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 Solution 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.  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

 

Snuggle Time

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 boxs prings.  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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Is Eczema Seasonal? Find out About Seasonal Eczema

Eczema is uncomfortable and unsightly. But is eczema seasonal? It can be. Read on to discover how your eczema triggers and eczema symptoms can change with the seasons and why some people have seasonal eczema while others get flares all year long.

Time for Fall BeddingSeasonal Eczema Triggers

Eczema is as personal as your DNA. That means your triggers may not be the same as your aunt’s triggers. Even though you share DNA and eczema something as simple as living at a different latitude can impact your eczema symptoms. Identifying your triggers can be a challenge because sometimes the symptoms can come on hours after exposure. This makes seasonal eczema even a greater challenge to control.

If you have had formal allergy testing, anything that resulted in a reaction can be a trigger. In addition, your eczema can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Humidity
  • Fabrics
  • Personal care products
  • Detergents

Let’s see how triggers can change with the seasons.

Stress

Does your stress levels change with the seasons? If so, then yes, your eczema can be don't be afraid if you've got moldseasonal if it is triggered by stress. Does the first day of school fill you with dread? Are you afraid that the others will notice your skin? If so, this stress can actually trigger the eczema starting a vicious cycle. Are you a Mom or Dad that stresses with the back to school routine of morning rush, lunches, and after-school activities and homework? Your eczema may return each Fall, just as the kids return to school.

If the winter holidays leave you stressed, your eczema can be affected. Not only is the humidity low (we’ll cover that in a minute) but if stress of shopping, parties, decorating, and family activities too high, your eczema can be triggered.

Humidity

Relative humidity is the relationship between the dew point and the amount of moisture in the air. When the humidity is low, your skin is stressed. Eczema can flare or an existing flare can worsen.

3 Winter Skin Care Tips to Keep Winter Skin Blues at BayBut, if low humidity is bad, is high humidity good? Not necessarily. When humidity is high, it’s hard for perspiration to evaporate. And anyone with eczema knows that sweating can make you itch and make eczema unbearable. Ironically, it is the sodium in the sweat that drys and irritates your skin. Sweat is one of the times that moisture is bad for eczema – the other is hot water.

So, if your eczema seems to change with the seasons, it may be changing in response to humidity levels.

Fabrics

Some fabrics can trigger eczema or make it worse. The lanolin in wool is a common allergen. Wearing wool can cause an allergic reaction that triggers your eczema. In addition, polyester or other fabrics that don’t breathe can cause you to get hot and trap sweat.

Most people don’t wear wool in summer, so if your eczema is triggered by wool you may only notice it in the winter. While the wool is a year-around trigger, you only experience it in the colder months when you and the people around you are wearing wool.

Personal Care Products

Many of the ingredients in personal care products trigger eczema. If you only use sunscreen in the summer, it may be the sunscreen and not the sun that’s triggering your eczema.

Air Fresheners Can Be ToxicDeep conditioning treatments for hair in the winter can contain parabens or formaldehyde that trigger eczema. Even your choice of skin care products is important when you have eczema.  If you find a cream such as Vanicream Ointment, Lotion, or Cream that works, then stick with it year around. If you change your personal care products with the seasons, you might find you trigger your eczema.

Detergents

It might not be the wool that’s triggering your eczema, it could be what you’re using to wash the wool. Or, if you wear clothing that has been dry cleaned in the Fall and Winter more than the Spring and Summer, you may find your eczema appears seasonal. That’s because the dry cleaning chemicals trigger your eczema.

Combating Seasonal Eczema Symptoms

Whether your eczema symptoms are seasonal or not, there are a few things you can do to prevent eczema flares and reduce symptoms once you have a flare.

Don’t scratch.  This is much easier said than done. Scratching only makes your skin more irritated and soon you are stuck in an itch-scratch cycle. The central nervous system modulates the sensation of itch and the desire to scratch. It can even happen when you sleep.  Stress only makes itching worse. The use of cognitive-behavior therapy and biofeedback can help retrain the behavior and reduce stress.  Wearing therapeutic viscose clothing to bed protects the skin from scratching while you sleep.

Topical therapy. Emollients and corticosteroid creams protect the skin and maintain its moisture barrier. Avoid products with parabens, formaldehyde, or formaldehyde releasers. Read the labels of all your personal care products. This includes shampoos and conditioners.

Maintain constant body temperature.  Don’t get too hot or too cold. Sweating makes symptoms worse, so towel off frequently when you exercise. Exposure to cold air is drying to the skin. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid fabrics that irritate.  Seamless therapeutic silk underclothes puts a protective barrier between you and the fabrics you wear and keeps body temperature constant.

Know how to bathe. Never use hot water on your skin. Bathe or shower with warm or tepid water. It’d not necessary to bathe the entire body every day, especially in winter.  Washing face, armpits, and  groin/genital areas between showers or baths is better for you skin. Never rub skin dry with a towel. Gently pat dry. Apply topical therapy (moisturizers or creams) while skin is still slightly damp for best results.

Avoid triggers. If you don’t know your seasonal eczema triggers, its time for a visit to the allergist or immunologist. Testing can identify foods and environmental substances that trigger your eczema. Once you know what triggers the symptoms, you will know what to avoid. For example, if ragweed pollen triggers your eczema, you know to monitor pollen counts and stay inside on days when pollen is high.

 

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