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Sticky plastic covers aren’t the only way to cope with pesky bed bugs

DEAR MR. MYERS: Our neighborhood is suffering from a terrible infestation of bed bugs. We haven’t been hit – at least not yet – but many of our neighbors have. How can we protect our home against them? What can we do if we suffer an attack, too?

ANSWER: Those pesky six-legged, reddish-brown insects can be found in everything from mattresses and other bedding to clothes and couches. But contrary to popular belief, the federal Centers for Disease Control states that they don’t feed on cotton stuffing; they get their nourishment by sucking blood from humans and animals, usually at night. Then, the bed bugs nest inside various items throughout the house during daylight hours.

One way to help keep bed bugs at bay is to cover your bedroom pillows, mattress and box spring with store-bought plastic covers or similar protective wrappings. Such covers aren’t always comfortable – if you’re old enough, you might remember them on your mother’s or grandmother’s furniture – but they can contain an outbreak or even prevent one.

Cut clutter in your home in order to reduce hiding and breeding places, and vacuum frequently.

A key sign that you may have a bed bug infestation is that you get reddish-brown, small spots on your arms and other extremities that “can cause itchy, irritating welts that prompt excessive scratching and can keep you up at night,” the CDC says.

Simply throwing your bedding and clothes in a normal washing-machine cycle won’t kill ‘em, the CDC adds. Washing and then drying them at “high heat,” though, often will. So can dry-cleaning the infested items.

Some big-box stores sell bed bug extermination kits to do-it-yourselfers for as little as $20 or $30. Expect to pay $500 to $1,500 if you want a professional to do the work for you, according to Angie’s List, a company that helps consumers link up with exterminators and other contractors in their area.

The best news: The CDC says that bed bugs don’t spread influenza or other infectious diseases to humans. Their biggest risk is that a bite can trigger frequent scratching, which can then cause a skin infection.

Most such ailments can quickly be cured with a single antibiotic shot or a few applications of topical cream.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: A list based on nationwide service calls made by pest-control giant Orkin revealed that Baltimore has the biggest bed-bug problem of all. Washington, D.C., is second, followed by Chicago, New York and Columbus, Ohio.

DEAR MR. MYERS: What is a “net lease”?

ANSWER: It’s a lease that requires a tenant to pay not only the agreed-upon rent, but to also pay some or all related expenses, such as utilities, insurance, maintenance or even property taxes.

DEAR MR. MYERS: I heard a short blurb on the radio that said some heat pumps made by Carrier are being recalled because they can catch fire. This worries me, because I bought a Carrier pump for my home last year. How can I find out if my heat pump is part of the recall?

ANSWER: The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission announced May 11 that Carrier Corp. and its sister company, Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems, had agreed to recall a combined 25,000 Carrier Greenspeed and Bryant Evolution Extreme heat pumps because a glitch in their fuse boards could cause the units to overheat and catch fire.

The pumps were sold through Sears and smaller dealers between June 2011 and August 2016. Carrier says that it has received more than 40 reports of the pumps overheating, but that no injuries, fires or property damage have been reported.

Not all the Greenspeed and Evolution Extreme model numbers are covered by the recall. To find out if yours is affected, visit www.carrier.com or call the company’s toll-free hotline, 844-864-8233.

If your unit is indeed part of the recall, the Carrier representative will tell you how to get a free replacement fuse board installed by an authorized Carrier or Bryant technician.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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