Bed Bugs are the Real Vampires

vampire bat
courtesy panuruangjan@freedigital photos

When I was a kid, the old black and white movies with scary monsters like vampires and mummies were some of my favorites. As I got older, I loved movies (like Young Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) that allowed me to laugh at my fears.

Currently zombies fill the screens of horror flicks. Zombies are scary, but what really frightens me are the thought of real blood-sucking creatures crawling into bed with me at night. I’m afraid of bed bugs and I have never been bitten by one. Yet.

Bed Bug PTSD

I went looking to see if the fear of bed bugs had been given a specific “phobia” name. I didn’t find a phobia for bed bugs in particular. The fear of beds is Clinophobia and the fear of bugs is Entomophobia, but there isn’t a Clino-Entomo-phobia as of yet. Give it time.

I did find that people who have actually had a bout with bed bugs may suffer from an anxiety similar to mine known as “Bed Bug PTSD”. I am not making this up. The Atlantic published an article about bed bug anxiety . Well, OK, they called it “madness” but even I think that is extreme.

bed bugs make you crazy
Bed Bugs Keep You Up Last Night?

Turns out that once you survive an infestation of bed bugs, the expensive and time consuming eradication process can leave you emotionally scarred. I believe it. I’ve never had bed bugs, but I have helped so many people going through the bed bug extermination process that I live in fear of bed bugs.

Bed Bugs are Evil Blood Suckers

EHSO has some pretty good information about bed bugs. In a bed bug photonutshell, these bugs are small, but are large enough to be seen with the naked eye (unlike microscopic dust mites). They feed on blood. Human blood in general and your blood in particular is their favorite meal. They use two tubes, one to inject an anticoagulant and another to extract your blood. They feed every 5 to 7 days and they are attracted by the carbon dioxide you exhale.   I guess you could just never exhale. Let me know how that works for you. The anticoagulant they inject causes a bump and an itching sensation.

The little buggers will hide anywhere, but close to you and your bed is one of their favorite locations. For many years they were considered to be pests of the unclean. But as we travel more and the world gets smaller, bed bugs can be found in the finest homes and hotels and the most modest motel and slums as well. No place is immune.

Now Recognized as a Health Risk

For years bed bugs were considered a disgusting nuisance but not a carrier of disease. People were found to be allergic to the bites, but that didn’t pose any more health risk than allergy to mosquito bites or other insects. However, recent research has shown that bed bugs can be a carrier of Chagas Disease. So fear of bed bugs isn’t completely irrational.

Calm Your Bed Bug Fears

Having confessed to my bed bug fears, here are some things I do to prevent a bed bug infestation from ever happening to me. It has been successful so far, but I am sure as soon as this gets published I will get bed bugs. Like punishment for bragging. So here is my routine:

Bed Bug Covers. My mattress and pillows are all protected in zippered bed bug coverszippered bed bug proof covers. I am highly allergic to dust mites, so I need zippered covers for dust mite protection. I use the AllergyCare Linen bed bug proof and dust mite proof fabric so I literally kill two bird (or is it bugs) with one stone.

Bed Bug Avoidance. Since I don’t have bed bugs in my house, I don’t want to bring them into my house. So, when I travel my suitcase stays in the bathtub at a hotel. I never put luggage on the floor.

When I come home, my suitcase stays in the garage until it can be thoroughly inspected and the clothing goes from the garage into the washing machine before it ever comes in the house. If you want to know in detail what I do to avoid bed bugs when I travel, you can read this related post from 2012. See, I have been afraid of bed bugs for years.

Bed Bugs are Scary

So yes, bed bugs are scary. They don’t fly like vampire bats; but I haven’t read a case of someone picking up a suitcase full of vampire bats by staying in a hotel. I read about bed bugs in stores, but I don’t read about vampire bats in stores. You get the idea.

In reality, bed bugs are to be feared more than vampires. In fiction, bed bug zombies would be the worst!

Til Next Time!

Cheryl

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Fall Bedding…Time to Get Your Bed Ready for Snuggle Season

 

Fall is in full force now.  It’s a great time to start thinking about changing out your summer bedding.  Even if you don’t live in an area with significant changes in temperature, it is still a good time to freshen up your bedding, especially if you have dust or dust mite allergies.

Your first line of defense is your zippered dust mite covers that you have on your pillows, mattress and boxsprings.  If you didn’t take the cover off your mattress in the Spring and wash it, now is a great time to do that chore.  A great snuggle season starts with bedding that is freshly laundered. Be sure to wash in either hot water or add some De-Mite if you are washing in cold.  Wash with the zippers in the open position and be sure the cover is totally dry before you put it back on the bed.  If you didn’t wash your mattress cover last Spring and haven’t done it recently, there is no time like this weekend to get that done!

You are probably washing your dust mite pillow covers every 2 months or so.  If you haven’t washed them in the last two months, throw them in the load with your mattress cover.  Also, try to make it a habit to wash those pillow covers at least every 6 to 8 weeks.  The oil from your hair and head can come through your pillowcase case and make the zippered cover look really dingy.

