Bed Bugs Make a Beeline for Chicago

What Are Bed Bugs and How to Protect Yourself From These Pesky Pests

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They attacked the Nike flagship store in New York City. They invaded Google and Abercrombie & Fitch. They even tried to infest the Empire State Building. After decades of being on the brink of extinction, bed bugs are back, and they're finding better ways to travel undetected.

While Chicago's bed bug problem is nothing compared to what New York has experienced over the last several years, it is fast becoming a persistent problem, particularly on Chicago's North Side. This growing problem placed Chicago at No. 2 on Orkin's list of Top 50 Bed Bug Cities.

The areas hardest hit include Edgewater, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Rogers Park, and Uptown. These areas have two things in common when it comes to the city's bed bug problem: plenty of apartments, condos, and hotels and more travelers and commuters than anywhere else in the city.

How Are North Siders Getting Stuck With Bed Bugs?

Hundreds of reports have been made over the last several years about sightings or all-out infestations in apartments, condos, hotels, and offices on Chicago's North Side. No matter where you live, bed bugs can make their way into these spaces via luggage, souvenirs, furniture, and even on the clothes the carrier is wearing. Bed bugs can be found in hotels, dorms, rooming houses, shelters, cruise ships, trains, taxis, and more while traveling, but once they've reached the interior of any space, they can spread like wildfire.

In the city of Chicago, bed bugs have found yet another mode of transportation that hasn't really been on the radar until now. The cloth seats on CTA subway trains are perfect places for bed bugs to hide while they wait for a ride to their new home. They can make their way onto your wool coat, your hat, into a laptop bag, purse, shopping bag, etc.

The bed bugs can hide in the crevices of your mattress or even inside the mattress until feeding time. They also hide in linens, in cracks and crevices in the floor, along baseboards, and under and behind dressers. For around five minutes every five to 10 days, bed bugs feed on their favorite food -- human blood -- before returning to their hiding places until they work up an appetite again. Feeding always takes place at night, typically an hour before dawn.

What Are Bed Bugs? Are They Dangerous?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1 mm to 7 mm (roughly the size of Lincoln's head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

According to Chicago-based Safer Pest Control Project, bed bugs are not known disease carriers. However, bed bugs use saliva to numb the skin before feeding. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the saliva, resulting in swelling, itching, and redness, while most will have no reaction at all. If infection or scarring does occur, it is usually the result of scratching.

The thought of a bed bug bite can be terrifying for some and unsettling for others. Either way, thinking about bed bugs in any way, shape, or form can wreak havoc on sleeping patterns. Therefore, one of the most serious health issues associated with bed bugs is lack of sleep. This can cause mood problems, reduced alertness, and loss of productivity, all of which can have a negative affect on work, relationships, and handling even the simplest daily tasks.

Chicago, Here's How You Can Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Listen up, Chicago: Getting rid of bed bugs takes patience, persistence, and a lot of bug-proofing. The first step is to find out where they are hiding. Try glue boards or bed bug detectors to help find them. Once the hiding place is no longer a secret, vacuum the infested area and dispose of the bag or contents immediately. You must steam-clean all furniture and wash all linen and clothes in hot water and dry on the highest setting. The intense heat will kill the bed bugs.

While most people make the decision to discard mattresses and box springs, most can be treated, so it's best to consult a pest control professional about possible options. Once the mattress has been treated, use a bed bug-proof cover for protection against possible future infestations.

If you are interested in using chemicals, please consult a pest control professional. Bed bugs are resistant to a number of chemicals on the market today, and many of them can be dangerous to you, your children, and pets. A professional will know the best course of action, whether it's safe chemical treatment or a clean sweep of the space.

As for all of you CTA commuters, if you want to avoid bringing bed bugs home or to the office during your commute, consider standing up.

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