Bed bugs are one of the most common pests related to travel because they are provided with a ready supply of fresh hosts to feed on. Once a bed bug infestation has been established, they can be extremely difficult to get rid of for two main reasons: Bed bugs have developed resistance to many pesticides used to treat them; they are also small in size and able to hide in tiny places, only coming out to feed every 4 to 5 days, mostly at night. Both of these combined make them hard to detect and hard to eliminate.
While bed bugs do leave behind itchy, red bites and can trigger allergic reactions in those who are allergic to them, bed bugs aren’t known to transmit any significant diseases to humans.
Bed bugs are very skilled at hitchhiking on luggage and other travel items. They also thrive in dark, cool places with easy access to humans. Although they are most common in hotels and motels, they can also be found in dorms, hospitals, nursing homes, airplanes, trains, buses, and even rental cars.
You can be proactive in preventing bed bugs when you travel. The first step is knowing how to identify a bed bug should you find one. Bed bug eggs are tiny and white and appear to be glued to surfaces. Bed bug nymphs are extremely small (about 1/16″) and lightly colored. Adult bed bugs are rusty, red, and about the size of an apple seed (3/8″). They have 6 legs and flat, oval shaped bodies. They can’t jump of fly but they are excellent runners. Bed bugs tend to congregate together and can go several months without a blood meal.
The next step in preventing these pests during travel is knowing what bed bug signs to look for that will alert you to their presence. Bed bugs will leave behind small, whitish skins when they shed. You may also see rusty or dark colored spots and stains on bed linens or mattresses. A sweet, musty odor is also common with bed bugs. Waking up in the morning with red, itchy welts or rashes can also indicate bed bugs, especially on areas of exposed skin. Finally, the presence of live bed bugs on inspection is a guaranteed sign of a bed bug problem.
If you are planning to travel in the future, consider these tips to help make your trip bed bug free.
Perform A Thorough Inspection
Before bringing your luggage into a hotel room, perform a thorough inspection for the signs of bed bugs mentioned above. Bed bugs can be found all over a room including in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, along seams and piping, under handles and labels, under dust ruffles, in the seams and folds of curtains, under furniture, under carpet, in cracks and crevices, in nail holes, under molding or baseboards, under loose wallpaper, in or behind frames and mirrors, inside switch plates and outlets, in clocks, computers, phones, TVs, and even smoke detectors. Use a small flashlight and magnifying glass to help you see closer.
Keep Your Luggage Protected
Leave your luggage in the car until your room has been inspected for bed bugs. Once inside, store your suitcase in a plastic bag or protective cover during your stay. Never lay your luggage on the bed; use metal luggage racks if they are available, or store your suitcase in the bathtub.
Protect Your Clothes
Your luggage isn’t the only thing that should be protected. Bed bugs can also travel home with you on your clothing. Never lay your clothes, jackets, or shoes on the bed or couch or store them in drawers. Hang them up on metal hangers or keep them stored in your suitcase (inside the plastic bag or protective cover) during your stay.
Check The Bed Bug Registry
Prior to traveling, check the bed bug registry to see if the accommodations you are staying at have any recent reports of bed bugs. If you encounter bed bugs on your trip, make sure to log them in the bed bug registry, as well.
Change Rooms or Hotels
If bed bugs are spotted where you are staying, notify management immediately and request to either change rooms or change hotels. If you change rooms, do not move to a room that is adjacent to or directly above or below the infested room. Bed bugs can travel on housekeeping carts and through wall sockets from room to room. Once you have changed locations, remove the clothing you were wearing and store them in sealed plastic bags until they can be laundered in hot water.
Inspect Again When You Get Home
Just because you are home doesn’t mean your bed bug worries are gone. Inspect your luggage thoroughly before bringing it into the house. Empty all clothing directly into the washing machine and wash in hot water. Vacuum luggage thoroughly before storing and consider hand steaming it to kill any remaining bugs or eggs. Don’t store luggage in the house; if possible, keep it in the garage, basement, or storage shed.
Bed bugs are quite common when traveling and can be a headache to get rid of. If you have an issue with bed bugs, contact your local pest control company who can verify the presence of these pests and set up a bed bug control and elimination treatment quickly.