Public health officials are warning Montrealers about a problem that could keep them up at night – bedbugs.

Officials say the city is seeing an increase in bedbug incidents, thanks to a surge in international travel and weaker pesticides that require four uses before eradicating the tiny pests.

Erika Sabo said she's been living with bedbugs on and off and six months, and now keeps all her clothing in bags and threw out her bed and couch.

"I got sick of being bitten so I just got rid of my furniture," she said. "I'm terrified living here because they could come back in at any time."

Though the oval-shaped, parasitic insects are only five millimeters long, Stephane Perron of Montreal Public Health said they can cause a slew of physical and psychological problems.

"When you get bitten at night, it causes sleep difficulties. Others may become more anxious and some will even isolate themselves," said Perron.

Tenants' rights advocate Arnold Bennett said his housing hotline rarely heard bedbug cases a decade ago, and now receives up to five cases per week.

His advice is to tell the landlord immediately, because the critters can spread.

"When you have a problem in one unit, say you're a landlord, you don't just (fumigate) that one unit, otherwise they're just going to hide in baseboards and spread. It's just going to cost you more," said Bennett.

Debbie Barker of Expert Extermination said those who collect discarded furniture, like the couch and bed Sazo threw out, often bring home more than a new adornment for their home.

She advises people don't pick up furniture that's been discarded.

She also had these tips:

  • Never unpack clothing into hotel dressers
  • Use hard suitcases when travelling
  • Don't use public coat racks

"Never go into a restaurant and put your coat next to other peoples coats; put it on your chair," she said. "I don't care if they don't like it. Go to another restaurant. Don't put your things with other people's things."

For an FAQ on bedbugs - and how to eradicate them - click here.