While the current pandemic may have us postponing any plans to travel, once it becomes safe again, many people will be eager to take a vacation and enjoy some rest and relaxation away from home. Unfortunately, a side effect of traveling is the high chance of encountering bed bugs—or even worse, bringing them home with you as an unwanted souvenir.
Bed Bugs were initially outdoor or cave-dwelling insects that have transitioned to preferring to live in close proximity to humans. As a result, they hang around in areas where there are many humans coming and going such as bus stations, airports, hotels and apartments.
Bed bugs travel by hitching rides onto belongings like suitcases, luggage, clothing bags and other travel items.
When bed bugs are unknowingly brought home during travel, it can be a truly terrible experience. The incessant bites from these bloodthirsty parasites make bed bugs a hated presence that can be frustrating to remove because of how sneakily they operate and how well they hide.
Bed bugs being able to roam and feed undetected can take a physically, mental and emotional toll on the victims within a household, making it paramount to get rid of bed bugs to put a stop to the torture.
Avoid Bed Bugs During Travel
In this article, we will discuss bed bug infestations, how they can get picked up during travel, how you can get rid of them if they follow you home, and what you can do during your travels to prevent bed bugs from hitching a ride back home with you so you don’t have to endure an infestation in your household that will victimize you and your family.
How Travelers Catch Bed Bugs
There are no shortage of places where bed bugs can be picked up: movie theaters, gyms, stores, office buildings, all sorts of places can be a host to bed bugs but the times when picking up a bed bug is most common is during travel.
In fact, bed bugs used to not be a major problem in the United States but in recent years became a rising issue largely due to people unknowingly picking them up due to international travel.
Bed bugs are big fans of human movement and that is how they have spread throughout the world. They don’t have the ability to fly or jump, the most they can do is crawl and thus they crawl onto luggage and belongings that are laying around and use their flat bodies to hide in a small nook or cranny until to take them home.
It is often erroneously believed that bed bugs are only found in places that are dirty, not well-maintained or by unclean people. This couldn’t be more untrue. Bed bugs do not discriminate when it comes to where they reside. Whether you are at a low-budget motel or a five-star expensive hotel, bed bugs can certainly be there. Cleanliness or lack thereof makes no difference to bed bugs.
What is important to note is that when bed bugs are found in hotels and motels, often the management of the establishment is not to blame; It is the travelers that have knowingly or unknowingly brought the bed bugs onto the property. This is why if you are at a hotel room and encounter bed bugs, you should immediately notify management so they can be alerted to the problem and take the proper measures to eliminate the problem and accommodate you for the inconvenience.
Bed Bug Signs To Watch Out For When Traveling
When you are staying at a hotel room, no matter how nice it may seem, you should err on the side of caution and examine the room before settling in and getting comfortable. While it is understandable that while on vacation you want to relax, sparing a few minutes could save you the hassle and headache of taking a bed bug infestation back hom with you.
With that being said, here are the signs you should check on which will either let you know the room is safe to rest in or there are bed bugs residing as an uninvited guest:
Shed Exoskeleton and Eggs.
Bed bugs, in particularly the nymph stages, are relentless biters because they are a developing creature. As they feed and grow, they shed their skin and leave it behind. They do this about 5 times before they are a fully-formed adult. If bed bugs are in your hotel room, these exoskeletons are a dead giveaway.
Remove the comforter off the bed and look around for these skins. They will look like a hollowed out bed bug body. Look for what? Dander – the skin of bed bugs that is shed over time. If bed bugs are present, dander may be on top of the sheets or under the sheets, on the mattress. Don’t just rely on sight – run your hand over the sheet/mattress to see if you feel. Aside from the bed, you should also check the floors as the skins may have been brushed away off the bed by housekeeping.
Blood Stains or Bed Bug Feces
News Flash: Bed Bugs enjoy blood. And since that is their main diet, they poop out blood as well. Bed bugs can also be squished by people in beds and have all the blood they consume squeezed out of them. This blood and feces look like rusty red, brown or even black stains that can appear on mattresses and furniture.
As inconveniently as it may seem to pull apart a made bed when you have arrived in your hotel room, strip your bed down to a bare mattress and check for stains on top of the mattress or along the seams and folds since these are prime areas bed bugs like to hide. If you find stains, then it is likely the room has a bed bug problem.
