly inspect your home, develop an eradication plan and properly administer an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Insecticide treatments are an integral, important and necessary tool in the IPM program to eliminate and keep bed bugs under control. The PMP will also advise you about other steps you can take to eradicate them.
What should I look for when renting an apartment or buying a home?
Ask the building management, your realtor and previous tenants if bed bugs have ever been a problem at the residence. Thoroughly check any window treatments, furniture or fixtures that will remain in the residence. Also look for blood stains, eggs and live or dead insects around the residence.
What are my rights as a tenant?
As a tenant you have the right to know about past and current infestations in your residence and surrounding buildings. Building managers should work with you to deal with an infestation including seeking the services of a pest management professional.
What about resistance in bed bugs?
There is documented evidence from University researchers that some field populations of bed bugs have developed resistance to certain classes of insecticides. What this means is that certain insecticides will not kill these resistance populations of bed bugs resulting in poor control. Your PMP will discuss this with you and let you know if resistant populations of bed bugs are in your area. Phantom® termiticide-insecticide contains a novel class of chemistry and there is no resistance in bed bugs to Phantom.
How can I keep my family safe from bed bugs?
Being aware of where bed bugs are found is the best advice we can give you. Be aware when traveling is the best way to protect your family and home. Consider having an open dialogue with friends and family about any problems you have or had with bed bugs and they will do the same. Regularly check your home and family for signs of bed bugs and deal with an infestation immediately if one occurs.
What resources are available about bed bugs?
In addition to the Bed Bug Institute, there are many additional online resources available including blogs, support groups, chat rooms and university entomology departments.