STANTON — The old saying, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” has taken on new meaning the last several years with infestations on the rise.
These creepy crawly critters now make us think twice before occupying a hotel room, or buying a used piece of furniture, and for good reason. Once bed bugs set up camp in your home, infestation spreads rapidly and can be very difficult and costly to remove.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of playing host to these pests, be sure to take proper precautions when it comes to removal, especially when pesticides are used.
“This is a very serious issue that homeowners need to be aware of,” said Dr. Robert Graham, medical director for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department. “Pesticide misuse for the treatment of bed bugs has led to numerous reports of mild and serious health effects, including hospitalizations and even one death.”
Most pesticides used to treat bed bugs are not dangerous when applied correctly by a licensed and certified pest management professional. However, some pesticide applicators have been found to use banned pesticides or those not intended for indoor use. Even pesticides approved for indoor use can cause harm if over applied or not used as instructed, resulted in the loss of personal items, the need to replace contaminated building materials, and expensive cleanups.
In reported cases of pesticides being misapplied or over applied, families have been forced to relocate, lost furniture, electronics, clothing, linens, toys, and other personal items that were grossly contaminated.
Symptoms typical of pesticide poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle tremors, visual disturbances, numbness in the face and limbs, abdominal pain, and cardiopulmonary symptoms (chest tightness, heart palpitations, and chest pain).
When it comes to preventing exposure to pesticides:
• Make sure you are treating the right pest. Before using pesticides, confirm that your infestation is actually from bed bugs. Some products are specific to a particular insect, and won’t work if used on another. Signs of bed bugs in your home include bites on the skin resembling a rash, small spots of blood on bed sheets or clothing, brown fecal stains on linens or furniture, staining on ceilings or walls and finding molts (cast off skins) in the home.
• Do not use pesticides indoors if they are intended for outdoor use. Using outdoor pesticides indoors can be dangerous to your family’s health, contaminate your home, result in the loss of your belongings if they become contaminated, and cost thousands of dollars to clean up your house to make it safe to reoccupy.
• If you hire someone to treat your home, use a pest control expert. If you choose to hire someone, seek an experienced pest management professional who is licensed and certified to apply pesticides. They should thoroughly inspect your residence and use a combination of practices, including non-chemical methods and limited pesticide use as needed. Ask for the brand name of the pesticide used, the name of the product’s active ingredient in case someone in your family gets sick from exposure, and make sure it’s approved for indoor use.
• If you buy over-the-counter pesticide products to apply yourself, be sure the product is in an unopened, original and clearly labeled container; the container has an EPA registration number; to always follow product label instructions.
In most cases, pesticides alone will not eliminate pests. Like lice infestations, bed bugs are best treated using a combination of practices, such as inspection, monitoring, reducing clutter, using physical barriers, and carefully applying pesticides if needed. This approach includes vigilant activities, such as:
• Checking luggage and clothes when returning from a trip or buying second hand clothing, mattresses, or furniture.
• Thoroughly inspecting infested areas and the surrounding living space.
• Reducing clutter where bed bugs can hide.
• Installing encasements on box springs, mattresses and pillows and using interceptors under bed posts and furniture legs.
• Aggressively cleaning infested areas and clothing, in conjunction with professional heat/steam or cold treatments of baseboards and other belongings.
• Carefully using pesticides approved for indoor use on bed bugs or hiring pest management professional.
“I also want people to know that having bed bugs is not an indication of how clean your home is; they’ve even been found in five-star hotels,” said Graham. “They are easily transferred from one location to another and hide during the day in mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, dressers, luggage, etc.”
If you believe you or a family member has been overexposed to a pesticide or feel sick after a pesticide has been used in your home, consult your doctor, local emergency room, or call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Illness in pets after a pest control application is sometimes a first warning that pesticides have been misused or over applied. If you believe your pet has become ill from a pesticide exposure, contact your veterinarian.
To learn more about pesticides and bed bugs visit www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/