Bed Bug Odor
In places where there is a heavy infestation of bed bugs, you will be able to get a whiff of a unique, undeniable scent. Bed bugs emit oils and pheromones that they use to communicate with other bed bugs and it has the odor of rotting fruit or a musty sweet smell. Not smelling this does not necessarily mean you don’t have bed bugs. It is possible they can be present, there just aren’t many around.
As it is possible to see bed bugs, one of the most obvious ways to bring them out of their hiding place is to give the bed and mattress a shake. The bugs may not oblige, but more than once I’ve seen them scurry when confronted with the bed bug equivalent of an earthquake.
Check for Bites
Bed bugs are usually felt before they are ever seen. If you checked your bed and found nothing, you shouldn’t rule out that bed bugs are not there, they may just be hiding really well. If you decide to lay in your bed and rest, you should try your best to be alert to your body responses and reactions.
Are you feeling itchy? Like you have been bitten? Then wake up immediately and check if bed bugs may be crawling on your or on the bed looking to feed since bed time is prime time for feasting.
When you have awoken from a night’s sleep you should examine your body for itchiness and bite marks. Bed bug bites will leave a reddish colored raised bump on your arms, face, legs or back or feet.
Active/Live Bed Bugs
Seeing bed bugs themselves can be rare since they hide well but finding them is the most surefire sign that bed bugs are present. Bed bugs may be only a fraction of an inch as they are about the size of a tiny apple seed but they are visible, especially if they’ve had blood to eat. They are a reddish brown and move rather slowly compared to, say, a German Cockroach.
So You Found Bed Bugs, Now What?
If one or more of the signs have been noted, remain calm but move quickly to inform the hotel management of your discovery. You should then leave the room with your belongings. Any items that have come into contact with your bed should be sealed in a plastic bag.
If it is a reputable and professional establishment, they should be able to properly accommodate you by either refunding you your money or moving you to a room without bed bugs. If your vacation is just starting out, you should try to treat or deeply examine your items when you move to a bed-bug free space to ensure they haven’t gotten into your things.
If your things are safe, store your luggage up on metal luggage racks, the hotel bathroom or near the front door somewhere where it is the least likely place for bed bugs to be.
If you are on the last leg of your travel, you will have to conduct a treatment of your belongings when you get home.
Keeping Bed Bugs Out Of Your Home Upon Return
When you are back home from your trip and run in from bed bugs, you should be on high alert. This is the time when bed bugs can enter the home and make life miserable so you should take the proper precautions to make sure you aren’t another victim. Here’s what you can do to avoid bed bugs coming into your home.
- DO NOT bring your travel bags into the home. As inconvenient as this may sound, you should do this until your belongings are deemed safe from bed bugs. Store your suitcases and luggage into a garbage bag or other plastic bag and keep it in your garage or patio until you are able to give it a thorough examination or treatment. You do not want to take any chances on bringing the luggage into your home. Any items you need to pull out right away that are needed should be cleaned and examined before bringing indoors.
- Heat treat or vacuum your luggage and clothing that you took on the trip. Bed Bugs are unable to tolerate high heat and can easily be removed with vacuuming so take all your clothing and put them in a bag and immediately transfer them to your washer and dryer for a laundry cycle. Place the clothes on the hottest drying and washing cycle. Vacuum the interior of your bag and immediately upon finishing, toss out your vacuum bag in a plastic bag of its own and discard it in an outdoor trash bin. There are also convenient bed bug heaters available where you can place your entire luggage inside the heater to heat treat and kill any residing bed bugs.
- Install bed bug encasements for your mattress and box springs at home. This is a great preventative measure for bed bugs as it keeps bed bugs from infesting and hiding out in your mattress or box spring or will trap the bed bugs that are already present.
- Place bed bug monitors in your home, preferably on each leg of your bed. This will not eliminate bed bugs but it will tip you off whether bed bugs are present or not.
- Finally, you could err on the side of caution and treat your mattress and furniture with bed bug pesticides such as a bed bug aerosol that is safe for furniture sprayings and for crack and crevice treatment so bed bugs won’t have places to hide.
We all need to travel and vacation from time to time to get out of the monotony of our routines, but bringing bed bugs along when the fun concludes is not worth the trouble. By being cautious while you are traveling and diligent with prevention measures upon your return, bed bugs will not be a problem for you and your family to deal with.