How can a person avoid bringing home bed bugs if they work in a bed bug infested environment?

Social service workers are often working with clients with mental health or addictions issues. These issues put the clients at great risk of contracting bed bugs (because they visit other infested areas) and also prevent their amelioration because they do not cooperate with bed bug eradication protocols. In other words these folks are very likely to have bed bugs in their homes. And the social service worker is therefore at greater risk of bringing the bugs home. What can the workers do to prevent the transmission?

When visiting infested homes it is always important to never sit down on the couch. The couch is probably infested and, because of the aggressive nature of the bed bug, some of the bugs may seek a day time blood meal and climb into the clothing of the person sitting there. If you must sit please sit on a hard kitchen chair. If possible remain standing. Also do not bring your jacket, purse, etc into the suite. Leave as much stuff in the vehicle as possible. If you must bring items into the suite leave them on the kitchen table or other area far away from the potential sleeping areas. Personally I never bring my jacket into an infested suite when I treat for bed bugs. I often hang my jacket up on a fire extinguisher in the public hallway. I used to hang my jacket on the fridge handle or upper kitchen cabinet doors but the resurgence of cockroaches has made me suspicious of those areas as well.

Simply standing in an infested suite for a few minutes is unlikely to cause a bed bug to climb your leg. I have stood in infested suites many times and I rarely take precautions afterward. And I have never brought bed bugs home. But if you are forced to spend considerable amounts of time in the suite, noticed bed bugs moving about the suite (bugs with sub lethal pyrethroid poisoning are more aggressive), or sat on furniture I suggest bringing fresh clothing into the suite in a sealed pillow case. At the end of the visit ask to use the bathroom and change clothing. Put the potentially infested clothing back in the pillow case. Seal the bag and place entire bag in the dryer when you get home. The bugs are not in your hair or on your skin. They are most likely clinging to the clothing and changing clothes addresses the problem nicely.

It is important to take these precautions at the point of potential infestation. If a bug climbs your leg during a visit and you then sit in your car, go to your office, or remove clothing in your home there is a likelihood that you will then infest those areas. If you must change clothing at home I suggest standing in the bathtub and allowing the clothing to fall in that area. Then carefully pick up the entire pile of clothing and place directly in the dryer. Alternately you can stand on a bed sheet and drop your clothing onto the bed sheet. Pick up the four corners and place entire “bag” into the dryer. Changing clothing in the garage may also be ineffective as a dropped bug will chase you during the day a week later when it gets hungry.

If your office is infested I suggest maintaining work clothes and home clothes. When you arrive at work you change into work clothing while protecting your home clothes in a bag. At the end of the day change back into home clothes. The two worlds (work and home) are therefore isolated one from the other.

If you work in a doctor’s office and a client with bed bugs attends there is a high risk of infesting the office. The staff might want to give this client immediate service and have her undress on a bed sheet in an examination room. Take the bed sheet corners together and place in the dryer for 20 minutes. At the end of the visit the sterilized clothing is returned and the risks are reduced. Alternately these folks probably do not have $2 for laundry so you might educate the client on the risks of bed bug transmission and offer him/her $2 for the laundry before they attend the clinic. That $2 might be the best investment in prevention possible. Of course this does not work in all settings but the staff need to be creative in addressing these issues.

Public offices might also want to replace couches and soft chairs with hard plastic chairs that are easily inspected. But if a bed bug is deposited on the hard chair it will probably hide in a crevice away from the chair which could cause even more harm. Therefore tape corrugated cardboard with the holes showing on the bottom side of the chair. A bug seeking refuge will then likely harbour in the cardboard instead of the baseboard. Have the cleaning lady discard and replace the cardboard on a regular basis. Again this is not a perfect solution but it is better to discard 4 out of 5 bugs that were dropped in the waiting room as opposed to 5 out of 5 bugs causing future harm.


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