2006_9_health_bedbug.jpgYou like a little nibble in bed don't you? Sure you do. You dirty little bird. So you must just love our fair city nowadays as the bed bugs are back! The Times reports that a rise in used furniture sales, international travel (when in doubt, always blame dark, dark foreigners), and a ban on powerful pesticides have let the pests run wild in New York. Last year, the city's housing department received over 4,600 complaints about the little nasties, almost 5 times as many as in 2004.

The cure? Manhattan Councilwoman Brewer suggests banning the sale of used mattresses and creating an overpaid task force to study the issue and to make recommendations WITHIN ONE YEAR. Sounds reasonable to us. What does the powerful mattress lobby have to say? Well, the International Sleep Products Association is all for a ban on reselling used mattresses and would rather you buy a bed-bug free (new) mattress. Shocking.

The piece also mentions that a lack of published standards on how to sanitize used mattresses has kept resellers from appropriately cleaning and debugging old beds. But since no hard evidence exists to prove that sanitizing mattresses or preventing the sale of used ones would really lead to a decrease in the bed-bug population, the City has no intention of creating such unifying standards. Because you know, good old common sense (clean mattress = no bugs) can't trump a pricey government study, or lack thereof.

So what should you do if you find yourself with some unwanted bunkmates of your own? Gothamist Health has garnered this sage advice from the article: Do not soak your mattress in gasoline in an effort to get rid of bed bugs. Because while the itching can be unbearable, you always risk setting things on fire when you douse them with gasoline.

What do you really need to know about bed-bugs? Read on.

You should know that:

+ Bedbugs are about 5-7 mm in length and are oval and reddish-brown. They can even have little wings (gross).
+ Infestation in the U.S. is pretty common but not as common as in rural parts of Gambia where up to 38% of children's beds can be infested.
+ Bedbugs, despite feeding on human blood, usually do not spread disease. Despite the Times article, there have been sporadic reports of transmission of hepatitis B and a weird tropical disease in South America. A few people have even died from allergic reactions.
+ Bedbug bites are painless but itch like crazy. Bites on the face are common.
+ If the bite appears raised or looks like a fluid-filled bubble, it might be secondarily infected.
+ Bites often occur in lines of 3. The so-called, "breakfast, lunch, and dinner" configuration. We think that's cool.
+ If examining a bed before lying down, carefully inspect the corners - for some reason they like to cluster there.
+ Treatment: Usually no treatment is necessary but an anti-histamine pill or cream (something with Benadryl (diphenhydramine) will do nicely) should help with the itching. More severe itching may require a steroid cream.
+ To prevent infestations or to clean infested beds, sprays made with permethrin work like a charm. A real problem may require an exterminator.