Do you want bed bugs bites? No? Me neither!
I am a neat freak. And I don’t want creepy-crawly things in my bed at night. I once found a millipede under my pillow in the middle of the night on our Greece tour: it was alive and moving! And then I found a spider as big as my fist and an ant’s nest on the ceiling in my hotel room in the Philippines. From then on, I always looked for bugs in my hotel rooms; and bed bugs are my biggest fear.
For our misfortune, bed bugs came back strong in the USA in 2010 after decades of absence. Since then, they’ve becoming epidemic… and they travel as much as we do. Nobody likes the thought of having little vampire-like bug sucking our blood during our peaceful sleep, so let’s see how to avoid them.
Can you see bed bugs?
These wingless bugs range in size from 1 to 7 millimeters, are reddish brown, and are flat and oval in shape. Fecal droppings (brown and black stains that look like pepper flakes), shed skins, and the tinier translucent eggs and nymphs (juveniles) are signs of bed bugs. Bed bugs don’t fly or jump, but they can hide in very small or tight spaces such as under wallpaper, behind picture frames, in electrical outlets, in box springs, along with the seams of mattresses, in headboards and night tables. Their presence doesn’t indicate a lack of cleanliness; bed bugs may be found in five-star hotels, resorts, cruise ships, buses, and trains!
Bed Bugs Bites: Risk to Travelers
Bed bugs are not known to spread a disease to humans and are therefore not considered to be a major health risk to travelers. The problem that may occur, besides the psychological trauma of being bitten in your sleep (hello!!), is an allergic reaction to several bites and then you may require medical attention. To avoid possible infection, try not to scratch the bites and keep the bite sites clean. The use of antiseptic creams or lotions and antihistamines may help.
Bed Bugs Bites: Have I been bitten?
The appearance of bed bugs bites may take as long as 14 days to appear. Some people don’t even react to the bites. In rare cases, some people may have severe allergic reactions. Bites can occur anywhere on the skin, but they are often found on the face, neck, arms, legs and chest area.
Bed Bugs Bites: What to do before you travel
- Pack all of your belongings in clear plastic bags and properly seal them to protect from possible infestation. Open your plastic bags only when accessing the items.
- A permethrin-treated bed net may be useful, unless if the mattress is infested with bed bugs.
- Do not bring your pillow from home.
- A hard-shelled suitcase has fewer folds and seams where bed bugs can hide.
- Look at BedBugRegistry.com or Bedbugger.com if your accommodation has had complaints.
Bed Bugs Bites: How to Know If You Have Bed Bugs?
- Don’t leave your suitcase or backpack on the floor or on the bed. Instead, place it on a luggage rack away from the walls, or in the bathtub or shower stall as these areas are not likely to be infested.
- Inspect your hotel room. When you arrive, pull back the bed’s covers and inspect under the linens and pillows. Use a flashlight and gloves if necessary. If a credit card can fit in a crack, so does bed bugs. So look into every crack, seams, and sides of the mattress, frames, headboard, etc. Look for signs of infestation such as black/brown spots (dried blood or feces), white spots (eggs – very difficult to see) or actual live or dead bed bugs.
- Unfortunately, sleep sacks can’t protect you from getting bitten; bed bugs can feed through the fabric or crawl through the opening of the sack as you sleep.
Bed Bugs Bites: What to do if you find signs of bed bugs in your room
- Tell the hotel or hostel that you suspect bed bugs in your room and ask for another one that is not close to the first one, neither above nor below, since bed bugs can travel from one room to another nearby. Note that one infested room doesn’t mean all rooms in the hotel have them.
- Place all worn and potentially affected clothes in a tightly sealed plastic bag until they can be washed and dried appropriately.
- It’s unlikely that bed bugs would travel on you or the clothes you are wearing. You move too much to be a good hiding place.
Bed Bugs Bites: The Best Way to Get Rid Of Bed Bugs
- Unpack on a floor that will allow you to see bed bugs, away from furniture and sleeping areas, or on your balcony, bathtub or shower (bed bugs have a harder time crawling up smooth surfaces and are easier to spot against light colors). Unpack directly into plastic bags for taking clothes to the laundry.
- Suitcases should be carefully inspected and vacuumed or steam clean before storing it away. Pay special attention to pockets, linings, and seams. Be sure to seal and discard the vacuum cleaner bag in the outside garbage.
- It may not be necessary to treat items that cannot be laundered unless bed bugs are found. For those who wish to be extra cautious, some items can be placed in plastic bags or in plastic wrap and placed outdoors on hot sunny days or in sub-zero temperatures in the winter. Freezing temperatures must be maintained for at least four days; however, this may not always be 100% effective.
- Wash all your clothes, even if you didn’t wear them, and dry on ‘hot’ for at least 30 minutes.
- If you have found bed bugs or have noticed bites in the days/weeks after your return, contact a pest management professional, who will be able to monitor and provide advice on possible treatments.
As for myself, before I head back home, I always heavily shake all my belongings (suitcase, clothes, etc.), to avoid taking them with me, since they cannot hold on strong enough on moving stuff. Because you don’t want to bring back home THAT kind of souvenir!
And please click here to print a very handy traveler’s card from Cornell University!