Prevention and vigilance are key to preventing a bed bug problem. “It’s much easier to control them if they are found early, [when there are only a few of them], as opposed to when they grow to number in the hundreds,” says Gondhalekar.
Monitor your home. Bed bugs like to hide in cracks and crevices like walls, luggage, boxes, and clothing, but since they feed on humans while they sleep, they’re most commonly found in beds. If you suspect an infestation, or if you live in an apartment building with a bed bug problem, regularly inspect your bed sheets, mattress (including underneath), and box-spring seams for bugs. They’re flat and oval-shaped, with red or brown bodies, roughly the size of an apple seed. Watch for adults, nymphs, and eggs, as well as exoskeletons (casings that the bugs leave behind when they molt) and dark, rust-colored spots (feces).
Encase your mattress. Enclosing your mattress, pillows, and box spring with a protective cover can block bed bugs from reaching their favorite hiding place.
Be cautious when you travel. Hotel and motel rooms are hotbeds for bed bugs. When checking in, put your luggage in the bathroom, then inspect the bedding. Stow your suitcases on a luggage rack or a hard surface.
When you return home, quarantine your bags. Decontaminate your luggage and clothing by putting your entire suitcase into a large chest freezer (if you have one) for four days, suggests Gondhalekar, before bringing them back into your home. Extreme hot or cold temperatures kills bed bugs. You can also put your clothes in the dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes, and try steam cleaning your luggage and clothing.