“Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
Nursery rhyme no more! Bed bugs are now a legit concern for travelers, with reports on the rise in hotels, hostels, apartments and dormitories.
And spending the big bucks won’t ward off the bugs – these critters can crash any place where lots of people sleep, giving them the chance for a nighttime nibble. Travelers in high-end hotels should be just as wary as those hanging out in hostels.
But don’t let the threat of these little buggers keep you up at night.
The details are certainly squirm-worthy, but arm yourself with info and you can fend off the infestation.
Creepy Crawly Clues
Bed bugs are nocturnal, so chances are slim that you’ll spot one chillin’ on your mattress waiting for you to call pest control. If you are entering a darkened room, checking the bed as soon as you turn on the light increases the chances of a bed-bug sighting.
But a quick sleuthing session can turn up other signs of the six-legged suckers.
Here’s what to look for:
- Check the sheets, mattress seams, and box spring for tiny black dots: bed bug droppings. Bed bugs can live in other upholstery too, so check under couch cushions and along the seams of chairs.
- Keep an eye out for small red streaks on sheets and blankets – if you or anyone else has slept in an infested bed, rolling over and squashing a bed bug mid-meal could leave a tiny streak of blood on the blankets and sheets. (Blerg!)
- Bed bugs are shedders: they’ll leave exoskeletons, or shed skins, behind for the trained travelers’ eye to find.
So What Are They, Anyway?
Bed bugs are small and flat-bodied, the size and shape of an apple seed. Adults are a rust red color. Young bugs are smaller and white.
Like mosquitoes, ticks, and the cast of Twilight, they’re blood-suckers.
Don’t panic! The good news: a bed bug biting you isn’t going to hurt. The bad news: that means you’ll sleep right through it!
So you didn’t see the signs, had a good night’s sleep, but now something’s up with your skin. How do you know if you’ve been a meal for these little guys?
Symptoms & Soothing
Knowing how to ID bed bug bites will let you take the right action for treatment.
Unlike lice or fleas, bed bugs aren’t great at navigating human hair. They’ll go for open areas of skin.
Bed bug bites show up as small red dots, which may appear as a bump or a slightly swollen spot. In rarer cases, allergies might swell the bite site a bit more.
Any one bite from a bed bug is easy to confuse with other bug bites. It’s the pattern that helps you pinpoint this culprit:
Bed bug bites usually occur in small clusters or a rough line across your skin – pest experts call this the “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner” pattern. (Ew.)
They may be itchy, but don’t scratch!
Bed bug bites, themselves, aren’t a health threat, but scratching can cause infection. This might require a trip to the doctor, who will likely prescribe an antibiotic.
Some people complain of the psychological effects of bed bugs. No, the bug bites themselves aren’t going to your head, physiologically speaking. Rather, it’s the constant worry that bitten and non-bitten alike experience in connection with these creepy crawlies – Did I get them all off? Are they in my stuff? Why does my elbow itch!?
The best cure for this is a big dose of know-how! Even if you did get bit, don’t worry, bed bugs can be banished!
Bed Bugs Begone!
If you get a bite or suspect you stayed in a place with bed bugs, here’s what to do:
First, know that your body is pretty safe. Instead of living on you like ticks, once they bite, bed bugs make an orderly retreat to bags, boxes, bedding, and clothes.
But this means they can be transported from one crash-pad to another in your luggage or on your outfit.
So maybe if I just head to the beach for a few days and let things air out… Nope. Bed bugs can’t be starved out, either. Some estimates put bed bug lifespan at up to a year without a snack! (Ew…again.)
Luckily, bed bugs can’t stand the heat. Before going to a new place or returning home, wash all your stuff in water hotter than 120 Fahrenheit. Or throw it all in the dryer and crank it up on a high-temp spin cycle.
Anything soft, cushy, or non-electronic – even your pack or suitcase – should be subjected to the heat treatment. Take your hotel up on its dry-cleaning service. Go hang out at a local laundromat for a few hours. Its worth it to leave the bed bugs behind.
The Final Frontier
You had the itch, you fire-bombed your every travel item, but it happened. Bed bugs followed you home, and now your new roommates are a big pest. Time to haul out the big guns.
Bed bugs are insidious, so there’s a lot of work ahead. All blankets and clothes should be washed in hot water, and bagged and sealed while you’re exterminating so they’re not re-infested. Vacuuming closets, corners, and crevices in upholstery can get rid of bed bug eggs and larvae (bleck, larvae!)
Stores sell sprays that you can then use on baseboards, bed frames, and other infested areas to kill the bugs onsite.
While DIY is respectable, most sources recommend biting the bullet and calling in an exterminator – home remedies can be expensive and often fail to get rid of all the bugs, leaving your place susceptible to a recurring infestation.
Exterminators use a combo of chemical and non-chemical solutions, and you can help prepare your home with some of the cleaning suggestions above.
While you may want to leave house while the exterminator works, or toss your mattress depending on the level of infestation, it’s going to be OK. Soon you will return to bed bug free normality.
Bed Bugs: A Travel Bust?
Whoa, let’s rewind. Just because you’re going traveling doesn’t mean you’re going to have to go Ghostbusters on your next abode. Remember the few simple checks we started with? That can be enough to keep bed bugs and bites at bay.
And here are a few more helpful tips:
- Google! Websites are starting to pop up that highlight apartment buildings and neighborhoods busted for bed bugs.
- TripAdvisor and other review websites are a great way to check up on your next hostel or hotel. Has anyone reported a bed bug experience at your next place? Look before you book!
- When you do arrive, don’t put your bag on the bed. Instead, pop it on a luggage rack, in a bathtub, even on top of a TV. Hang your clothes in the closet instead of piling them up. These moves keep your things out of reach of insect invaders.
If a quick search sets off your bed bug alarm bells, get outta there! Tell the hotel manager so they can deal with the problem, but don’t feel bad about leaving. They’ll probably offer you a different room: use your discretion, but don’t forget bed bugs spread relatively easily. It might be worth a walk out, so you’ll have the peace of mind of staying somewhere totally bug-free.
So, that wasn’t so bad. Bed bugs, blood suckers, bites and bumps… Ok one more time, BLECK! But now you know hopping from hostel to hostel doesn’t have to give you the heebie-jeebies. Keep an eye out, be prepared, and your travels can stay mercifully infestation free.
Hey Go! Girls, any bad bed bug stories? Ever had to deal with getting these creeps out of your clothes, or the pests out of your packs? Give us your tips and tales about this travel bug!