Don’t be ASLEEP to prevent bed bugs
While most people say the worst problem bed bugs can cause for travelers is suffering the itching and soreness from their bites, some of my readers have set me straight recently. I agree with them. Prevent bed bugs from hitchhiking home.
To prevent bed bugs from getting to your house after a trip, you need to avoid hotels with a poor bedbug infestation record, inspect your room for bed bugs before unpacking and ensure, the best you can, that they aren’t in your bags when you return home.
Bedbug infestations are on the rise, according to Orkin, one of the U.S.’ leading extermination companies. Orkin ranked the metropolitan areas of the U.S. in 2017 for the number of bedbug infestations they have, based on bedbug treatment statistics from December 2016 through November 2017. Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus, OH, Cincinnati, Detroit and New York lead the list.
To prevent bed bugs when planning a trip, especially to cities with a large number of bed bug infestations, before making your hotel reservation, check The Bedbug Registry and BedBugs.net. In addition, read recent reviews of the hotels you’re considering for any mention of bed bugs.
Once you check into your room, inspect it for bed bugs before you unpack anything. Don’t open your bags before you inspect the room. I’ve modified Orkin’s bedbug reminder acronym to a complete bedbug reminder; A.S.L.E.E.P.
A. Always place your belongings in the bathroom before inspection:
Bed bugs stay away from hard, slippery floors where there’s no place to hide. They prefer locations closer to where people spend most of their time in the room — the bed. So, place your luggage and other belongings in the bathroom before beginning your room inspection. A bathtub is a great place for your bags to temporarily prevent bed bugs.
S. Survey your hotel room for infestation:
Start your inspection at the bed(s). Pull back the linens and check around and under the mattress. You’ll have to lift up the mattress to do a thorough inspection. Check behind the headboard. Look for rusty-colored blood stains and small black dots that look like ground pepper or even discarded exoskeletons from molting bed bugs.
L. Lift and look in bedbug hiding places:
Check the area surrounding the bed and in all upholstered furniture in the room. Lift up the cushions to look under them. Look behind picture frames, under anything beside the bed and even in books or magazines in the room. Use a flashlight to check the floor and under the bed. Check the closet carefully.
Bed bugs are the size and shape of an apple seed. You might see them hiding in corners or in seams of bedding and upholstered furniture.
If the room has a musky odor, that’s a tip that bed bugs are present.
If you see bed bugs or evidence of their presence, take a photo with your cellphone to show management the problem. Then leave the room at once and take your luggage and belongings with you. Go to another hotel, if possible, or at least get another room at least two floors away, since it’s likely rooms near yours are infested too. Before you accept it, inspect the new room thoroughly.
E. Elevate your luggage and belongings:
Even if your room looks clean of bed bugs, it’s good policy to keep your belongings off the floor. Bed bugs could travel to your room from one that’s infested. Put your luggage on a rack, table or desk. Don’t unpack your clothing and other belongings into the room’s drawers. Leave them in your luggage.
Bed bugs are known to be attracted to human odors. Don’t throw your dirty laundry on the floor, directly or in a cloth bag. I put all my dirty laundry, folded, into a sealed plastic compression bag in my luggage.
E. Examine your luggage carefully:
Examine your luggage cautiously for any signs of infestation prior to packing to go to your next destination or return home. Once your bags are totally empty at home, reexamine them for bed bugs.
P. Place all dryer safe clothing from your luggage in the dryer:
As soon as you get home, remove your clothing, both clean and dirty, from your bags to launder it. Before getting settled at home to put anything away, I typically strip and put my “travel clothes” in the wash. I then shower and feel great. Once washed, dry your clothing at the highest temperature possible, just in case you brought home any bed bugs.
If you can, stow your luggage in the garage, not in your closet. If that’s not possible, stow it sealed in a plastic bag. Vacuum your home in case any bed bugs were transported there on your shoes or other belongings. Put the bag from the vacuum in a plastic bag and freeze it until trash day.
You may think some of these measures are extreme. If you have ever dealt with an infestation, they’re not. Bed bugs can survive several months without eating, withstand temperatures from freezing to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and lay up to five eggs in one day. There’s no foolproof way to ensure you don’t bring any bed bugs home, but these tips can make a major difference.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.