AN INFESTATION of bed bugs in a tower block has left children with swollen faces and forced desperate residents to ditch all their furniture, the Echo can reveal.

It is understood that at least four flats in the 24-storey Canberra Towers have been riddled with parasites for several months, and residents believe many more are affected.

Several say they cannot afford to treat the problem and are being pushed into debt searching for a permanent solution.

One seven-year-old girl slept on an inflatable mattress after her mum was forced to get rid all the furniture in the flat.

Her mother says Southampton City Council quoted a price of £280, to be paid on the day, to tackle the pests.

She said: “They didn’t tell me you could pay in instalments - and private companies charge £600-£900. I’m on benefits.

“Luckily we got someone in who said he could do it for £180 but that’s only because we’d already thrown out all the furniture and it was easier for him.”

Another couple with four young children, all under six, and one have been left with a debt of £1,500 after dealing with their infestation

The mum, who did not want to be named, claims she had to borrow money from friends and family to replace furniture which had to be thrown out after becoming infested.

She said her son was was sent to the doctor’s twice by teachers at his school after he was unable to see out of his swollen left eye.

The family of six had to move out of their flat to sleep at relatives’ houses while the problem was dealt with.

Mark Palmer, a Southampton general hospital pathology worker, who lives on the 20th floor, spent more than £350 replacing his bedroom furniture after he found the bugs two months ago.

He is now makes weekly checks in order to keep the mites under control.

It is understood a fourth family has now moved out of Canberra Towers after receiving three bed bug treatments from Southampton City Council.

Councillor Warwick Payne, who hold the housing portfolio, said no residents had reported the issue to him personally, but if there was “any problem that can be linked to the general upkeep of the building” then the council would investigate.

He added that the council “wants to be sure that tenants are safe and secure in their housing” but that tenants are liable for paying for the cost of treatments.

He added: “We offer a discount of about 20 per cent for families on benefits and we can reach a deal where instalments can be paid.”

According to one Hampshire pest control company, bed bugs are on the rise.

David Collins of Hampshire Bird and Pest Solutions said: “They will go anywhere you go basically.

"So if you go on holiday they might come back in your suitcase.

"And it doesn’t matter if you have a clean flat, they will live anywhere that’s dark.

"They will go from flat to flat using the fixtures and fittings like the electrical sockets to get about.

"Ideally you would want to treat every single flat but you couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t come back.”