Don't Let Nasty Bedbugs Bite | the Star

Your home is supposed to be a sanctuary, a secure spot where you're safe from threats, both natural and man-made, that lurk beyond the white picket fence. But makers of many home improvement products say that ain't necessarily so. Your home, they want you to know, may be full of unseen hazards.

Take the bedroom, for example and the problem with bedbugs, which appear to be on the rise in Canada's urban centres.

According to Toronto Public Health, there are no known cases of disease associated with bedbug bites. But sensitive types can have localized allergic reactions to bites, which are commonly found on the face, neck, upper torso, arms and hands. Scratched bites may become infected. (For more information, go to

Using a good vacuum with a strong nozzle to periodically clean the mattress will help reduce the risk, as will a mattress cover. Just on the market is CleanRest, a breathable mattress cover made from a fabric weave so tiny that its makers say no allergen or liquid can penetrate it. I can't vouch for that. But having tried it, I can say it's thinner and more comfortable to sleep on than other plastic covers we've used.

CleanRest is not currently available at retail locations in Canada, but it can be purchased online. For prices and more information, go to

Mould and dust mites in mattresses and other furniture can also pose a health hazard for those with asthma and allergies. That's why the Asthma Society of Canada recommends sufferers have their mattresses vacuumed at least twice weekly.

Dyson's line of upright vacuums, which were introduced to Canadian consumers two years ago, have just been named the first vacuums in Canada to receive the Asthma Society's certification. This means they significantly reduce allergens on carpets and floor without increasing airborne allergens through leakage and inadequate filtration.

There's a superstition that lavender oil will discourage bedbugs. That's enough reason for me to continue to indulge in a small luxury - Lothantique lavender linen water from Au Lit Fine Linens ( The light scent of this mix, sold in attractive glass bottles and a convenient spray format, will freshen the bed and add a delicious fragrance to the bedroom. The water also comes in Verbena and Green Tea scents. Lavender water sells for $22, while the two others cost $20. (There's 10 per cent off these items during Au Lit's August sale).

In another nod to bedroom safety, don't forget that it's the law that working smoke alarms be installed on every storey of a home and outside sleeping areas.

If your home is missing alarms, consider a trip to Home Depot to pick up a twin pack of Kidde front-load battery smoke alarms, which cost about $23. The giant retailer is donating 10 per cent of the sale of this product, along with several other items, to the Mike Holmes' Make It Right Foundation, which offers scholarships to encourage young people to get into skilled trades.

The kitchen can also be a pretty dangerous spot, and not just because it's home to hot temperatures and sharp objects. Every since Louis Pasteur demonstrated that bacteria could hurt humans, makers of kitchen products and cleansers have been telling us about the dangers of grease and grime.

Rubbermaid has introduced sink ware that it says significantly reduces the growth of microbes. The new line, which includes dish drainers, sink mats, drain boards and sponge caddies, has antibacterial agents added to the resin from which it's made. According to Rubbermaid, these drainers will resist odour and stain-causing bacterial growth. They're available at Wal-Mart and Home Hardware. Pieces sell for between $16 and $20.

Keeping a bar of soap next to the kitchen counter is a simple, inexpensive way to reduce bacterial growth. A 15-second hand washing (sing "Happy Birthday to You" through twice) will remove about 99.9 per cent of bacteria.

But before you get too hung up on the germs, pests and bacteria that may be present in your home, consider the following. Much of the bacteria we come into contact with benefits the environment and our bodies. Bacteria, for example, helps us digest food.

And when I first fretted that my less-than-stellar housekeeping skills might be exposing my kids to germs and bacteria, my wise mother-in-law shared with me a bit of wisdom from the 18th-century; namely that "you'll eat a peck of dirt before you die."

Don't Let Nasty Bedbugs Bite | the Star 1

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