There are many reasons for purchasing a new mattress, but maybe none as convincing as discovering that your existing mattress is infested with bed bugs. Unfortunately, statistics from pest control companies reveal that bed bug infestations are becoming increasingly common, fuelled by the popularity of international travel, which has prompted the media to report global pandemics. While the prospect of a bed bug outbreak on this scale is maybe a little exaggerated, the fact is that bed bug infestations are not unusual and can cause irritation and discomfort for homeowners. What are bed bugs? Bed bugs (also known as Cimex lectularius) are small, brown insects that tend to become active at night. Contrary to popular opinion, they can be seen by the naked eye, so identifying if you have an infestation in your home may be possible. They have an oval body, which is flat before feeding, and are approximately 4-7 mm in length. After feeding, which usually occurs at night, their bodies swell in size. What are the signs of a bed bug infestation? Bed bugs can sometimes be seen on the surface of your mattress, but as they prefer dark conditions, it may not be easy to spot them in daylight. Itchy skin acquired overnight is a sign that you may have been bitten, but other signs can help confirm their existence. These include: • Eggs and eggshells, approximately 1 mm in diameter and usually white • Darkish spots on the mattress, which may be bed bug excrement • Red or rust-coloured stains on your mattress or sheets where bed bugs have been crushed Are bed bugs dangerous? While a nuisance, bed bugs are not dangerous. They do not transmit disease but their bites can be irritating, especially if you are allergic to the anaesthetic they inject when they feed. The worst consequence of a bed bug infestation is likely to be an unsightly rash that may be itchy. However, the very thought of sleeping on a mattress that has bed bugs living within it is likely to be extremely off-putting to most people! How can I deal with the problem of bed bugs? While a variety of pesticides are available to eradicate bed bug infestations, some of these have been proven to be ineffective as the insects have become resistant to them over time. A logical solution to the problem, especially if you have a mattress that is old, is to replace the mattress with a brand new product, which you can sleep on soundly in the knowledge that it will be free of bed bugs. However, it is important to treat the bed itself, such as the divan and the headboard, as well as cleaning underneath and around the bed thoroughly. Obtain professional advice from a qualified pest controller, if necessary.