Taxi drivers across the UK are being urged to check their vehicles for signs of bedbugs, as cities face a surge in infestations of the blood-sucking insects.
Bedbugs are small, oval-shaped insects that feed on human blood, usually at night. They can cause itchy, red bites and can spread quickly from one place to another by hitching a ride on clothing, luggage, or furniture.
According to the British Pest Control Association, bedbugs are not a sign of poor hygiene, but they can be found in both clean and dirty places. However, regular cleaning can help to spot them early and prevent them from spreading. Some of the signs of bedbugs include:
Bites on skin exposed while sleeping, such as the face, neck, and arms. The bites are often in a line or grouped together and may be raised and itchy.
Spots of blood on vehicle upholstery, from the bites or from squashing a bedbug.
Small brown spots on seating material, which are bedbug faeces.
Live or dead bedbugs, eggs, or skins, which may be hidden in cracks and crevices of the vehicle.
If a taxi driver suspects that they have bedbugs in their vehicle, they may want to take the following action:
Contact a professional pest control service as soon as possible. It is very difficult to get rid of bedbugs without expert help, as they can be hard to find and may be resistant to some insecticides.
If possible, wash any affected areas like removable seat covers, on a hot wash (60°C) and tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, put them in a plastic bag and freeze them for three or four days.
Vacuum the vehicle thoroughly, paying attention to the seats, floor, and boot space. Dispose of the vacuum bag or contents in a sealed plastic bag and throw it away outside.
Do not bring any items out from the vehicle without checking them carefully for bedbugs.
Bedbug bites are usually not dangerous, but they can be very uncomfortable and may cause an allergic reaction in some people. To treat bedbug bites, the NHS advises:
Putting something cool, like a damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and swelling.
Keeping the affected area clean and avoiding scratching the bites to prevent infection.
Using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines to ease the symptoms. Children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream.
Seeing a GP if the bites are still very painful, swollen, or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist, or if the pain or swelling around the bites is spreading. This may indicate an infection that needs antibiotics.