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Bedbugs: Your Questions Answered

WebMD readers get answers to their questions about bedbugs.
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Cleanliness Questions continued...

If caught early, could one take steps to prevent them from multiplying? [Such as] vacuuming, throwing away items they may have laid their eggs in, and putting all your personal items (such as books, pics) in a freezer?

No. Although you may be able to spot and kill a bed bug or two, that doesn’t get at the root problem, which is the infestation itself. Henriksen says that professionals consider bedbugs the single most difficult pest to eliminate. “It’s not a do-it-yourself pest.” 

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.

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