HOUSTON - They travel in luggage, take up residence in fancy hotel rooms, average apartments and million-dollar homes. Bed bugs don't discriminate, and they are a huge problem in Houston.
"Anybody and everybody is susceptible to bed bugs. They have no difference whether it's a clean home or dirty home. All they care about is that you have blood in your veins," said professional exterminator Jim Muir.
Bed bugs hibernate. They can go up to 18 months between meals. If they find a warm, dark place in your home, like a mattress, carpeting or cracks in drywall, they'll stay there until you do something about it.
"Bed bugs are something you want to address immediately or they become a problem. It's not just treating your bed; you want to check your bed frame, the carpet, really the whole room to make sure you've gotten rid of them completely," explained Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.
You know you have bed bugs if you get bite marks in groups of three. They may also leave small red and brown stains at the top of your mattress. If you see signs of bed bugs, don't wait.
You can try to get rid of them yourself. Rubbing alcohol will kill bugs and eggs on contact. You should also steam clean rugs and carpets using retail grade insecticides. Wash your clothing and bedding using water above 120 degrees.
"Alternatively, you could freeze your bedding. If it's in the summer months, you can seal your bedding in a plastic bag and leave it out in the sun for several days," Hicks added.
If you decide to hire a professional, you should be prepared to leave your house during the treatment process.
"We typically do one of two things: One, we recommend highly is the heat treatment. We bring in up to eight furnaces. We heat the structure up to somewhere between 130-150 degrees, everything inside, clothing, bedding and everything," Muir explained.
Most companies will charge you a fee for consultation and inspection. The treatment itself will cost $1,200 to $1,800. You may also want to follow that up with monthly chemical treatments, otherwise they may return and you'll have to go through the entire process again.
A heavy infestation of bed bugs can actually cause a sweet aroma in the room. Some people describe it as smelling like raspberries or rotting fruit.
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