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The Traveler’s Guide to Avoiding Bedbugs

Over the course of just one year, 2.3 Billion Americans took a business or leisure trip, according to a study done by the US Travel Association. Or, in other words, there were 2.3 Billion chances for Americans to pick up bed bugs from hotel rooms, planes, or other public transportation, and bring the unwanted souvenir home with them.

The key way that bed bugs spread is by hitching rides on unknowing passers-by in luggage, clothes, and any other corners they can hide in. This travel season, steer clear of the relentless bugs and keep your home safe.


What You Need to Know About Bed Bugs   

What Are They?

Bed Bugs, scientifically known as Cimex Lectularius, are a reddish-brown hue, have small flat bodies ranging from 1mm to 7mm, and live off of blood.

Thankfully, bed bugs do not transmit disease. There aren’t many health risks that come along with bed bugs, other than potential skin problems or possible anxiety and insomnia that arise from the fear of being bitten or of the infestation itself.

Frightening Fact! – Disturbingly, bed bugs can still go on living for up to a year without feeding.

Where Can You Find Them?

In short, they can be found everywhere, all around the world, across the various continents.

If they are in your home, they’ll hide anywhere that they can – behind wallpaper, in the seams of mattresses, and any crevices in furniture or carpeting. One thing to note is that infestations occur more often in the summer, potentially due to the fact that people are traveling more or because college students are coming home for break.

How Do You Know You Have Them?

The most obvious sign of bed bugs is their bite. However, this isn't always a guaranteed way to tell because when you are bitten, you are injected with anesthetic and anticoagulant which stops you from even noticing that a bed bug is biting you. Further, reactions to bites range and they might not even show up at all .

Other signs to look for:

  • Their molted exoskeletons 
  • Reddish spots on furniture that are a result of their excrement
  • A sweet but musty scent

It’s Not You it’s Them

Regardless of the long-standing myth of a correlation between bed bugs and a dirty house, there isn’t one. Bed bugs can be found in even the cleanest of homes, hotels, etc. However, there is still a stigma attached to having them that leaves people feeling like it’s their own fault

When NBC News spoke with someone that had to live through the experience, they gave these remarks:

“We were afraid to even tell people about it at first...it feels like maybe some way your living is encouraging this, that you’re living in a bad neighborhood or have a dirty apartment."

NBC NEWS

Remember: Bed bugs don’t discriminate based on income or sanitary conditions.


So You Have Bed Bugs, Now What?

For starters, don’t set up camp in another room in your house! Sleeping elsewhere in your home could make them stray even further from their initial starting point and infest more rooms. It’s part of a bed bug’s instinct to stay close to where you are sleeping – if you move, they might follow.

Getting rid of bed bugs is nearly impossible to do yourself without a professional. Even then, bed bug eggs can survive chemical treatments and hatch 9-11 days later. It’s important to do another treatment a little while after the first one.    

If You Want to Tackle it on Your Own:

Create a Place to Start Designate one area of your home to be the clean zone. Empty the room out and only place items in the room once they are guaranteed to be free of bugs. Put all the belongings you can in plastic bins before placing them in the room and throw away any severely infested items.

Get ExtremeFor things that are still salvageable, eliminate bed bugs with either extremely hot or cold temperatures. While they can sustain cold temperatures to a certain extent, if bed bugs are kept in an average household freezer (typically around 0 degrees F) for 4 days they will die. But your best bet is hot temperatures. Wash and dry them on the machines' hottest setting or steam them. If items aren’t dirty, head straight for the dryer. It only takes the dryer on the hottest setting roughly thirty minutes to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

Tip: Don’t fill the dryer up all the way so that hot air can still circulate

Keep Your Vacuum Close To avoid bed bugs getting stuck in your vacuum, put a knee-high stocking over the tube, secure it with a rubber band, then put on the attachment. When you are finished, discard the stocking in a plastic bag. This is not a guaranteed method to remove all bugs without a trace. Bed bug eggs and nymphs are especially small, and the eggs are adhered to the surface they are laid on, making the eggs nearly impossible to be removed by the vacuum.

Encase and ProtectThe most useful tool to have in your arsenal is a mattress and box spring encasement. It hinders the infestation by keeping the bugs on the mattress trapped inside and prevents new bugs from entering. Not only this, but the casements are useful in streamlining follow up visits, making it so that you don’t need to meticulously inspect the bed’s framework, the mattress' coils, padding, or piping.

