It all started with spots on the sheets.
I was making the bed and noticed what looked like small blood stains on my husband’s side. I thought maybe he had nicked himself shaving and left tiny dots of blood near his pillow. But after checking to see that he wasn’t actually bleeding, a pit formed in my stomach.
I started ripping the room apart, layer by layer. I couldn’t find anything. After checking the corners, the mattress, the box springs, and the bedding, I thought we might be in the clear. But then I saw it: one flat brown bug, the same size as the nailhead trim on our headboard, staring back at me.
Thus began an epic, six-month battle to rid our bedroom of these little monsters.
If the idea of tiny bugs coming out to feed on your body while you sleep gives you nightmares, then you’ve had a peek into what our life looked like during this time. It was traumatic and exhausting, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!
So, I’m sharing a few things I learned about these critters, in hopes your family will sleep tight without the bed bug bites.
Don’t Take Your Bedding
Any time I see people in public places with their pillows or blankets, I cringe. Bed bugs are everywhere: movie theaters, waiting rooms, hotels, hospitals, airplanes, public transportation . . . anywhere people sit. Dark places especially. These bugs are attracted to humans and couldn’t care less if the environment is clean or dirty. The only way to avoid bringing them into your bed is to be aware. Change your clothes when you get home, and keep dirty laundry out of the bedroom. And whatever you do, DO NOT let your children take their blankets to the movie theater. (Have I said that enough?)
Keep Suitcases Off of the Bed and Floor
Never, ever put your suitcase on a bed. And, if you are in a hotel room, keep it off of the floor. Bed bugs are attracted to the scent of your clothing and can often travel home with you via your suitcase. Since our incident, we always travel with trash bags and fill them up with dirty clothes. As soon as we get home, everything goes straight into the wash. Suitcases never touch the floor; we even store them in the attic. These tactics may sound extreme, but once you’ve survived bed bugs, you know. You can’t be too vigilant.
Beware of Used Furniture and Mattresses
Do not accept a used bed, sofa, or mattress from anyone. I think even new mattresses may come with some risk. Our mattress was brand new, only two months old, when we found our first bug. When the company delivered it, they hauled off our old one on the same truck. Did the bug travel on the man who delivered it? Jump ship from an old, infested mattress to our new one? I’ll never know. But from this point on, used furniture is definitely out of the picture.
All of these measures may prevent the bugs from entering your home, but what if they’re already there?
Call an Expert
My first step was to call an exterminator. We used a big, national company, thinking they would know what to do. They came out, did an assessment, and charged us (up front) more than our monthly mortgage. Calling that national company was our first and biggest mistake. They put covers on our mattresses, which basically allowed the bugs to continue to find ways in and out. They sprayed every two weeks, but never once dismantled the bed or treated the mattress itself.
Had we done our research, we would have known that one of the best bed bug eradication companies in North Texas, Alpha and Omega, was right around the corner. One reasonably-priced and thorough treatment later, we were finally over the bugs. So take my advice, moms, and call them first!
Isolate the Bugs
Fortunately, our bugs were only in the master bedroom, but it’s always best to check all sitting areas and bedrooms for signs. Bed bugs like to hang out wherever you sit for prolonged periods — think living room couches, chairs, and beds. Signs of bed bugs include black dust or rust-colored spots, which may be found under cushions, on sheets, or on mattresses themselves.
Remove all covers and bedding, and leave no cushion unturned. Wash linens and fabrics in hot water, and dry them. Pillows, cushions and non-washable items (like stuffed animals) can be dried for 30 minutes to destroy the bugs and their eggs. If it’s hot outside, you can also leave mattresses and furniture in the heat to kill the bugs. Vacuum all the seams and zippers and every small crevice. Clean the vacuum cleaner used for this task thoroughly when you’re done. We bought a new vacuum cleaner for the rest of the house, and designated our old one for only this task.
Bed bugs rarely go away quickly. They can hide in the smallest spaces, reproduce rapidly, and return months later because a single egg was missed. Avoidance is your best strategy, but if they come, fight with everything you’ve got!
Have you ever experienced bed bugs? What did you do to get rid of them? I’d love to hear your tips to avoid them, too!