News reports about bed bug infestations have been on the rise recently. But are bed bugs really an increasing problem? What should we be looking out for when travelling in regard to bed bugs?
It does appear to be completely correct that bed bugs are on the rise. Reports of bed bug infestations have definately reached all-time highs. Some believe the increase is due to the increase in cheap air travel. Bed bugs can travel hundreds of miles, but they are more likely found within about 8 feet of where we sleep.
So what exactly are bed bugs? They are tiny flightless bugs (ie no wings), and they prefer to live in crevices and holes. They feed on either human or animal blood. Bed bugs can apparently ingest more than several times their body weight in blood, and they are able to go several months without eating – which makes them really hard to control.
What is clear is that bed bugs appear to be attracted to the scent of dirty laundry and the odor of sleeping humans. Bed bugs find their way into clothing and luggage, and that is the main way that they are spread. Bed bugs go in search of dirty laundry – therefore they are naturally attracted to our luggage and bed sheets. It is human odor that really attracts them – either us sleeping, the scent of our odor on bed sheets, or our dirty clothes in our suitcases. Studies that have been conducted clearly show that bed bugs will travel when there are soiled clothes and laundry, rather than clean clothes and laundry.
So how can we prevent getting infested with bed bugs when we travel? Putting luggage up on metal racks in a hotel room is recommended – the bedbugs can’t climb up a smooth surface such as the legs of a rack. If there are no racks in your hotel room you can even consider putting your entire suitcase inside a plastic bag. It is always best to place your suitcase either on a metal rack or on a table (never on the bed or floor). If you have dirty laundry store it in a separate, preferably airtight bag. Dirty clothing which is left inside an open suitcase or on the floor of a bed-bug infested room is far more likely to attract bed bugs. Also avoid putting or keeping your luggage on the bed. Some people even recommend putting your luggage inside the bathtub!
Before you travel check a registry of hotels to see if they have had a bed bug infestation. This registry records all bed bug infestations that have occurred in particular hotels and states.
When you first check into a hotel room check for the presence of bed bugs. Bed bugs are not just found in dirty rooms – so even if you are staying in a 5-star expensive hotel room, you can still encounter a bed-bug infestation. The first place you should check is the bed. Look at the bed for signs of live bugs, blood smears, tiny flat white bed bug eggs (especially around the mattress zipper or seams). Look under the mattress and also on the bed frame itself. The CDC reports that bed bugs will usually live within about 8 feet of where you sleep, therefore you should also check sofas and chairs in the room. Bed bugs can get into very tight crevices, and can hide under buttons or inside seams very easily. Look around the bedside table, around the lamp and drawers. Look at this guide on how to inspect your hotel room for bed bugs.
What should you do if you find bed bugs in your hotel room? Ask to be moved straight away. But if you are moved you don’t want to be moved to a room that is directly above, below or next to the room that you are currently in – as they are likely to be infested too.
If bedbugs get inside your suitcase, they will travel home with you. Once you get home from a trip you should wash and dry your dirty clothes at the highest temperature you can. Don’t put your suitcase on your bed when you return home, if possible keep it inside a plastic bag. You can also put items into the freezer, which will kill any bed bugs.