Dr. Joseph Leija, who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count for Loyola University Health System near Chicago, said he has treated his share of patients who came in complaining of itching from bed bugs.
"A family came in covered in bedbug bites from infested 'free' furniture they found in an abandoned apartment," Leija said in a statement. "The couple had only taken the wooden headboards and baseboards of the beds -- not the mattresses because they knew that would be unsanitary -- as well as a table and chairs. The bugs were found in the tiny crevices."
Paint or seal any newly acquired used furniture. Bedbugs are so tiny they have been known to hide in screw holes, Leija said.
The allergist said he has also cared for patients with bedbug bites traced back to clothing purchased at neighborhood garage sales and resale stores.
"If you buy used clothing, keep them in the plastic bag before washing immediately in hot water," Leija advised. "Use the dryer at high heat to make sure all parasites are killed."
If bedbugs are detected spray insecticide and vacuum bedding and furniture thoroughly and throw the vacuum cleaner bag outside in the trash after each sweeping.
"Keep spraying the insecticide and vacuuming daily; check for tiny brown bugs or pieces that may be part of the bug," Leija said.
If a person is bitten by a bedbug, Leija recommended: "Wash the area carefully with soap and water, drying thoroughly. Apply anti-itch cream, such as calamine lotion, to prevent irritation and limit scratching."
If the bite area becomes warm to the touch, swells or hurts, go to the doctor for prescription medication, Leija said.