“Protect Yourself While You Travel this Holiday Season”
If you are traveling this holiday season and are worried about the possibility of bringing bed bugs back home with you, fear not! There’s no need to be paranoid about bed bugs…however, it is a good idea to be informed and to stay aware. Here are a few facts regarding ways to avoid bringing those unwanted hitchhikers home.
- Bed bugs DO NOT fly, jump, or burrow into the skin. Bed bugs CRAWL.
- Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. They easily crawl onto or into luggage, backpacks, clothing, secondhand furniture, etc.
- Bed bugs don’t discriminate. They don’t care what color you are, where you live, or how much money you have. If you have blood, they will feed on you.
- Bed bugs feed primarily at night. They tend to hide in cracks & crevices while they are not feeding. If you are seeing bed bugs during the day, it usually means there is a big infestation. Or you may be seeing a bat bug. If you’re not sure, try to collect a sample for identification by a professional.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself from bringing bed bugs home. To begin, always take a little time to look around the area where you’ll be sleeping. Whether it’s a hotel room, a condo, a rental home, or even your friend or family’s home, take a few moments to do a quick inspection. What do you look for when you’re performing an inspection? The answer is that you will be looking for a lot of icky stuff like:
- Live and dead bed bugs. Adult bed bugs are about 3/16″ (about the size of an apple seed), and reddish-brown in color. If they have not eaten recently, bed bugs are flat and broadly oval in shape. Once they have eaten, bed bugs swell and become longer (see photo below). Bed bugs do not have wings and cannot fly.
- Shed bed bug skins. In order to grow, an immature bed bug has to shed its old skin. The cast skin will be in the shape of a bed bug but it will be empty and transparent.
- Fecal stains (a.k.a. bed bug poop), which may be seen in and around areas bed bugs are hiding.
- A less frequent sign would be reddish colored blood spots on mattresses and bed linens that result after an engorged bed bug is crushed.
Tips for performing your inspection:
- When performing your inspection, start by looking at the mattress, as this is where bed bugs most commonly hide. Remove the sheet and mattress cover, looking carefully along the seams, tufts, and edges of the mattress. Pull the mattress back so you can also take a look at the box springs.
- Then, look carefully around the area where the bed is attached to the wall and around the headboard. The headboard is usually attached to the wall in hotels. If you can, use a flashlight to get a better look at the crack between the headboard and the wal Don’t forget to check the closet area looking carefully at areas where racks attach to the wall.
- Don’t put your suitcase or other items on the bed or upholstered furniture. Keep your suitcase on a luggage rack instead. Always check the luggage rack for bed bugs before placing your suitcase on it.
- Another level of protection might be a luggage liner. These liners are available for purchase online. When they are zipped up, they prevent bed bugs from getting onto your clothing or other items in your suitcase. They do not, however, prevent bed bugs from getting on the exterior of your suitcase.
In addition to the suitcase liners, dissolvable luggage bags are available online. Store items you’ve worn in these bags so they can easily be thrown into the wash once you return. Alternatively, you can keep the clothing you’ve worn in sealable plastic bags and keep them there until you have a chance to wash them. Just remember to remove your clothing from the bags before washing them if you’re not using the dissolvable bags. Another great tool in your defense against the bed bug is the dryer. Placing clothing in the dryer on the highest setting for 30 minutes will kill all stages of bed bugs. Just be careful not to overload the dryer. Otherwise, the heat may not be distributed among the clothing at hot enough temperatures and you may be left with some survivors. And always take time to carefully examine your suitcase before bringing it inside. The garage is a great place to do this.
Those of you with kids that will be coming home from college may want to take some time to check their suitcases, backpacks, laptop bags, etc. before dumping everything inside. Bed bugs have been found in college dormitories throughout North Carolina. This doesn’t mean your child’s dorm is infested with bed bugs, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to look over items before bringing them inside.
As I stated earlier, there is no need to spend your holiday season being paranoid about getting bed bugs. You are now armed with some ways to protect yourself against bed bugs when traveling. So, go eat, drink, and be merry – and have wonderful bed bug free holiday season with no bed bugs to bite!
Credits to: NCSU website