In Case of Emergency

Please refer to the United Way hotline for more information on bed bug services - or dial 211.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on human and animal blood. They are reddish-brown in color, wingless, smaller than an apple seed, and can live for several months without a meal. Bedbugs are found all over the world, and although they are known to travel more than 100 feet at night, they usually will stay within eight feet of where people sleep.

Please note: The Healthy Homes Coalition does not provide bed bug services. For more detailed information on bed bugs please refer to


The Source

The primary way bedbugs are spread from place to place is by hitchhiking on belongings. While they are known to hitchhike long distance on the luggage of travelers who have stayed in infested hotels, it is also common that they spread by bringing used furniture into the home, especially mattresses, couches, upholstered chairs, and other places where people sleep.

Being small, they can also move between apartments within the same building in search of food.


Who is at Risk?

All people are at equal risk from bedbugs. The concern is that they have an annoying bite and can interrupt people's sleep. Some people are particularly sensitive to bug bites and can develop a rash.



Signs of a bedbug infestation are found by where people sleep. They include finding living or dead insects or the skin they shed, or rust-colored stains on mattress seams, sheets, pillowcases, or upholstered furniture. People who have been bitten by bedbugs often have small red marks where bitten.


Health Impacts

Bedbugs are not known to spread disease. Some people will react to the bites with welts or swelling. There is the risk of localized infection from scratching the bites. The biggest problem comes from the loss of sleep due to the irritating bites. The anxiety and stress of having bedbugs in the home can cause a loss of sleep, even leading to mental health concerns.

A secondary concern is exposure to pesticides.  While bedbugs are very annoying, people are cautioned not to spray mattresses, furniture, and other areas with pesticides in an attempt to rid the home of bedbugs.  The exposure to pesticides, especially when used incorrectly, can be far worse than bug bites.



Prevention is the best strategy against bed bugs. They are hitchhikers and spread by getting into clothing, furniture, suitcases, backpacks and purses. To avoid them spreading to your home, make sure to check those items for bugs before bringing them into your home, especially if you think you have been someplace that is infested.

Secondhand mattresses, furniture, and clothing should all be inspected, and clothing should be received in a plastic bag and immediately washed in very hot water.

If you have confirmed bed bugs in your home, clothing can be laundered to get rid of bed bugs. It is recommended that infested furniture not be moved, as this will only move the bedbugs around the home and spread the infestation. Putting an infested mattress or piece of furniture on the curb potentially shares the infestation with others and the home will still need to be treated to get rid of the bedbugs that have crawled off and are hiding elsewhere.  It is more effective to leave the furniture in place and to hire a professional to treat the home and furnishings.  This will also save on the cost of replacing the furniture.

Please note: The Healthy Homes Coalition does not provide bed bug services. For more detailed information on bed bugs please refer to

Photo credit: AFPMB

Did You Know...

Bed bugs can live for many months without feeding.


MDCH Bedbug Brochure(918 KB)

Information from the Michigan Department of Community Health on bedbugs.

Getting the Bedbugs Out(2.4 MB)

State of Michigan booklet on fighting bedbugs, including information for do-it-yourselfers.

Stop Bed Bugs Safely(217 KB)

Information from the New York City Public Health Department on bedbugs.

Lifting Parent Voices, The COFI Way

Every second Monday of the month at 5pm, the conference room at the Healthy Homes Coalition fills up with parents. They file in, greet each other warmly and find their usual seats.

Over a quick dinner, weekly stories are swapped and pictures are shared as parents catch up. Parents for Healthy Homes meetings are part support group, part advocacy work, part leadership training class, and all parent connection.

The leadership training component is a result of our relationship with Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), a nonprofit organization based out of Chicago which connects parents to one another, helping turn their voices in actionable change.  COFI was created in 1995, with former community organizer Barack Obama as a founding member.


Why Parent Voices Matter More

Two stories featuring parents who are fighting to end childhood lead poisoned were told in local news this past week.

These two stories represent the voices of parents whose children are directly affected by the threat of lead poisoning in the community. They are just two of thousands more in the city.

Asthma: The Overlooked Housing Hazard

While efforts to fix lead paint hazards in Grand Rapids are currently in process and in the news, it’s important to remember that asthma is another major health concern for children in the city.

(Photo Credit: