How To Not Bring Bed Bugs Home From Vacation
Bedbugs: How to Avoid Bringing Them Home from Your Vacation
Make sure these blood-sucking stowaways stay out of your luggage
You’ve heard the saying: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” These days, with bedbug infestations rampant even in the nicer hotels, that’s easier said than done.
Bedbugs suck blood by night, leaving itchy, red welts behind on your skin and hiding in hard-to-see lairs by day. The flat, six-legged pests just about vanished in the 1940s and 50s with the use of heavy-duty insecticides like DDT, University of Kentucky bug experts report. ButCimex lectularius is roaring back across America, showing up in homes, apartments and hotels.
Want to enjoy your vacation bite-free and take home only the souvenirs you want in your luggage? Follow these tips when you travel.
Pack for protection. Bring a large plastic trash bag or two and store your suitcase in it to keep bedbugs out. Some experts even recommend bringing sealable plastic bags or containers to hold your clothing if you plan to store it in bureau drawers, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Also pack a small flashlight, which you’ll need for bedbug inspection. And print out the EPA’s handy, wallet-size bedbug ID card to help you recognize the critters.
Inspect your room.Don’t unpack immediately. Leave all of your luggage and outerwear in the bathroom (the tub’s the least likely place for bedbugs). Use the flashlight you packed to help you spot signs of bedbugs in their favorite, poorly lit hiding places. Here’s where to look:
- Pull back the bedding, including the mattress cover. Examine the seams, folds and crevices of the mattress and box spring for bugs, tiny and nearly translucent nymphs (baby bugs) and blackish-red excrement, University of Kentucky insect experts suggest.
- Remove all the pillowcases and check the pillows, especially the seams.
- Look behind and under the headboard. The headboard may be attached to a hanger on the wall. You can remove it by lifting it up.
Check the nightstand, behind framed pictures and the undersides of upholstered chairs and sofas. Look over the bureau and luggage rack, too. “Bedbugs maybe found on the luggage rack if they have come in on other travelers’ luggage,” notes the University of Minnesota in a release about bedbugs.
If you find any signs of bedbugs, call the front desk to alert them and ask to be moved to a room far from your current one, advise the University of Minnesota experts.
Store your belongings safely.Once you’re satisfied your room is bedbug-free, cut your risk for bringing home a stray by keeping your suitcase on the luggage rack and as far from the bed as possible. Don’t leave clothes, purses, computers or computer bags on upholstered furniture. Keep all bags closed when not in use. “Hyper-vigilant travelers may further opt to keep belongings in sealed plastic pouches and their suitcase in a zippered tote…each traveler must decide how cautious they wish to be,” note University of Kentucky entomologists.
Look before you repack.Before you pack your belongings to leave, double-check your bags and clothes for signs of bedbugs.
Kill ’em off at home.Bedbugs die at temperatures over 120 degrees F, so unpack dirty clothing directly into your washing machine, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests.Then be sure to put them in the dryer. “A loosely filled dryer set on “high” is capable of killing all bedbug life-stages and their eggs in 30 minutes. A dryer with a removable shelf is excellent for killing bedbugs on items that cannot be tumbled, like leather shoes [and] handbags,” notes Virginia Tech bug expert Dini M. Miller, PhD, in a Virginia Extension Service article.
Store your suitcases away from living areas. The basement and garage are good spots. If you think your bag has bugs, put it into a plastic bag and leave it in a hot car outdoors on a sunny day, Miller suggests in a publication from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Or, if you travel a lot, consider springing for a portable heating device designed to heat-treat luggage.
Sari Harrar is an award-winning health, medicine and science journalist whose work appears in Dr. Oz The Good Life magazine, Good Housekeeping, O–Oprah Magazine, Organic Gardening and other publications.
4 Ways to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home from Vacation
An insect expert shares exactly what to do when you go away to ensure a stress-free (and pest-free) return home.
A little legwork before you lounge on the bed can keep your family safe.
