Bugged By Bedbugs?

There’s been plenty of press about them lately: Bedbugs are back.

Bedbugs“During the 1950s, the government’s widespread use of the now-banned insecticide DDT killed off bedbugs – along with many other insects – but there has been a recent resurgence of the parasites in the past couple of years,” says Anatoly Belilovsky, M.D., a New York City-based pediatrician (

Bedbugs are nocturnal and feed on blood just like mosquitoes, and both leave itchy bites. But mosquitoes hunt based on scent, so insect repellents keep them away. Bedbugs don’t, and insect repellants have no effect on them. Bedbugs don’t carry disease, and aren’t dangerous. And their bites usually show up in clusters or chains near major veins on exposed skin – often the face, hands, arms and neck.

The beetle-like insects can range in color from white to tan to reddish-brown or black. They have oval, flat bodies that are about 1/4-inch long when full grown and have been compared to apple seeds.

Here are Belilovsky’s tips for avoiding bedbugs:

Remember that bedbugs don’t just live in beds. They can live in electronics, cracks in wood furniture or moldings, purses, shoes, cars, etc.

When staying in a hotel, keep your suitcase on a rack instead of on the floor or on upholstered furniture. Keep your purse or laptop case off the floor of your office, dressing rooms, etc.

When you come back from an overnight trip, immediately wash or dry clean all the clothes you took with you, and inspect your luggage.

Buy a plastic mattress cover and pillow protectors so that bed bugs can’t set up shop in your bed. Another trick is to put the legs of your bed in saucers of water; if the bugs live under the wall moldings and not in the bed itself, they cannot cross water.

Use caution when bringing secondhand furniture, electronics and clothing into your home or car.

“They’ve been appearing in hotels, stores, movie theaters and office buildings all over the country,” says Belilovsky. Don’t let the bedbugs bite your family.

--Christina Elston