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Bedbugs: Your Questions Answered

WebMD readers get answers to their questions about bedbugs.

Associated Diseases

Are there any diseases associated with bedbugs or are they just an annoyance?

The good news is that bedbugs do not transmit diseases. However, Henriksen says, they can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep, which, over time, is bad for your health. Anxiety is not an uncommon consequence of sharing your bed with loads of bugs. 

Do bedbugs cause any disease apart from anemia?

Again, bedbugs do not spread disease, and there is little evidence that they can cause anemia, a blood disorder in which you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry the oxygen required by your body. A 2009 case study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal discussed one possible case in a 60-year-old man who had been bitten hundreds of times. The authors were able to find only one other case in the medical literature, and that was dated 1962. 

Protection and Prevention

Does getting a plastic cover for your mattress help?

A plastic cover will keep bedbugs out of your mattress (or trap them inside if they are already there), Henriksen says. However, bedbugs hide in all sorts of places, and there’s no piece of plastic that can cover everything. 

I know that ants and moths tend to dislike cinnamon and orange oil. Do bedbugs have any aversions?

No, Henriksen says. The anti-pest industry is always testing new products, but they haven’t come up with anything yet. 

Many times, it is impossible to avoid them (e.g. in travel or when you accompany a patient in the hospital). I would like to know how one can protect oneself at an entirely new place.

Be vigilant, Henriksen says. If you are in a hotel, check the bed before you go to sleep. And when you return home, wash everything in hot water. Bedbugs can’t survive temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit. As for hospitals, you’re right. They are not necessarily bedbug-free zones. Henriksen says that 12% of NPMA pros treated hospitals last year. 

If our home is now free of the bedbugs, how could they get into our bed in the first place? Do they come with us or things we brought from outside?

Your coworker, the person sitting next to you at the movies, that secondhand sofa you just bought -- all might be carrying bedbugs. They’re real hitchhikers. "But we don’t want anybody to be paranoid,” Henriksen says.

Elimination

Once the apartment is fumigated and everything is washed, sealed in plastic bags, what else can I do to prevent them from coming back? How do I make sure that any eggs that were not killed by the exterminator that hatch are killed before they can reproduce and re-infect?

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