It’s also time to start thinking about warmer blankets and quilts.  If your Fall bedding includes a blanket or quilt that was not stored in a closed container, then before you put it on your bed, toss the item in your dryer and set to the fluff setting for 20 minutes.  Do not use any heat!  The tumble action of the dryer will help shake loose any dust that might have collected while it was in storage.

If your quilt/comforter isn’t protected with a dust mite proof zippered duvet cover, then you should think about using one.  The zippered cover will provide complete protection against any allergens embedded in the comforter and also help to keep the duvet/comforter itself clean. If you don’t use a zippered cover, then you can always spray your duvet, quilt or comforter or other bedding with ADMS Anti-Allergen Dust Mite Spray.  Just give it a light mist on both sides and make sure it is dry before you put it back on the bed.

If you change to jersey or flannel sheets in the fall months, make sure that your Spring/Summer sheets are washed in De-Mite or Allergen Wash before you store them.  If you didn’t wash your sheets in either of these solutions, then make sure you do wash them before you put them on the bed.  You want to start fresh.

Now if you are going to take your summer quilt/blanket/comforter and get it ready for storage, make sure it is clean first.  If it is washable, wash it and make sure it is completely dry.  If it wool or silk that is not washable, take advantage of these last sunny days and expose your wool or silk to the sunshine.  The ultraviolet light will freshen the silk and reactivate the lanolin in the wool.

If you have large plastic storage bags or tubs, they are great for protecting your summer bedding until you need it again next year.  If bugs are a problem, I recommend the use of cedar chips and cedar oil versus toxic mothballs to repel pests.

If you have allergies and are thinking about adding a new quilt or comforter to your Fall bedding collection, then I recommend wool over down or synthetic fibers.  The lanolin in wool naturally repels dust mites and also provides some antibacterial protection.

I have used both wool and silk comforters on my bed.  I prefer the wool over the silk, my hubby likes the silk better.  The compromise is silk in the warmer months and wool in the cooler months (yes we do have what we think are “cool” nights here in South Florida during the winter).

I know people really like down but it causes problems.  Not only is it a dust mite heaven, but even if you cover your down quilt with a dust mite proof cover, the protection won’t last forever.  Eventually, the quills on the down will penetrate the microweave and your cover will loose its effectiveness.

Some people like to vacuum their mattresses a few times a year.  It really isn’t necessary, but if it makes you feel more protected, then by all means, use this time of year as an excuse to do it.

Till next time

Cheryl

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Can Dust Mites Bite You?

If you wake up with raised bumps or itchy skin you may wonder.  Can dust mites bite you? Are those  itchy dots dust mite bites? Dust mites can make your skin itch and give you hives but they cannot bite you. Their “mouth” is too small to bite, but they can still leave bumps on your skin.

dust mites cause dust allergy

Dust Mite Anatomy – Why Dust Mites Can’t Bite You

Dust mites are scavengers by nature. They feed on tiny scales of shed skin.  A dust mite doesn’t have a head. It has a body part known as a gnathosoma. It’s a fusion of the top most body part, legs, and the chelicerae. The chelicerae are the cutting, piercing and grasping parts. They are too small, too dull, and too weak to remove skin from a living host. That’s why they must be scavengers. So, as you see, they don’t have a conventional head, mouth or teeth. That’s why dust mites can’t bite you.

Dust mites don’t have a conventional belly or digestion either. Instead, food is digested as it passes through the length of the gut. These digestive enzymes break down the food particle and the spent enzyme is expelled with the fecal pellet. This protease digestive enzyme is identified as Der p1.  So, that’s why you have bumps on your skin or an itchy rash.

Dust Mite Allergy

Allergy is caused my misidentified proteins. In the case of dust mite allergy, the protein is that troublesome Der p1 from the gut. The fecal pellets and body parts contain this protein.  Basically, your immune system thinks this harmless protein is a germ.  So, you inhale the protein and your immune system gets to work. Your mast cells get all excited. You produce histamine. Histamine is an inflammatory agent. It’s germ warfare against a germ that doesn’t exist. It’s an allergic reaction.

Itchy skin, cough, runny nose are all symptoms

Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms

Itching, sneezing, watery eyes, wheezing and sneezing are symptoms of dust mite allergy. Allergic urticaria, also known as hives, is also a symptom. These are itchy, small red bumps or wheals that may look like bug bites. While bug bites are singular, the bumps from hives will be in groups. Hives are a rash.

Do you have trouble thinking clearly in the morning? Feel like you are in a fog for a couple of hours after you get up? You just might have a dust mite allergy.

Dust mite allergy symptoms are worse in the morning.  That’s because your bedroom is the favorite spot in the house for dust mites. Dust mites love dark, warm, slightly damp places with plenty of food. That describes your bed.  All night you sleep with dust mites. So, you feel terrible when you get up.

Just because dust mites can’t bite you doesn’t mean you should tolerate them. You can follow our guide on how to kill dust mites to fight the mite.

If you’ve got bug bites, don’t blame dust mites. They can’t bite you.

 

 

 

 

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