Washington State Department of Health


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What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on our blood, typically at night, while we are sleeping. Adult bed bugs are about 1/4 of an inch long, have flat, rusty-red-colored oval bodies, and look like an apple seed. They feed for about 3-10 minutes and their bodies swell and become bright red. During the bed bug life cycle, a female can lay 200-400 eggs depending on food supply and temperature. Bed bugs don’t fly, but can quickly walk across floors, walls, and other surfaces.

Can I get a disease from bed bugs?

No, there are no known cases of infectious disease transmitted by bed bug bites. However, some people are more sensitive to the bites and develop itchy, red welts. Scratching the bites can lead to infection. Bed bugs may also affect a person’s mental health. Anxiety, insomnia, and irritability have been reported in some people.

How do I prevent bed bugs from entering my home?

People often bring bed bugs into their homes via infested luggage, furniture, bedding, or clothing. Bed bugs can hitch a ride on items purchased second-hand, or from furniture and bedding that is delivered to your home. Bed bugs may also travel between apartments through small crevices, cracks, and ventilation ducts in walls and floors.

  • Regular house cleaning, including vacuuming your mattress, can help to prevent an infestation.
  • Clean up clutter to help reduce the number of places bed bugs can hide.
  • Wash clothing and inspect luggage immediately after returning from a trip.
  • Inspect used furniture for bed bugs before bringing it into your home.
  • Never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture into your home.

When traveling, how do I avoid bed bugs?

  • Look for blood spots or live insects in the seams, cracks, and crevices of the mattress, box spring, and other furniture. Request a different room if you find evidence of beg bugs.
  • Keep all belongings in your luggage. Keep luggage off the bed and floor – use the suitcase valet stand or luggage rack. Consider storing your luggage and belongings in sealed plastic bags during your stay.
  • If possible, move the bed away from the wall. Tuck in all bed sheets and keep blankets from touching the floor.
  • When packing to come home, place clothing in sealed plastic bags.
  • Upon returning home, keep your luggage in an isolated area, such as the garage. Inspect the luggage. Take your clothes from the plastic bags and place them directly into the washing machine. Wash all your clothes in hot water and put them in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes.

How do I know if my home has bed bugs?

Itchy swollen bites may be the first sign of a bed bug problem. However, these itchy bites can take as long as 14 days to develop in some people, so it’s important to look for other clues if you are concerned about an infestation. Bed bugs typically infest mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and couches. You may be able to find them hiding within the cracks and crevices of beds, furniture, floors, and walls. Bed bugs often leave evidence of small dark stains (fecal droppings) and rusty red spots (bloodstains) on bedding sheets, mattresses, and other areas they hide in or travel along. Heavy bed bug infestations can cause a sweet, musty smell.

If you suspect a bed bug problem, it’s important to first confirm that you really have bed bugs. Contact a pest control company for bed bug identification help.

What do bites from bed bugs look like?

Skin reactions from bed bug bites vary from person to person. Bites may go unnoticed or may be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other skin conditions. The most common skin reaction to bed bug bites are itchy red bite marks that appear clustered or in a straight line, often along the edge of clothing or where sheets were pulled up to a person’s skin. Small swollen red bumps are also common. In rare cases, people may develop large, often itchy, red welts. A single bed bug bite is similar to a flea bite, except that a red area does not occur in the center. Flea bites tend to be found around the ankles while bed bugs tend to bite any exposed area of the body while a person is sleeping, such as the face, neck, arms, hands, or legs.

How do I stop itching from bed bug bites?

Most bed bug bites go away by themselves and don’t need treatment. Keep the skin clean and try not to scratch. Over-the-counter, anti-itching cream for insect bites can help relieve the itching. If the bites are very itchy, your health care provider may prescribe cream or antihistamines to relieve the itchiness. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for any secondary skin infection from excessive scratching.

How do I get rid of bed bugs?