When you finally take a well-deserved trip, the last thing you want to concern yourself is bed bugs. But even the finest hotels can have them. The hitchhiking pests travel to new places by way of both humans and their belongings. When they find a new home, they look for places to hide, such as mattresses, headboards, couches and chairs, where they’ll have access to a blood meal undisturbed. While bed bugs can be found in other public places such as libraries, public transportation, movie theaters, retail stores, professional office and schools, they are most notoriously encountered at hotels, and taken home with you after your stay. What can you do?
1. Put your luggage in a smart spot.When you arrive at your hotel, place your luggage on non-upholstered furniture away from the bed, such as on a desk. If you use a luggage rack, inspect it for bed bugs before plopping your suitcase down. Adult bed bugs are visible to the human eye and approximately 1/4-inch-long by 1/8-inch-wide and are typically brown or reddish-brown in color. Imagine them to be about the size of an apple seed. However, bed bug eggs are very challenging to spot with the naked eye as they can be as tiny as 1/32-inch.
2. Do a thorough inspection. After your belongings are settled, pull back the corners of the bedding and check the mattress and box spring for bed bugs or signs of bed bugs. Bed bugs will molt and shed their skin before each new life stage. Often you can find these pieces of shed skin, apple-seed size or smaller, tan to off-white in color and resembling the insects, but hollow, lying around areas of infestation such as in creases in the mattress. Bed bugs also leave fecal deposits after they consume their blood meal. You can spot these small dots that appear like black marker touching fabric, such as a mattress cover. Make sure to pay special attention to seams, where bed bugs like to hide.
3. Check your skin each morning during your vacation. Be mindful of any unexplained bites or welts that seem to appear overnight. Even with a watchful eye, bed bugs can be sneaky.
4. When you return home, treat your suitcase as if you already have bed bugs. Due to the high number of potential hiding places for bed bugs on a suitcase, take precautions as if bed bugs have hitched a ride home with you. Don’t put your suitcase on your bed, couch or other furniture to unpack. If you can swing it, remove the contents from the suitcase in an area such as your laundry room, kitchen, garage or foyer. Once unpacked, store your suitcase in a non-living space, if possible, such as an attic, basement or garage. If the suitcase must be stored under a bed or in a bedroom closet, then place it in a large trash bag first and tie the bag shut. When you pack for your next family vacation, bring the items you need to pack to the suitcase, rather than bringing the suitcase into the bedroom or on top of your bed. An easy way to do this is to put your clothes, toiletries, and other items into a laundry basket and carry them to your suitcase. Remember that bed bugs can live for several months or even up to a year without feeding, so keep the suitcase stored in the garbage bag if you use it once a year or more often than that.
5 Tips to Avoid Bringing Home Bed Bugs From Your Hotel Stay
For the frequent hotel guest, the bed-bug scenario has taken on nightmare proportions: Tiny, roach-looking parasites lying in wait, biting you sleepless and welted and then, as if that weren’t enough, crawling en masse into your bag to infest your very home with some of the most notoriously difficult-to-eradicate pests you could find, were you to look.
The whole thing is a little surreal. Many of us only realized that bed bugs weren’t fictional in the last decade or so, when the incidence increased and these parasites made the news. Practically overnight, "Don’t let the bed bugs bite" went from harmless (if strange) goodnight rhyme to an actual warning.
So, it’s real, and it ain’t pretty. But you have tools at your disposal that can reduce your bed-bug risk. They’ll add some time to your travel process, but they may just end up saving you from the time-consuming, anxiety-triggering, financially draining horror of bringing them home with you from your trip.
The anti-bed-bug strategy starts there, at home, before the hotel is in view. It begins with the luggage you’ll be taking on your trip .
Worried That You Brought Bed Bugs Home from Vacation?
ByChris Williamson August 14, 2015.
It’s late summer and people are returning from those last minute vacations before school starts again. But some of you are not as relaxed as you should be because you keep thinking about that one motel that turned out to be a little seedier than its 3-star rating would suggest. Could you have brought bed bugs home with you?
