Spring is finally here and so are garage sales. Garage sales are a great way to recycle, and to enable individuals and families to buy clothing, furniture, household items and other things they need at reasonable prices.

There is one word of caution, however. When shopping at garage sales, you do not want to bring home bed bugs. Bed bugs can "hitchhike" on used clothing, furniture, bed linens and possibly other items such as electronics and children's toys. Once bed bugs enter your home, it can be difficult to get rid of them.

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There are ways you can protect yourself and avoid getting bed bugs. Take a flashlight with you when shopping and inspect furniture, toys and electronics. Bed bugs will hide in the edges and corners of mattresses and furniture. They will hide in seams and crevices of backpacks and other items. You may see dark brown or black spots that are fecal stains or you may see small bugs the size of an apple seed or yellow small eggs. When buying used clothing, linens, or stuffed animals transport them home in a tightly sealed plastic bag and then immediately put them in a hot household dryer for 30 minutes before using them.

Bed bugs do not cause disease but they are a nuisance. They bite during the night, and can disrupt sleep, cause a rash and cause anxiety. They are difficult to treat and control once in your home.

For more information about bed bugs call or information line at 715-246-8364 or visit on line bedbugs.umn.edu or sccwi.gov.