The best way to control bed bugs is to use an?integrated pest management approach, which combines a variety of control techniques that pose the least risk to human health and the environment. The use of pesticides is just one part of the potential control strategy for bed bugs.

  1. Confirm that you have bed bugs. Contact a pest control company for bed bug identification help.
  2. Use your vacuum’s nozzle attachment to capture the bed bugs and their eggs. Vacuum all seams and crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards, and any other objects close to the bed or furniture in the home found to be harboring bed bugs. It is essential to vacuum daily and immediately place the vacuum’s contents into a sealed plastic bag and throw it away in an outdoor garbage can.
  3. Wash all your linens in hot water and place them in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Cover your mattress, box spring, and pillows with a certified bed bug cover encasement.
  5. Remove all unnecessary clutter.
  6. Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, on wood bed frames, floors and walls with caulking. Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers, and seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into your home. Pay special attention to apartments or rooms that share a wall – bed bugs can move through extremely small gaps to infest new areas.
  7. Monitor nightly to catch the bed bugs. Trapping provides evidence of bed bugs, but it shouldn’t be used as the sole method of control because it probably won’t catch all the bed bugs. You can purchase a trap or make your own, see?UNL Extension’s Do-It-Yourself Bed Bug Trap (PDF).
  8. Closely examine any items that you are moving around in your home or are bringing in. If you throw away infested items, make sure that no one else will want to use them again – cut holes in upholstery or attach a sign to it saying, “Infested with Bed Bugs.”
  9. Contact a professional pest control company to assist you with these control steps and to see if pesticides or other bed bug control strategies should be included. Use the least toxic pesticide product available and follow the label’s instructions.
  10. Never use pesticides that are intended to be used outdoors, inside your home. Bug bombs, or total release foggers, are not effective in controlling bed bugs. Bed bug infestations can be difficult to control, but don’t resort to improperly using pesticides. Serious health risks can occur when pesticides are used improperly.
    • Research: Bug Bomb Foggers Are No Match for Bed Bugs

Hiring a Pest Control Company

Consider hiring a pest control company, especially if there appears to be a significant infestation of bed bugs. Choose a company that is licensed and insured, has experience controlling bed bugs, can provide references, and uses integrated pest management techniques.

What?tenants and landlords can do to?control bed bugs?

  • Tenants ? If you suspect bed bugs, notify your landlord immediately.
  • Landlords ? Confirm you have bed bugs and hire a licensed pest control company.

According to the Landlord-Tenant Act, bed bugs?should be controlled by the landlord before the tenant moves in. The landlord must continue to control infestations except in single family dwellings, or when the infestation was caused by the tenant. The tenant is?expected to pay for the pest control if they were the cause of the infestation.

Guidance for Landlords

Response to Bed Bugs in Apartments – NPMA (PDF)

Help and Legal Resources

Landlord-Tenant, State Attorney General’s Office

More Resources

  • Bed Bugs, EPA
  • Bed Bugs, CDC
  • Bed Bugs, Public Health – Seattle & King County
  • Bed Bug Protocols,?National Pest Management Association Guidelines for responding to bed bugs in schools, stores, hotels, medical facilities, offices, apartments, and public transportation.
  • How to get the bed bugs out of your belongings, New York State IPM Program, Cornell University 2018, (PDF)
  • Bed Bug Videos, Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station?Videos on bed bug management for professionals, and training for building staff, managers, and residents.
  • Bed Bugs, National Pesticide Information Center
  • Bed Bug Action Plan for Home Health Care and Social Workers, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (PDF)
  • Western IPM Bed Bug Work Group – Educational Resources?Repository of information on?bed bug management searchable by state and audience.

School Resources

  • Bed Bugs and Schools, EPA
  • Bed Bugs-IPM in Schools, PNW Pest Press 2017(PDF)
  • Bed Bug Action Plan for Schools, Virginia?Tech Department of Entomology (PDF)

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