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Armalyn Tesoro     Don't let the bedbugs bite!

Lately we have been hearing more and more about bedbugs. These little critters have been around and annoying us with their bites for several years. They are a challenge to get rid of so it is a great idea to be informed about bedbugs and to know how to prevent an infestation.

Bedbugs are small winged insects with flat, oval-shaped bodies that cannot fly. The adults are about 5-7mm in length – similar to the size of an apple seed – brown in colour but become reddish brown after feeding. Their young are about 1.5mm and clear in colour.

Bedbugs bite exposed skin and feed on blood while you are fast asleep in your bed. They inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant, which numbs the skin and allows blood to flow while they feed. This allows the bedbugs to feed for minutes without waking the victim.

Some people may not react to bedbug bites while others can develop an allergic reaction. Small, flat or raised bumps on the skin will appear and can be very itchy, red and swollen. Bedbug bites can appear on the skin in straight rows or clusters and are commonly found on the face, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. It can sometimes be difficult to tell bedbug bites from other insect bites.

An allergic reaction to bites can be treated with cool compresses, skin itch creams or oral antihistamines. Excessive scratching of the bites can lead to a skin infection, which will have to be treated by antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Bedbugs can hide themselves and their eggs in the crevices of beds, folds or creases in mattresses, box springs and headboards. They can also be found behind picture frames, corners of drawers, cracks in the wall, under wallpaper, behind electrical switch plates, in clothing and upholstered furniture. They remain active mostly at night.

If bedbugs are suspected, check your bed for any discoloured spots. Bedbugs will leave feces on your mattress or bedding and when they shed they will leave their skin.

Dealing with a bedbug infestation can be very difficult because they have many hiding places and can go without feeding for weeks. A female bedbugs can lay over 200 eggs during her lifetime of about 10 months.

A powerful vacuum may be used to physically remove bedbugs from cracks and crevices. Clothing should be washed in hot water and put in the dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes to kill off bedbugs and their eggs. Other items may be put in a bag and kept frozen for a few days. Seeking a professional exterminator would most likely be the last resort to get rid of bedbugs. The pest-control expert may use pesticides or non-chemical treatments.

Bedbugs are more commonly seen in developing countries, but can be found throughout the world due to increasing international travel. When staying in a hotel or any type of lodging that has a high turnover, the risk of bedbugs increases. If possible, keep baggage on a luggage rack, table or dresser and not on the floor. Leaving bags or clothes on the floor increases the chance of bedbugs or other insects entering.

Prevention is the best protection against bedbug bites. Wear pajamas that cover most of your skin. Thoroughly inspect and clean furniture before bringing into your home.

Once you have bedbugs, they are a pain to get rid of, but you can avoid having any of these unwanted guests by taking the necessary precautions. Find them before they find you!

For more information, talk to your pharmacist.


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The above information is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor, pharmacist or qualified health care professional to receive proper medical treatment.

Armalyn Tesoro is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy. She is currently working as a licensed community pharmacist at Walmart on Ellice and Empress.

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