Bed bugs don’t cause diseases, but an infestation can cause itchy bites that may eventually get infected. Prevent bed bug infestations by keeping your home clean.
If you notice signs of a bed bug infestation, you can use natural remedies that will repel bed bugs like essential oils. (h/t to PrepSchoolDaily.Blogspot.com)
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small insects that feed on the blood of humans or animals. These pesky insects can hide in the following areas in your home:
- Box springs
- Carpeting around baseboards
- Cracks or seams in furniture
- Furniture like beds or bed frames
- Pillows and bedding
- Spaces behind light switches and electrical outlet plates
Bed bugs are most active at night and they will feed on people while they are asleep.
Bed bugs are flat, oval-shaped and reddish-brown. They can be one to seven millimeters long. They don’t have wings so they rely on animals or humans to carry them from one place to another.
Bed bug bites are rarely dangerous, but they can cause severe itchiness. Sometimes, bed bug bites can become infected or cause an allergic reaction.
Bed bug bite symptoms
You won’t always develop noticeable symptoms from bedbug bites, but here are some of the common ones to look out for:
- Red and swollen bites with a dark spot at the center of each bite
- Bites that are arranged in lines or clusters, or multiple bites grouped together
- Bed bugs can bite any part of your body, but they tend to bite areas that are exposed while you’re asleep, such as your face, neck, arms and hands. Sometimes bed bug bites may turn into painful fluid-filled blisters
Preventing a bed bug infestation
If an area in your home is infested with bed bugs, you may notice an odor like rotting raspberries.
Bed bug eggs are difficult to see because they are pearl white and about the size of a pinhead. Adult bed bugs are brown and about the size of an apple seed.
Once you confirm that you have a bed bug infestation at home, take action immediately to control and prevent its spread.
- Wash clothes and linens in hot, soapy water (above 125 F or 51.7 C) using a hot dryer.
- If you live in the far north and the infestation occurs in winter, four to seven days of temperatures that don’t get above 0 F (-17 C) may also work.
- Vacuum and steam-clean mattresses, furniture, floors and appliances.
- Seal items that can’t be washed in plastic bags. Store them for several days at 0 F (-17 C) or for several months at warmer temperatures.
- Heat items that can be safely heated to 115 F (46 C).
- Fill gaps around baseboards and cracks in furniture with caulking.
Repelling bed bugs
Keep your home chemical-free by using safe and non-toxic repellents like:
- Borax – Borax is a natural household cleaning item that you can use to kill bed bugs because it can suffocate them. Sprinkle a lot of borax over your mattress and leave it for at least 24 hours to suffocate the bed bugs. Bed bugs won’t eat the borax, but they will have a hard time breathing once they’re exposed to the substance. Alternatively, you can add borax to the washing machine when washing your clothes to help dry them out. Choose a brand of borax powder that is finer than other brands for best results. Brands that are too coarse could allow bed bugs to crawl through the spaces.
- Diatomaceous earth (DE) – Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring sand. It feels very rough and sharp to bed bugs since they have weak exoskeletons. Crawling into or over DE will shred them to pieces. Sprinkle DE on infected areas and leave for 24 to 48 hours. After two days, vacuum the area to remove the DE and dead bed bugs. Don’t use food-grade DE because it doesn’t contain enough arsenic and lead to be effective. Look for a safe DE designed specifically for pest control. Keep this DE out of reach of animals and children as ingestion will poison them.
- Rubbing alcohol – Rubbing alcohol is strong enough to kill annoying bed bugs, bed bug larvae and eggs. Use an alcohol dilution of 90 percent or more to kill bed bugs on contact. Pour the alcohol into a spray bottle and spray bed bugs once you spot them or their hiding places, like hidden corners where they lay their eggs.
- Tea tree oil – Tea tree oil is an alternative to rubbing alcohol. It is also an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent. Tea tree oil is not toxic to inhale, so spray as much as you want. However, you may want to spray lightly if you’re sensitive to strong smells. Note that tea tree oil can’t kill all bed bugs on contact, but it’s a strong deterrent and can help mask the smell of sweat that attracts bed bugs. Use undiluted tea tree oil as a spray for bed sheets and furniture. If you mind the smell, dilute tea tree oil with a bit of water.
The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to keep your home clean and tidy. If you travel frequently, make sure you don’t bring bed bugs home from your hotel.
While you’re traveling, don’t put suitcases and backpacks on the dirty floors of hotels. You also shouldn’t leave your clothing on hotel floors. Place your luggage and clothes on clean surfaces or in the closet.
Keep areas around your bed at home clean and free of clutter. Once bed bugs invade, it can be difficult to get rid of them.
You can also use essential oils to get rid of bed bugs. Try this herbal treatment for repelling bed bugs from “The Survival Medicine Handbook” written by Dr. Joseph Alton.
You will need:
- 1 cup of water
- 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
- 10 drops of lavender essential oil
- 10 drops of rosemary essential oil
Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before using. (Related: The most effective (and natural) ways to repel bugs.)
Treating bed bug bites
Bed bug bites may look a lot like mosquito bites, but they usually have a pattern to them. If you have bed bugs, you may notice lines of bites on your body. Wear pajamas to bed if you’re worried about bed bug bites.
Try the home remedies below to treat bed bug bites:
- Apply a cold cloth or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to soothe bitten areas.
- Use anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to relieve itchiness.
- Make a thin paste of baking soda and water and apply to relieve itchy skin.
- Hydrocortisone cream will help reduce the inflammation.
Sometimes bed bug bites can cause an infection called cellulitis. To reduce the risk of developing cellulitis, wash bed bug bites with soap and water and avoid scratching them.
Keep your home clean and use natural remedies like essential oils to get rid of bed bugs.