Invasion of the Bed Bugs
TravelChannel.comHow to Avoid a Bedbug Infestation
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The old-time expression "Don't let
the bedbugs bite" has taken on heightened meaning, particularly in
the travel industry, where the resurgence of bedbugs has many
travelers' skin crawling.
What Are Bedbugs?
Bedbugs, a classic
travel pest, are small parasitic insects that feed on human
blood. Bedbugs are not much larger than an apple seed and have a
similar reddish-brown color. Baby bedbugs are colorless making them
even more difficult to spot. While bedbugs are grounded with no
wings, they move rather quickly on 6 tiny legs. And they are hearty
suckers, as they can live for up to 1 year without a single
Bedbugs were nearly eliminated in the 1940s with the help of the
super-powerful, and now banned, chemical DDT. However, they have
made a comeback in recent years, showing up in hotels, hospitals
and other public places. Researchers have yet to pinpoint exactly
why these bugs are back, and while far-reaching theories have
purported everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the
increase in foreign travel, many scientists simply admit that they
still don't have a solid explanation.
As their name implies, these bloodsuckers make their homes in
beds, but also in couches, clothing, and the seats of airplanes and
trains. They crawl out of crevices to feed on the blood of the
soundly sleeping. These painless attacks generally go undetected
until a skin rash appears.
How to Avoid Bedbugs
As the scientific community does their work, travelers need to do
a bit of their own to learn about bedbugs and, hopefully, avoid
coming into contact with them on their next journey. But that's
where things get even more complicated--these pesky vermin aren't
keeping things in the bedroom. Reports of bedbugs are coming from
movie theaters, buses, trains, stores and even office
Bedbugs are on the rise in some cities, including Cincinnati,
OH, Columbus, OH, and Chicago, IL, according to a study by the
Daily Beast and Orkin Pest Control. These critters are
impartial when it comes to cleanliness and are just as likely to
appear in the tidiest hotels and bedrooms. Here are a few hints to
follow when traveling to decrease your chances of a late-night
encounter with the bloodsuckers.
If you're staying in a hotel, inspect the mattress and headboard
for dark brown spots and stains from bedbug excrement. Pull the
mattress out from the wall and use a flashlight to search around
any cracks or crevices. Then pull back all bedding down to the
mattress and box spring and search for any small specks of blood or
dark brown stains that are evidence of the presence of bedbugs. The
next morning, check the sheets for the same spots to be sure you
weren't a bedbug host during the night.
Isolate your luggage and belongings from any potential sources
of bedbugs. This means keeping your clothes and suitcase off of the
bed, couch and other soft surfaces. The metal luggage rack comes in
handy for luggage storage. Some experts recommend storing your
luggage in the bathroom. The most extreme measure is also the most
protective--travel with large garbage bags, and store your luggage
inside. This prevents you from returning home with any carry-on
passengers attached to you bags and belongings.
Inspect your belongings when returning home from a trip, and
avoid dropping your suitcase on your bed or laying clothes on soft
surfaces until you have looked everything over to be sure you don't
have any stowaway bedbugs.
Do some research before you book your hotel or rent a new
apartment. While reviews on websites can be helpful, keep in mind
that anonymous reviews aren't always impartial and use your
judgment. The Bed Bug
Registry is a free public database reporting bedbug findings in
hotels and residences around the US and Canada.
Diehard thrifters and antiquers should avoid purchasing used
upholstered items, including mattresses, couches and other
furniture as well as bed frames with lots of crevices, which make
perfect hiding spots for bedbugs.
What to Do If You Get Bedbugs
The bedbug's bite is difficult to distinguish from other bug
bites, though the cluster of small, raised red bumps are generally
found in clusters on the hands, arms, face and neck. For some
victims, the rash is itchy and uncomfortable while many have no
reaction at all. A few people may experience an allergic reaction
to the bedbug's bites which requires a physician's treatment.
If there's any good news to be found if you've been attacked by
bedbugs, it is that they don't harbor any disease. Unless you're
one of the few people who suffer an allergic reaction to bedbugs,
your physical symptoms should go away shortly with little physical
pain and no treatment. Contact your doctor if you believe you've
encountered bedbugs for advice and a possible prescription for
ointments or creams to reduce itching and pain. And don't be
surprised if you have trouble sleeping--it's not uncommon to suffer
the emotional impact of a bedbug experience.
If you encounter bedbugs in a public place, such as a hotel, ask
to speak to a manager immediately to discuss not only getting a new
room, but assistance treating your belongings to ensure they don't
spread. The same applies to bedbugs in your home--let your landlord
know immediately. You may also send details of your experience to
the Bedbug Registry to share the news with others who are looking
to travel or move. Some states, including New York, are creating
bills that require landlords to disclose bedbug infestations to the
The unfortunate news is that the clean-up process is intensive
to end a bedbug infestation. It's going to take a lot of vacuuming,
hot water and extreme temperature (freezing or heating bagged
infested items) to clear out the beasts. You may need to discard
furniture, depending on how serious the outbreak is in your home.
To fully eradicate these unwanted houseguests, contact your local
exterminator or find a referral from the National
Pest Management Association.