You can definitely call it a comeback---after over 50 years of eradication, bed bugs are cropping up in homes, hotels, hospitals, dormitories, shelters, and even cell phones. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a summit to develop a plan to deal with these pesky critters.

Bed bugs are tiny, flat, wingless insects that feed on humans or other warm-blooded animals - the hosts. The bugs are white, light tan, dark brown or orange in color and usually suck the blood of their hosts when they're asleep. When they bite they also inject their host with their own saliva, which can cause itchiness, allergies or skin lesions. While the bites don't cause infections, they can become infected when scratched. A bed bug infestation can also cause anxiety, stress and insomnia.

Bed bugs had disappeared shortly after World War II, due in large part to the use of pesticides such as DDT, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane. DDT was banned in 1972 because it causes cancer. After nearly two decades without DDT the bugs started to reappear in the 90s, with many observers blaming the resurgence on foreign travel. And the problem is rapidly spreading with the vast majority of states affected-which is bad news in more ways than one.

The EPA's National Bed Bug Summit revealed that several factors prevent us from being as bug-ready as we should be. There's a lack of research, inadequate funding, a lack of cooperation between government agencies, pesticide misuse by consumers, and social stigma - people don't want to admit they have bed bugs.

At the summit, several recommendations for government, property owners and consumers were made. It's a major step towards bringing the problem out from under the sheets, so bed bugs can once again become a thing of the past.

How to Know if You Have Bed Bugs

The most common ways for bed bugs to enter your home is in mattresses, pillows, luggage, boxes and clothing. Inspect your bedding carefully - including box springs and upholstered headboards - curtains, carpets, furniture and furniture drawers. Also check toys and crevices or cracks.

Other warning signs include fecal (brown) and blood (red) spots on your bedding and other areas around your home. A musty or sweet smell like coriander may also be present. Also, if you notice strange bite marks or lesions on your skin in the morning that weren't there the night before, consult your doctor to confirm that they are bed bug bites.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

It's a tough, time-consuming and expensive job. The bugs can be hard to find and hard to kill; you'll need several treatments for complete eradication. Here are your options:

 • The most effective way to kill bed bugs is to hire a professional. They can find locate where the bugs are hiding and take a targeted approach using chemicals or heat. If they use insecticides, ask if they are specifically for killing bed bugs.

• Ask for ThermaPureHeat®. Heat is a green way of getting rid of bed bugs. "It's tremendously important that the EPA has recognized the serious and growing bed bug epidemic," said David Hedman, CEO of ThermaPureHeat®. "It's even more important that the summit considered alternatives to the spraying of highly toxic chemicals into the environment, including the use of heat." When applied properly by trained technicians, this treatment process(R) is 100 percent effective.

• Clean, clean, clean. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter so bugs aren't released back into your home (thoroughly wash the canister afterwards). You'll need to do this often as vacuuming isn't a guaranteed way to eliminate bed bugs. Also, scrub floors, walls, drawers, doors, and surfaces thoroughly.

• Launder with heat. Wash laundry in hot water at 120°F or higher. Also, dry laundry on high heat for 15 minutes or more.

• Throw out your mattress and box spring. Make sure your home is bug free before bringing in a new bed set.

• Seal cracks and crevices. Close up any nooks or crannies where bugs can hide. Also, reseal any loose wallpaper.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

As always, prevention is better than cure. Here are a few ways to keep bed bugs out of your home:

• Inspect items before bringing them home. Bed bug infestation is a public problem; even new mattresses, luggage, clothing, or piece of furniture can be bug carriers. Also, be vigilant when buying second hand items.

• Protect bedding. Seal your mattress and box spring in a protective encasement certified as bed bug resistant.

• Get assurance from hotels. When traveling find out if your hotel has  bed bug prevention practices in place and if they're experiencing any problems with the bugs. Even if you get the green light,  you should still check the room yourself when you arrive.

• Check your child's belongings. School and college kids can bring home bed bugs. Inspect their clothing and other school items for any signs of bed bugs.