Continue treatment until you don’t find any sign of bed bugs for at least an entire month. While there are ways to get rid of them on your own, consider consulting a professional – it only takes one bug left behind for the infestation to begin all over again.


Preemptive Preparation

How to prepare in case the terrible event that you do bring home bed bugs occurs.

Protect Your Room

Keep your bed on a metal frame so that it is not touching the floor and properly shield your bed with mattress and pillow covers. If you do happen to bring bugs back when traveling, you can ensure that they won’t infest your bed. On top of this, it will help with regular inspections, because it limits their movement to the outside casing, leaving them out in the open.

Keep Up With It

To ensure your home stays bed bug free and to catch them right upon arrival, regularly inspect your home, professionally or on your own. To make inspecting for bed bugs easy to do on your own, you can set up bed bug traps next to, or under, the legs of furniture and around the perimeters of rooms.

What Doesn’t Work

Unfortunately, household bug spray meant for mosquitoes or ticks won’t do the trick. If you want to protect your home with insecticides, you’ll have to contact a professional. However, bed bugs have developed a resistance to some insecticides.


Bed Bugs In Transit

During your travels, keep your eyes open for bed bugs on public transportation.

Planes

There have been numerous accounts of bed bugs on planes and on chairs in airports. Some reported cases of airport bed bugs around the globe:

  • Bed bugs at Kansas City International Airport in one of their terminals.
  • An infestation which led to British Airways being forced to ground a plane.
  • An infestation in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), which resulted in them removing seats from one of their busiest terminals.
  • On the 17-hour Air India flight from Newark Liberty International Airport on their way to India, numerous people were bitten by bed bugs, including an infant.

Should you refrain from ever going on another plane again? No, just tread carefully. Ensure that you have the right luggage for the trip; a light-colored fabric makes the bugs easier to spot, and having a suitcase with a hard-shell eliminates some areas for the bugs to hide. Another benefit of a hard-shell suitcase is that you can clean it with an alcohol wipe after the flight. If you do see any signs of bed bugs on your plane, alert the flight attendants as soon as possible.

Trains

Buses and trains aren’t much safer, as shown in the Bugs Without Borders Survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky. It revealed that 18% of pest controllers surveyed have been called to remove bed bugs from trains, buses, and taxis. Not only are the trains and buses themselves affected, benches, lockers, and furniture inside the stations are also being impacted.

Tip: Whenever possible, stand while using public transportation to avoid sitting on the cushioned seats where bed bugs might be hiding.

Automobiles 

It doesn’t stop at planes and trains! The cushioned seats and crevices of taxis and other ride-sharing services could also be harboring your next bed bug infestation. Keep your belongings off the floor and seats to ensure the bugs won’t hitch a ride; if you are able to, keep your bag on your lap rather than the trunk.


Rest Easy in a Hotel Room

In picking a hotel room, an extra step you can take is looking into whether or not they have a past history of struggling with the little pests. You don’t have to leave it up to online reviews either, there is a Bed Bug Registry that documents cases of bed bugs in hotels and apartments.

When You Get There

  1. First, ensure the safety of your personal items. Keep your luggage in the bathroom; it’s the least likely place for bed bugs due to the tile floors, lack of places to hide, and distance from where people sleep. Additionally, keep your bags on the luggage rack provided so that it’s not on the floor.
  2. Then, inspect for the bugs or the small spots they leave behind. Look under the sheets and bedding, around and under the mattress, and behind the headboard.
  3. Keep searching; bed bugs are typically found within 15 feet from the bed so you should also check other areas they could be hiding (behind picture frames, under things on the nightstand, etc.).
  4. Lastly, check in the cushions and seams of the furniture in the room, and any other area that you missed.

If you’ve discovered bed bugs or evidence that would lead you to suspect their presence, alert the hotel staff immediately, do not stay in that room, and strongly consider finding a new hotel all together.


When You Get Home

The first thing you’ll want to do upon returning home is wash all the clothes you brought with you on the trip, including the ones you wore on the return trip home. Bed bugs die in temperatures above 122 degrees Fahrenheit, so ensure that you are washing your clothes in hot water.

While your clothes are in the washer, vacuum and inspect your luggage, then store it away from your bed.


Every year billions of people are constantly traveling, and each trip they take they risk bringing home a bed bug infestation. It’s important to know what to look for when you are traveling, what steps to take throughout your journey, and how to handle an infestation. More importantly however, is knowing how to protect your home so that you don't have to worry about it in the first place.

We hope these tips help keep your home and your travels safe from bed bugs.


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