Start Your Trip With a Bed Bug Inspection
Hopefully, when you found yourself in a questionable motel room, you did a check for bed bugs before you even unpacked your bags (seeDo I Really Have to Check My Hotel Room for Bed Bugs?). If you suspected bed bugs, you would have been better off not unpacking your bags at all. Some experts suggest that you leave your luggage and clothes encased in a large plastic bag while in the room and that you keep it off of the floor.
Another protective measure is to seal your luggage in a large plastic bag before you put it in your car for the drive home. Once home, isolate your luggage while unpacking and immediately wash and dry clothing. (SeeHow to Avoid Bed Bugs After the Trip!)for more info.
But What if You Didn’t Check for Bed Bugs?
Fine, you’re saying, but we didn’t do any of that and now we’re home. What can we do now? First, don’t panic. The chances of bringing bed bugs home are not nearly as great as the media would have you believe. These days, the hospitality industry is well aware of the issue and tends to be proactive when it comes to bed bugs. Even if a single bed bug crawled into your luggage, chances are nothing would come of it. However if several bugs or a pregnant female bed bug found her way to your home, you could have a problem in a few weeks.
If you did bring bed bugs home, and depending on how long you’ve been home, the bug or bugs have probably dispersed. Even so, washing and drying vacation clothing and other washable items will kill any bed bugs that may remain. Wash all the bed linens too, and while you’re stripping the beds, look for hidden bed bugs or blood spots on the sheets. Store your emptied luggage in sealed plastic bags away from bedrooms or living spaces.
Exterminators Are At Your Service
Don’t apply pesticides as a preventive treatment. Just be diligent. If you have bed bugs, someone in the family will notice nighttime bites before too long. Odds are that won’t happen. If at any point, you suspect bed bugs, or you notice other evidence of bed bugs such as shed skins, blood spots or fecal spots on sheets, contact a professional exterminator like Colonial Pest for an inspection (seeHow to Pick a Bed Bug Control Company).
Preventing a Bed Bug Infestation When You Return Home From Traveling
Bed bug infestations continue to increase every year, and this can pose a stressful problem if your home becomes infected. Bed bug bites can cause rashes, itchiness, and possible severe allergic reactions depending on how your body reacts to a bite. Unfortunately, humans can not feel a bed bug biting them, so you can be resting peacefully, but wake up covered in rashes!
It is very common for bed bugs to invade your home after they latch onto your luggage while you are on vacation. Here is a step-by-step guide to make sure you do not take bed bugs home when you return from travelling!
Inspect Hotel Room for Bed Bugs
- Always place your luggage bag on a rack with steel legs in your hotel room. Steel is too slick for bed bugs to climb.
- Temporarily remove the sheets from the bed and inspect the piping on the mattress for bed bugs and insects.
- After you have inspected the mattress, inspect the bed’s headboard and the nightstands.
With these steps, you can prevent bringing home bedbugs from vacation.
Preventing Bed Bugs When You Return Home
In case you may have not seen bed bugs in your hotel room, here is another process to make sure there are none on your luggage when you do return home. Remember,never unpack your bags in a bed room or living room of any kind.
- Take your luggage bags with everything inside of it into your garage. If you do not have a garage, take it into the kitchen or an outside parking lot.
- Take all of the clothing you took for travelling, including the clothes you are wearing once you get home, and place it all inside a plastic bag.
- Take the bag directly to the washer and wash all clothes, even if they were unused. If the clothing travelled,WASH IT. Use the highest temperature water and drier setting that you can use without ruining your clothing.
- Go back to your empty suitcase and vacuum it both inside and out to remove bed bugs.
- Dispose the vacuum bag in a trash can that isoutside. If the vacuum is bagless, dump the contents of the vacuum in a trash canoutside.
- For further precautions, put alcohol on a cotton ball, and rub the cotton ball on narrow crevices of your luggage that your vacuum could not go in between.
For anything you can’t wash (ex. shoes), place it in a bag and leave the bag in a garage or out in the sun for a minimum of one day in order to kill the bed bugs. High temperatures kill bed bugs. If you can’t find a high temperature location to place the bag, carefully inspect the items for bed bugs before you place them in your home.
Never place luggage or clothes on your bed.
For a visual demonstration, here is a video: