In the loop: Hygiene is the key to prevention


By April Pilps, Contributor

Following an outbreak of bedbugs in University of Nebraska Lincoln’s housing this January, UNO Student Health Services Director Marcia Adler spoke about the topic of bed bugs and our community here at UNO.  Adler said prevention through vigilant hygienic practices is a vital component of maintaining a healthy home environment, whether you live in a dorm at University Village, an apartment or find yourself seasonally traveling abroad.   

Awareness has been one of the greatest obstacles in prevention and containment. According to Adler, common signs are raised red areas that are overlooked or disregarded as allergies, hives, chigger or mosquito bites.  

Two things that distinguish bed bug bites from those of other pests and allergies are appearance and the absence of itching.  Bed bug bites are raised red areas that may vary in size and do not have a pin prick mark in them.  They also do not turn brown and resolve on their own without infection or fever, Adler said.

Adler suggested using common sense preventative practices in caring for your belongings in your home environment and while traveling abroad. Adler says a good place to start is keeping things off the floor.  “These bugs only crawl.  They don’t jump or fly.  They’ll only get into the things they are allowed to get into,” Adler said.  “When traveling, don’t put your luggage on the floor, don’t put your clothes on the floor, shake your clothes out and check out the drawers in a motel or hotel before you use them.”  Adler also suggests checking mattress seams for evidence of bed bug wastes, which resembles very small black specks and splotches much like that of mildew.    

Adler stressed the importance of laundering thrift shop items immediately after bringing them home and proper disposal of the shopping bags. Never lay the newly purchased thrift clothing out on your bed, Adler said.  Proper disposal means the bag is hermetically sealed so that no air remains, and nor would any pest after a few hours.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggest the following:

Reduce the number of hiding places for bed bugs by eliminating clutter.

Frequently wash and heat-dry your bed linens, bed spreads and any clothing that may touch the floor.

Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation, such as evidence of pest wastes, before bringing them home.

Use of a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs which eliminates many hiding spots. The light color of the encasement makes bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check it regularly for holes.

Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.

In hotel rooms, use luggage racks to hold your luggage when packing or unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor.

Check the mattress and headboard before sleeping.

Upon returning home, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully.

“With pre-planning and the practice of prevention we can front-load the bed bug fight,” Adler concluded, saying that, while these pests can be a costly nuisance, they are not deadly.  A proactive approach can help prevent a bedbug outbreak.