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bed bugs in healthcare

Bed bugs in the healthcare sector: A rising concern


Bed bugs are more commonly associated with being a pest problem for the hotel industry. But these little critters are increasingly being seen to create infestations within the healthcare sector too!

This is not something to be taken lightly, as a bed bug infestation can bring about the following business challenges:

  • Employees or guests introducing bed bugs to an establishment
  • Customers, residents, patients and employees being bitten
  • Potential litigation and associated costs
  • Media exposure and negative publicity
  • Infestation of furniture investments
  • Infestation of inventory or stock
  • Cost of treating bed bug infestations
  • Establishing proactive programs

The rise of bed bugs in hospitals and healthcare facilities

Bed bugs can breed wherever they detect human presence, which could be anywhere in today’s society.

The presence of bed bugs in hospitals and healthcare facilities could indicate poor quality of hygiene and sanitation to the general public, as well as cause discomfort to patients.

Evidence from the pest management industry indicates that bed bug problems in the healthcare sector are on the rise.

In a 2015 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky, professional pest management providers reported seeing increasing problems including hotels, cinemas, schools, dormitories, offices, public transportation systems, retail stores, and healthcare facilities.

The survey found that bed bug activity in healthcare facilities, in particular, jumped dramatically between 2013 and 2015, from:

  • 46% to 58% in nursing homes
  • 33% to 36% in hospitals
  • 26% to 33% in doctors’ offices/outpatient services

The factors that are believed to contribute to the rise of bed bugs within the healthcare sector include high patient turnover as well as frequent visiting guests and vendors.

In other words, the more visitors that come to a healthcare facility, the more the risk increases.

Healthcare facilities most prone to bed bugs after hotels

Rentokil, one of the largest providers of commercial pest control services in the world, found that between fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2016, one commercial division of the company saw an overall 388% increase in the number of bed bug services conducted in healthcare facilities.

Moreover, from its aggregated call data between 2013 and 2016, the figures indicate:

  • A dramatic increase in calls in the month of June
  • Highest call activity in the month of December.

So, while hotels are usually seen to be blighted by bed bug infestations during the summer months, with healthcare facilities it’s a different story.

As the numbers above suggest, if exposure to increased numbers of people lead to an increased chance of bed bugs, this peak could be a reflection of healthcare facilities seeing higher numbers of patients in winter months due to seasonal illness.

All this makes it very important for operation managers within healthcare facilities to:

  • Understand where high-risk areas may be
  • Have a proactive program to address these areas
  • Have a predetermined protocol for control in place

This is simply because, all too often, it’s not until a problem arises that facilities begin to think about bed bugs.

However, in the interests of health and safety – as well as curbing treatment costs – the time to develop a protocol is not in the midst of a problem, but well beforehand.

60% of the population show no reaction to bed bug bites

Individuals can experience different reactions to being bitten by bed bugs depending on the sensitivities that they may have.

Research suggests that as much as 60% of the population have no cutaneous reaction bed bug bites, i.e. their skin shows no evidence of being bitten!

Those who do experience reactions are likely to have red, often itchy, bite marks, bumps or welts. Some individuals who suffer prolonged exposure may experience changes in reaction over time, with reactions becoming more severe with additional bites.

However, there are other tell-tale signs which you could look out for if you suspect being bitten by bed bugs, such as:

  • Faecal smears left by bed bugs crawling that resemble marker stains on mattresses, box springs, bedding, or other soft furniture.
  • Dead bed bugs or cast skins found in the seams of mattresses and box springs.
  • Bed bug eggs, which are hard to see with the naked eye, but are visible. These are white with a pearly sheen and are often found clustered together.
  • Human hosts, bed bugs will most often be found where people are found. Typically, this is in sleeping or resting areas.
  • In heavy infestations, they may be found in other high-traffic areas, e.g. break rooms, lounges, reception areas and lobbies with soft furniture – where it is easier for these pests to hide!

Best practices to address the growing bed bug problem in hospitals

Download a copy of our report to discover why your healthcare facility should have a proactive bed bug control plan in place and learn about the suggested guidelines for establishing a proactive plan to reduce the risk of bed bugs in your hospital.

Find out more

Jack Lyons

I joined the Marketing and Innovation team at Rentokil in 2015, and my mind has quickly become accustomed to the weird and wonderful world of pests. Outside of work my main hobby is music, being a huge fan of bands such as Queen and Led Zeppelin as well as being an avid drummer.


  1. Hi Sudakshina Bhattacharjee,
    I am somewhat of a newbie to internet marketing and blogging. So with that being said, I am very glad that I found this blog post. I’ve heard talk of “Bed bugs in the healthcare sector: A rising concern” but never really knew what it was all about, however, I can say that I understand a lot better now. I plan to stay connected to your blog. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to write next. Thanks.

  2. This is impressive – you know a lot about bed bugs. I did not know that stat about 60% of people not showing signs of a reaction. If you happen to be one of those people and are bitten, how do you know if you don’t happen to notice them on the mattress?

  3. Here are some tips for bedbug prevention: remove all clutter so bed-bugs can’t hide, breed and migrate. Wash and dry bed-linens at very hot temperatures. Inspect luggage + furniture. Since bedbugs lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime of around 300 days they breed and spread ultra-fast. Use a good pesticide. Better yet, call in a professional expert for excellent results and peace of mind. Local pest control services use toxic chemicals in heavy dosages that are dangerous and even fatal. Genuine bedbug removal and permanent bedbug solutions involve a safe, certified, pest control professional company expert who can detect, use safe chemicals and destroy, not only the bedbugs but their newly-hatched nymphs.Since prevention is better than cure, careful inspection of clothing and luggage after travel is case bedbugs are suspected, deep cleaning and insecticides provide a temporary solution. Expert pest control is advised for total eradication of bedbugs. Itching, rashes and welts can be treated with soothing lotions and calamine, available at the chemist. Small children, or people with severe allergic reactions may need a doctor.

  4. interesting article. hope we don’t have that with our clinic.

  5. Thanks for sharing the important stats about bed bugs. Every healthcare facility must be concerned about it and they must take this issue seriously after all its all about the reputation of their facility. If the suspect about the presence of bed bugs then, they must go for heatigation treatment for bed bugs. Hope this information will help!! Thanks!!

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