Only use chemicals as a last resort to eradicate bed bugs
Once a home is infested with bed bugs, it is difficult to get rid of them. Sometimes, faced with the tenacity of these parasites, people turn to insecticides. However, their use is not without risk: more than 1000 cases of poisoning due to these chemicals, some serious, were recorded between 2007 and 2021. To eradicate bed bugs, you should therefore initially favour non-chemical means.
Particularly tenacious parasites
Bed bugs are small insects that usually hide in mattresses and bed frames. They live on blood and bite humans during the night. They can be carried in clothing and luggage, when travelling or buying second-hand bedding, furniture, books and clothes.
Bed bugs are particularly tenacious as their life expectancy can exceed one year, even without food. A female lays from 5 to 15 eggs per day, resulting in an extremely rapid rate of proliferation.
Anyone can be affected
Between 2016 and 2020, 7% of French people were estimated to have been affected by bedbugs. Their presence does not indicate a lack of cleanliness, and anyone can fall victim to an infestation in their home.
Bed bugs do not transmit diseases, but their bites cause itching and allergic reactions. Their infestation can also affect the psychological state of their victims, who feel powerless against these pests. This can lead them to use unsuitable eradication methods, some of which are ineffective or even dangerous.
Use of chemicals can cause poisoning
As infestations increase, poison control centres are seeing more and more cases of poisoning caused by the chemicals used to control these parasites. The main symptoms reported are breathing difficulties, coughing, oropharyngeal pain and irritation, as well as itching, headaches and dizziness. Serious poisoning cases with one death have also been reported, most often with products that are prohibited in France.
Begin by favouring non-chemical means
To eradicate bed bugs, and before resorting to insecticides, the Ministry of Health recommends the following practices:
- Pass a vacuum cleaner thoroughly over every surface in order to capture the eggs and parasites. Then clean the suction pipe, wrap the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and dispose of it in an outside waste bin to avoid contaminating other areas;
- Machine wash clothes and linen at a temperature above 55°C;
- If there is no washing machine, put clothes in the freezer for at least 72 hours at -17°C;
- Clean hard-to-reach surfaces or upholstery with a high-temperature (at least 120°C) dry-steam cleaner (available for hire), which destroys bed bugs at all stages of their life cycle.
If this fails, contact a pest control specialist rather than applying the insecticide yourself. In any case, after application of the products, it is essential to comply with the re-entry time indicated, i.e. the time from which it is safe to return to the treated area. This avoids any risk of poisoning.