Bedbugs are small insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals, and cause an itchy reaction. They travel on clothes to other rooms, and to places outside of the home. One can unknowingly pick up a bedbug at an infested location and bring it home, or they can be brought into one’s home on the clothing of people who visit.
Bedbug infestations are spreading rapidly throughout the United States. Removal can be costly, and many seniors are unable to afford the extermination fees.
The best way to deal with bedbugs is to do just as the rhyme suggests—don’t let them bite. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that the best way to prevent bedbugs is to regularly inspect one’s home for signs of an infestation.
Bedbugs have long, oval bodies that are reddish-brown in color. They have six legs and two antennae, and can range in size from 1 mm to 7 mm (about the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny). They are usually located within an eight-foot radius of where people sleep.
It can take up to 14 days to feel the itch from a bedbug bite, so the CDC advises regularly checking one’s sleeping area for live bugs, empty bug shells, rusty-colored blood spots, and/or a sweet, musty odor.
If you suspect that you have a bedbug infestation, take one of two steps:
If you rent your home, contact your landlord immediately. Your landlord is responsible for bedbug extermination.
If you own your home, contact the Cuyahoga County Board of Health Bed Bug Task Force (CCBBTF) at 216-201-2000. Staff will help confirm over the phone whether you have an infestation. You can also bring a bug to the CCBBTF office for identification, or visit www.cuyahogabedbugs.org to view photos of bedbugs posted there.
If you do have an infestation, call a pest control company immediately. Treating an infestation early on is easier and less expensive. Joe Becka, a technician with TNT Exterminating (216-229-6411), headquartered in Macedonia, advises getting estimates from several companies. Ask them all the same questions so that you are comparing “apples to apples.” Becka recommends asking what rooms are infested, if the whole house will be treated, what treatment method is being used, how many treatments will be done, and what the follow-up will be.
Tom Barsa, a CCBBTF sanitarian, advises that do-it-yourselfers with small infestations can buy the chemicals and treat the infestations themselves, at a lower cost. He advises buying the chemicals from a pest control company rather than from a store or over the Internet, and following the package directions exactly.
Becka helped a senior homeowner in Cleveland Heights save money by treating her furniture and carpet, and advising her how to treat her own clothes and bedding.
Seniors who are on the PASSPORT Medicaid Waiver program may qualify for financial assistance for bedbug removal. Call 800-626-7277. Your case manager will evaluate your case and let you know if you qualify.