If you find red bites on your baby's skin, or they seem to be irritable because the red spots itch, you should check the crib and baby furniture to rule out a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs can be very hard to get rid of, so it's important to act quickly to help protect your baby and the rest of your family from bed bug bites.
How can you tell if bed bugs are present?
A visual inspection is the first step in the process. Remove the sheets from your child's crib and look in the cracks or piping of the mattress. Bed bugs have a reddish color, and of course they will move. If you don't see a bug, look for staining from bug feces -- tiny black spots on the mattress surface. Because bugs are so secretive, you might not be able to see them. If you suspect bed bugs, you can put up a bed bug monitor that will trap bed bugs as they crawl over your baby's crib. Place the trap in an area that would be well traveled by bed bugs, like in the space between the bars next to the mattress under the sheet. You can check the trap after a few days and if there are any bugs, it's time to start prevention, extermination, and control methods.
What are the first steps to bed bug control?
First, you need to stop the spread of infestation. This means taking measures to kill existing bugs and eggs. Because your child's nursery is a sensitive area, chemical treatments might not be suitable. Try all of the following methods while you wait to consult with an exterminator:
- wash all bedding, stuffed animals, diaper changing pads, cloths, clothing, and curtains. These need to be washed in very hot water, as heat is one of the most effective ways to kill bed bugs and destroy the eggs. If your washing machine does not have a very hot or steam setting (some high efficiency models wash with only cold water), you can put the items in the bathtub and pour boiling water over them, allowing them to sit before running them through the spin cycle in your washing machine.
- use a steam cleaner to clean the carpets, rugs, upholstery, and furniture surfaces. Bed bugs don't just affect beds -- they can live on nearly any surface. Those things that can't be washed in your machine must still be cleaned, and vacuuming won't do the job thoroughly. Steam cleaning provides the heat and suction needed to kill and remove bugs and eggs and reduces their chances of returning.
- sprinkle natural bug deterrents. For example, diatomaceous earth is harmless for children, but can help to kill bugs as they crawl. Sprinkle the white powder on the bars of the crib, in the mattress under the sheet, under the cushions of any rocking chairs and along the wall.
- wash all your baby's items separately from other laundry from the house.
- put plastic sheeting on all other beds to help deprive bed bugs of oxygen and prevent the infestation from spreading.
- call homes that you visit often with your child and tell them to check for bed bugs as well. Your baby's bed bug problem could have started from bringing a bug home on clothing at daycare, from grandma's house, or another place where they spend a lot of time. You don't want to go to the work of exterminating your own bed bugs just to bring more home and start the problem all over again.
For more information on extermination methods that are safe for young children, contact a bed bug control professional in your area or check out websites like http://www.craigandsons.com.