Recent bedbug outbreaks reported in London, France, and Seoul have got Hong Kong authorities on the lookout for potential outbreaks in the city. Passengers who travel into the city are given pamphlets upon their arrival at the airport so that they know what to do in case they have to deal with an infestation. Read on to know how you should deal with bedbugs if you see them in your home.

What are bedbugs?

Bedbugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of mammals by piercing their skin. There are two types of bedbugs — the common bedbug and the tropical bedbug — and while both varieties have been reported in Hong Kong, authorities in the city have not yet reported any recent outbreaks in the territory.

itchiness due to insect bites
The first sign of a bedbug infestation is usually feeling extremely itchy (© doucefleur’s Images via Canva)

A bedbug bite usually causes painful swelling and irritation at the site, but does not spread disease and usually resolves in one or two weeks. The oval-shaped bugs are wingless, and the only way they can travel great distances is on people or among their belongings, such as clothing or soft-cased suitcases.

What are the signs of a bedbug infestation?

Bedbugs are very small — usually about 6mm long — which makes them hard to spot. People usually become aware that they have a bedbug problem when they see bite marks on their bodies — which can sometimes take up to 14 days to develop — or experience severe itching.

bedbug exoskeletons in furniture
Visible signs of bedbug infestation include spotting exoskeletons of the pests in mattresses, bedsheets and upholstered furniture (© Matteo Lanciano via Canva)

These nocturnal parasites are usually found in places with low lighting, and they prefer to hide in cracks, crevices, and dark places during the day. They are most commonly found among the folds of mattresses and bedsheets or in upholstered furniture. Another sign that you may have bedbugs is if you see exoskeletons or rust-coloured spots on your furniture.

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How do I deal with a bedbug infestation?

The first thing to do is wash infested bedsheets and clothes in hot water — usually at 60 degrees Celsius — and then dry them in the sun or iron them. You can also seal any belongings that cannot be heat-treated in plastic bags and place them in a freezer (at about -18 degrees Celsius) for 24 hours. If you find bedbugs in nooks and crannies, apply hot air or steam directly to these spots.

If you want to ensure that your home is free of bedbugs, your best bet is to use the services of a pest-control company.

man with open suitcase on hotel bed
Do not keep your suitcase on a hotel bed or carpet or leave it open if you want to avoid picking up bedbugs (© miodrag ignjatovic via Canva)

If you want to avoid picking up bedbugs when you are on holiday, make sure you first place your luggage on a shelf or cabinet in your hotel room, and then check the bed, pillows, mattresses, and upholstered furniture for signs of the pest. Store clothes in your suitcase — which should preferably be hard-cased so that bedbugs don’t attach to it — and close it whenever possible.

How do I keep bedbugs out of my home?

The best way to prevent bedbugs from getting into your home is to clean and vacuum regularly and try to keep the humidity levels down. Second-hand furniture is a common breeding ground for these parasites, so avoid buying it altogether or inspect it thoroughly before bringing it into your home. Keep checking wallpaper and if it is loose, replace it. Seal any cracks or crevices in your walls, and make sure that power outlets are fixed firmly to the walls of your home.

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Header image credits: ADONIS FRANCE via Canva 

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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