Harvard Women's Health Watch

Easing bedbug anxiety

What you need to know about the bedbug resurgence.

Hardly a day goes by without reports of yet another bedbug infestation. Bedbugs are showing up in residences of all kinds, including apartment buildings, dormitories, and hotels as well as in offices, retail stores, schools, theaters, and public transportation. Explanations for the resurgence of Cimex lectularius include increased international travel, changing pest control practices, resistance to pesticides, and lack of knowledge about how to control them. "But these are just speculation," says entomologist Dr. Richard Pollack. "The proper answer is, 'We don't know.'"

What we do know is that they're back after a hiatus of nearly 50 years, and it's putting people's nerves on edge. No one likes the thought of bugs invading their homes and biting them (or their children) while they sleep. And the fear of getting or giving bedbugs can lead to problems with relationships, activities, and work. Worry over bedbugs also causes insomnia and may result in actions more harmful than the bugs themselves, including the misuse of pesticides and wasteful spending on dubious detection and eradication measures.

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