Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bed Bugs - The Game & The Reality (A MUST Read!)

The game is cute - the reality is quite different

Cute, huh?  When I saw this at the store recently, I had to buy it. Even as the title made me cringe (I'll explain below), the game looked as if it would be a lot of fun. Bed Bugs is a motorized game in which you take plastic tweezers and try to capture the “bugs” which are jumping all over the bed. It's a simple concept which would be great for kids with developing motor skills also reinforces math skills. Although the box states that it's for kids ages 4 and up, you might want to think twice if you've got really little ones around the house, because the bugs are tiny. The game sells for $10 on and I saw it on for about $23.

While the game is cute, the reality of bed bugs is far different, as I can tell you from personal experience. Several years back, unbeknownst to us, my late father-in-law had them in his apartment. I remember sleeping in his spare bed one night and feeling itchy, as if a hoard of mosquitoes had attacked me. I looked on the sheets and between the mattress, but saw nothing.

We, of course, brought them home and the itching got much worse. I looked everywhere – between the mattress, in our clothes, in our luggage – and never did see them. I thought my reaction was due to allergies or the new laundry detergent we were using. A decade later, my husband told me that shortly after we'd gotten back from his Dad's and while I was going crazy trying to find the source of my itching, he had found the bugs stationed on the side of our mattress. I had seen them, too, but thought they were just dirt since they looked like brown and gray specks. He'd vacuumed the entire room and thrown the vacuum bag out. He'd decided not to tell me because he knew I'd flip out (good call, Dear).

We were lucky because a bed bug infestation can cause thousands of dollar to eradicate. Most of the statistics I found on the number of reported bed bug cases were quoted by extermination companies which, of course, have a vested interest in their eradication, but municipalities across the United States and world wide agree that bed bugs infestations are on the rise: in some cases, dramatically! No, they do not spread disease, but once you've been affected by these critters, you will be traumatized. So what can you do?

Well, obviously, try not to bring infested materials into your house. That can mean furniture from relatives and friends as well as second-hand items you get off Craiglist. If you do bring materials into the house, even new ones because more and more warehouses are becoming infested, examine tight spaces along seams, buttons, and under cushions. Click here for a fact sheet from the Ohio Department of Health:

What you really need to be concerned about is exposure when you travel. Some years back, were were vacationing in Massachusetts and about to department for a night in a hotel in Hartford, Connecticut. That morning, the Boy and I looked up our hotel on Trip Advisor and were horrified to read one review that said our destination had bed bugs! We dodged that bullet, but ever since, I've made it a priority to try to “bed bug proof” subsequent trips. Although I am not an expert, here's what's worked for me:

  • Investigate the hotel before you check in. Heck, I even look it up before I make the reservation! My favorite sources for this data are ( and (, but ( often lists this info as well. Be aware, however, that just because a hotel is flagged as once having bed bugs, does not mean they still have them. And one that has not been flagged may, in fact, have them. These critters are fluid, moving with people and their belongings. Their presence is not an indication of how clean or dirty an establishment is.
  • Minimize the amount of stuff you pack – You know how your kids always want to take more toys and clothes than they'll ever need? This is the time to say “no.” The less stuff you bring, the fewer items you'll need to worry about later on
  • Try to pack your items in resealable plastic – There are many manufacturers of resealable bags that are large enough to pack clothes in. Place your clothes, etc., in those and then place the bags inside your luggage.
  • ALWAYS inspect your hotel room BEFORE you move in - When you enter the room, put your luggage in the bathroom where bugs are less likely to hide, take a flashlight (download the Tesla light from the Google Play Store if you have an Android) and check the perimeter of the bed, between the mattress, around the headboard, etc. Also check chair cushions, drapes, etc. Here's a nice article and checklist with more details on how to conduct a hotel inspection:
When you return home, place all travel materials in a separate space, like the garage. Wash and dry all clothes worn on the trip. If possible, place the luggage in the dryer, which you've set on high, for about 20 minutes. Many stuffed animals which cannot be washed can usually also be put in the dryer for 20 minutes. Leave shoes outside until you've had a chance to inspect them. Yes, this is colossal pain, but preventing a problem and the peace of mind is worth it!

“Bed bug proofing” products are becoming more common and easier to find.  Various en casements for mattresses are available at Costco, Amazon, and department stores. You can also buy heaters that you can use to treat non-washable items in case you don't have a dryer or access to one. Although there are a lot of sprays readily available, I haven't seen any convincing evidence that they do much good and , besides, who needs toxins in your environment, especially if you've got kids around? For a list of products that might help keep you safe from bedbugs, click on this article I found on the website (

For more information, visit:

Being paranoid about bed bugs is unhealthy, but being aware of how they travel and what they look like is, I think, prudent. Take steps now to prevent an infestation so that the only bed bugs in your home are the ones in a kids' game!

My next blog post will be far more pleasant and less icky – I PROMISE! Thanks for reading!

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