As the holiday travel season approaches you’re counting the minutes until you board that plane and head off on your much-deserved vacation. You’ve confirmed the resort reservation, booked the flight and you already started packing even though you’re not leaving for another six weeks. The kids are anxious to hit the beach and you wonder why you can’t remember the last time you felt relaxed. The kind of relaxed you only get around the fourth day of lying on the beach with nothing more important to think about than what you’ll have for dinner. No thinking of kids’ hats, winter boots or school lunches. You’re going on vacation! Nothing to think about but blue skies and sunscreen – right? Wrong! You should also be thinking about bed bugs! A proper bed bug inspection is necessary to protect you and your family from bringing back these pesky little blood-eating insects!
Thousands of people every year come back from vacation with more than just memories of sand and fun… they come back with bed bugs. Bed bugs have made a huge resurgence in the past ten years and thousands of people return from holiday with bed bugs that they have been exposed to in their hotel room!
Bed bugs are easily transported back home by unsuspecting vacationers in their suitcases and clothing. This happens to tens of thousands of North American vacationers every vacation season and leaves the traveling family with a problem that manifests itself soon after returning home.
Bed Bugs – What Are They?
Bed bugs are small, apple seed-shaped wingless insects that feed on human blood. They congregate in cracks and crevices close to where humans sleep and feed every seven to nine days. Bed bugs are quite prolific and procreate often, so just one female bed bug can create quite an infestation in a short period of time. They are quite small and they are good at hiding. They don’t like the light and come out to feed in the early hours of the morning. These are just a few of the things that make bed bugs so insidious and difficult to find. The most common symptom of having been exposed to bed bugs is waking up with itchy bites yet a significant percentage of the population do not react to bed bug bites at all. For those that do react they suffer with extremely itchy bites that, if scratched sufficiently, can become infected.
Sunny resorts have been struggling in their battle against bed bugs for years and, so far, bed bugs are winning the fight! So, it is incumbent on the traveler to have at least a bit of knowledge of what bed bugs are, how to inspect for them and what to do if you find them in your hotel room.
As mentioned, bed bugs are small, rust-coloured insects that resemble the shape of an apple see. They have six legs and do not have wings. They crawl as opposed to fly and they cannot jump. They are attracted to three things when looking for a blood meal to feed on:
- Carbon Dioxide (they are experts at sensing this when we exhale as we breathe)
- Heat (bed bugs can sense our body temperature from a surprising distance)
As we vacationers lay sleeping and dreaming of the next days’ activities snorkelling in the clear blue waters that surround our resort, any bed bugs in our room are actively seeking us out for one reason only… to bite us and eat our blood! If this isn’t bad enough, those bed bugs are programmed to hitch a ride with us so that they can travel to other locals and set up a new infestation elsewhere – that means your house when you get back!
How to Inspect for Bed Bugs Inspection
There are some basic things that you should do when conducting a bed bug inspection in your room BEFORE sleeping there:
- Inspect the mattress, box spring and headboard for bed bugs, their eggs and ‘cast skins’ left by the bed bugs that are shed during their life-cycle.
- Inspect the adjacent furniture to the bed in the room
- Watch for blood stains on the comforters, pillow cases and sheets
- Make sure to look under the box spring! This is a favourite place for bed bugs to hide!
If your bed bug inspection fails to reveal any sign of them continue to monitor you and your family throughout your vacation for any unexplained bites – especially in the morning when you wake up. If you find that you wake up with bites like these request another room immediately!
How to Avoid Bed Bugs in a Hotel Room
There are a few little tricks that will help you avoid getting bed bugs while in your hotel room. This by no means is a 100% solution but it will go a long way to helping you avoid bed bugs in the first place:
- Never unpack your clothes and put them in the dresser drawers. – One of the first places a new bed bug problem can be found is in the dresser drawers of a hotel room… Why? Because other people (who have bed bugs) put their clothes in there too! Never put your clothing in a dresser drawer in a hotel room!
- Keep your suitcases away from televisions! – This may sound strange but it makes perfect sense when you know a bit about how bed bugs track their food source – us! Bed bugs are attracted to a number of things for feeding, one of them is temperature. Even today’s LCD TV’s emit a bit of heat, that heat often tricks bed bugs into thinking that it’s a human (food!) and they will often seek out that heat to feed. If your suitcase is in close proximity to a TV there’s a good chance a bed bug may find its way there.
- Never put your suitcase on the bed! – For obvious reasons, you should never put your suitcase directly onto a hotel bed.
What Do I Do When We Return Home?
Bed bugs are not only found in hotel rooms! People get bed bugs from all sorts of places – especially from public spaces.
It’s not uncommon to be exposed to bed bugs on an airplane, a movie theatre, doctors’ office… anywhere that the public congregates so there are some basic things you can do when returning home from any sort of trip to mitigate ending up with an infestation at home.
- DO NOT bring your suitcases inside and put them on the bed to unpack! – If you were exposed to bed bugs on your travels the absolute worst thing you can do is bring your suitcase inside your home and put it on your bed bug unpack. This gives any bed bugs ample opportunity to escape and find a nice little hiding place where they will simply hang out, wait until the time is right (between 3 and 5am) and feed on you. If it’s an inseminated female, you’ll have a big problem in just a few weeks!
- Leave your suitcase in the garage / pack porch etc. – Rather than bringing your suitcase directly inside when you return home leave it somewhere where any bed bugs that may be in it do not have a good opportunity to infest your home. Remove your clothing from it and…
- Launder your clothing appropriately – Remove your clothing from the suitcase and put it in a plastic garbage bag. Take the clothing and put it in your dryer (dry, do NOT wash first) on “HIGH” for one hour. The heat of the dryer will kill any bed bugs or bed bug eggs that may be in your clothing!
- Monitor – After returning home make sure to monitor your family for signs that your efforts to remain bed-bug-free may have failed. Watch for signs of bed bug bites, especially on infants and toddlers, unexplained ‘rash’ or ‘welts’ as these are often signs that bed bugs have infested your home.
If you do find that you’ve been exposed to bed bugs there is no need to panic. By taking some relatively basic steps you can prevent them from coming back home with you and if you find that they have made it home you need to find an experienced bed bug exterminator that can help.
There are a number of things that we must watch out for when on vacation and, unfortunately, bed bugs have become one of them. Remember, before settling in to your hotel room, conduct a basic bed bug inspection, if you find them get another room. Take some basic precautions while in your room to mitigate any bed bugs from hitching a ride in your stuff and when returning home you can do a few basic things to prevent any bed bugs from infesting you there too because we all know that life is stressful enough without having to deal with this!
Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen.