How To Prevent Bed Bug Bites While Sleeping

How to Avoid Bed Bugs While Traveling

Shannon Walshe is no stranger to bed bugs. Every year the wildlife biologist spends a portion of her year traveling abroad. From Europe to Thailand to the Pacific Coast, Walshe has trekked popular and little-known routes to soak up some sunshine and have some adventure during her off-season. More often than not, she’s also run into bedbugs.

“They’re everywhere,” she says. “I don’t want to take chances, because I don’t want to get bitten again.”

For some people, bites from bed bugs are no big deal, and many will never even know that they’ve been bitten. But for others like Walshe, the bites cause bad reactions, which equals scratching, swelling, and often, infection.

“One night [in a hostel] on the Pacific Crest Trail I got a bite on my eyelid that was really itchy. The next morning, my whole eye was purple and swollen,” Walshe says. Infected bed bug bites are definitely not the kind of thing you want to experience on your holiday, particularly if you are about to navigate the backcountry. But with the likelihood of bed bug encounters growing every year, what’s a traveler to do?

Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to reduce your risk of encountering these little creatures while on vacation, and to avoid bringing them home with you when you return. Information, tools, and a little know-how go a long way to reducing your risk of exposure to bed bugs.

Where Do Bed Bugs Live?

While bed bugs have long existed in developing countries, other locations like Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Europe have seen a surge in recent years. There are a variety of reasons for this increase, but one thing is certain: if you travel often enough, to enough locales, you are likely to encounter bed bugs. Hotels, hostels, cruise ships, dormitories, and even private homes: no accommodation is immune to infestations.

So how do you tell if bed bugs are present in your chosen Shangri-La? It’s not as easy as you might think. Bedbugs most often come out at night, when you are sleeping. They spend the daytime hiding in tight spaces, and can even work their way into electrical outlets and picture frames. “You hardly ever see them,” Walshe says, noting their small size and color doesn’t help. A full-grown bedbug is flat and small—about the size of a grain of rice. Their coloring will vary from almost clear to a brownish-red, depending on whether or not the bed bug has eaten recently. And while large infestations are often easy to spot, smaller ones may be almost invisible; but it only takes one bug to bite.

Still, it’s important to inspect your hotel room soon after arriving. The general wisdom is to look for bed bugs in crevices, seams, and under soft furnishings like pillows and mattresses. You can also look for signs like droppings, which are reddish-brown in hue, or white bed bug eggs.

If you don’t see any evidence in your hotel room, you can double check by leaving out non-toxic bed bug traps during the first night of your stay. These traps will lure bed bugs from their hiding places using heat, carbon dioxide, and a natural pheromone that attracts the creatures to their sticky surface. If you find any bed bugs in the trap come morning, it’s time to switch hotels.

But what if you have limited options? In some parts of the world, accommodations may be hard to come by and bed bugs may be widespread. Walshe notes that in popular destinations like the Camino de Santiago in Europe, bed begs are commonplace and even expected. In these cases, there are still things you can and should do to protect yourself and prevent their spread.

Practical Tips for Avoiding Bed Bugs Naturally

Bringing along your tent and sleeping bag is one proactive choice you can make when traveling in areas known for bed bugs. If you don’t enter an accommodation in the first place, you can avoid these little visitors entirely. As long as your sleeping bag is free of bed bugs, your tent will be, too. Walshe suggests avoiding the worry and pitching a tent wherever possible.

Ask for mattress covers:

When tenting isn’t an option, ask if your chosen hotel or hostel encases its mattresses in a protective barrier. Since it’s harder for the bugs to live in the bed if the mattress is impenetrable, this is one proactive measure hotel owners can take to reduce the spread of bed bugs. If the mattresses aren’t protected, consider choosing another accommodation. Although protective barriers don’t guarantee the entire room will be bed bug free, they will lessen your chance of encounters with these nocturnal visitors.

Elevate your luggage:

Many travel organizations advise travelers not to place luggage on beds where bed bugs have ready access. Instead, use wire luggage frames or racks, or place on a tiled floor in the bathroom. Some travelers prefer to seal their luggage overnight in a plastic bag and hang from the bed frame (if bunk beds) or a shower rail.

Sleep in a silk liner:

If you are staying in an area known to have bed bugs, silk liners designed for sleeping bags are the best choice for minimizing contact. Anecdotal evidence from hikers and travelers suggests that bites are reduced, if not eliminated, when sleepers encase themselves in this type of protective cocoon. And although bed bugs can crawl to liner openings (and still have access to your head, neck, and face), many liners now come with hoods to minimize exposed surface area even further. While not cheap, silk liners are available from most outdoor retailers and offer the promise of a good night’s sleep and a more pleasant travel experience.

Spray mattresses with a preventative spray that repels bed bugs:

To further repel these little critters from your bed, choose an effective, non-toxic spray and spritz your mattress before you go to sleep. Be sure to target the edges and cracks around the mattress. Walshe carries a tiny spray bottle filled with the following mixture whenever she travels: one ounce of water, 10 drops of essential oil (lavender or peppermint), and a few capfuls of rubbing alcohol.

Apply a natural repellant to your skin:

If you know you are sleeping in an accommodation with bed bugs, add a natural bed bug repellant to your nightly regimen. Cover all exposed skin thoroughly. This means any bugs that do crawl into your liner or get past your treated mattress will have a third deterrent to deal with. Effective natural repellents usually include ingredients like citronella, eucalyptus, or tea tree and should be oily in texture.

How to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Back Home

Although you may avoid bed bugs while traveling, there is still the possibility you can bring them home with you in luggage or backpacks if you have visited areas known for bed bug infestations. Follow this preventative routine when you return to keep your house or apartment free and clear:

  1. Remove all clothing and footwear outside your living space, before you go inside, and place in a sealed trashcan or a knotted plastic bag. Walshe performs this ritual in her garage each time she returns from overseas travel.
  2. Unroll your sleeping bag and liner and either place in the same sealed trashcan as your clothes or in another plastic bag, knotting tightly.
  3. Hang or seal your backpack or luggage in a similar way.
  4. After at least one week, wash your clothing, sleeping bag, and liner on HOT (at least 120 F) in your washing machine. Use a non-toxic bed bug laundry cleaner to get rid of bugs and eggs. Transfer to the dryer and set to HOT for at least thirty minutes. If your sleeping bag is made from down, follow the manufacturer’s drying instructions to ensure you don’t damage the loft.
  5. For treating backpacks or luggage, place in a bathtub and pour boiling water over all surfaces. Another alternative is to place in the freezer, or leave in a sub-zero garage, for one to two weeks. Temperatures must be consistently below 10 F (-12 C).

Educating yourself about bed bugs and how they spread is the first step to preventing ongoing encounters. For Walshe, the precautions are worth the effort. “I think people often don’t know they’ve encountered them until they either react, or come home and continue to get bitten. But bedbugs are extremely hard to get rid of once they’re in your house. It may sound extreme, but anything you can do to stop them in their tracks is worth it.”

Understanding Insect and Spider Bites — Prevention

In this Article

In this Article

In this Article

How Can I Prevent Insect and Spider Bites?

DEET is the most effective insect repellent. It can be found in a variety of lotions and sprays and purchased in most drug stores. There has been some concern about the negative effects of using this chemical, particularly for children, but none of the natural plant products are likely to be as reliable. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that DEET not be used on children younger than two months of age.

Picaridin is a plant-derived compound and is also somewhat effective against mosquitoes and ticks.

Essential oil of eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) is a natural insect repellent. Make a solution by adding five drops or eucalyptus oil to 1 cup of water and dab it on your skin. Essential oil of citronella also discourages insects when placed on exposed skin. A few dabs of calendula (calendula officinalis) ointment on the face, arms, and legs may keep insects away and is also available as a commercially available product.


University of Arkansas Anthropod Museum Notes.
California Poison Control and the University of California.

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites

Each of us needs a good night’s rest to function properly the next morning. Naturally, the last thing one wants is to wake up with bed bug bites. In this guide, we shall discuss a few ways to prevent bed bug bites at home or when traveling or sleeping in infested hotels. We will also discuss a few natural ways to prevent bed bug bites and stop further scarring.

How to prevent bed bug bites at home

The best way to prevent bed bug bites at home is to eliminate these pests completely. To do so, one can use a number of methods and techniques. There are many efficient ways of killing bed bugs ranging from DIY (do-it-yourself) treatments to professional ones.

  • The natural DIY techniques include application of diatomaceous earth powders, CO2 traps, borax, and steam or heat treatments. These can get rid of the larvae, eggs and adult bed bugs slowly yet effectively.
  • One can also make a natural bed bug trap using sticky tapes to catch and eliminate the bugs.
  • It is important to vacuum the entire home and wash all bedding material and clothing in hot water laundry to kill all the larvae, eggs and adult bed bugs. This is an important step to prevent bed bug bites.
  • When using chemical treatments like sprays and powders, care must be taken not to spray them on electrical outlets or other electronic goods etc.
  • It is necessary to avoid picking up furniture from the curbside or garage sales etc as this is one of the most common ways of bringing in these unwanted pests into the homes.

How to prevent bed bug bites when traveling or staying in hotels

The last thing you want is an uncomfortable night due to bed bug bites when staying in a hotel. Experts recommend several tips to prevent bed bug bites when spending a night or two away from home.

  • As soon as you check into the hotel, stash the luggage in the bathroom (as this is the only place where bed bugs will not hide in).
  • Next, you must check the bedding by pulling back the linen and inspecting all areas behind the headboard.
  • Look out for red/brown stains which are the fecal matter or discarded exoskeletons of the bed bugs.
  • It is also important to check furniture, art frames and cushion seams in the hotels order to prevent bed bug bites when staying away from home.

Naturally, if you do see these tell-tale signs, you must call the hotel management and ask for another room or, better yet, move to another hotel.

How to prevent bed bug bites naturally and prevent further scarring

  • There are many natural, essential oils that can help relieve itching and pain associated with bed bug bites.
  • To prevent bed bug bites in the first place, you can even use certain organic soaps and lotions that help repel these pests. Bathing with chamomile soap or applying calendula lotion to the body can help prevent bed bug bites. These products are also gentle enough for use on baby’s skin.
  • Witch hazel lotion and organic apple cider vinegar can also help prevent itching and pain on the affected region.
  • Lavender, rosemary, and eucalyptus oils can also be added to rubbing alcohol for spraying on headboards, mattresses and the legs of the bed to prevent bed bug bites.
  • If the bed bug bite marks are already present, ensure washing the skin with hot water to dry them out. Apply aloe vera gel or an anesthetic lotion immediately to prevent scarring.
  • Rubbing an ice cube on the skin can also numb the area to prevent pain and scarring.
  • If needed, take an antihistamine like Benadryl to prevent itching caused by the bed bug bites.

Bed bug infestation can be a pesky problem that can ruin a good night’s rest. The best way to prevent bed bug bites is to ensure taking care of the infestation by using one of the bed bug elimination methods described on this blog.

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Got bed bugs?Here are 10 products that can help you get rid of and prevent them.

New Health Advisor

Bed bug bites are quite common. Getting bug bites when sleeping can affect the quality of your sleep and lead to health problems. Fortunately, it is possible to take some steps to keep bugs away from your bedroom.

How to Avoid Bug Bites While Sleeping

1. Replace Your Sheets

It is important to wash or replace your sheets regularly to keep bugs and insects from biting you at night. Generally, it is good enough to wash your sheets at least once a week. While washing your sheets, use hot, soapy water and then put them in the dryer for some time.

2. Change Your Bed Frame

This may help in case you have a wooden bed frame and are dealing with a bad case of bites. Simply switching to a metal frame will help resolve the issue. If possible, avoid a bed with a headboard because it serves as a perfect breeding ground for insects. Use a metal headboard if you really need one.

3. Use Vacuum Cleaners Regularly

You should be vacuuming the area around your bed thoroughly to avoid bed bug bites while sleeping. Vacuum your mattress, carpets, and everything else in your room to get rid of bed bugs. Be sure to use special attachments for the vacuum to get bugs out of hard-to-reach areas.

4. Keep Your Sheets Tucked Under the Mattress

Bugs can scurry into any opening in your bed, which is why it makes great sense to keep your sheets tucked between the box spring and the mattress. It works because bed bugs cannot jump or fly.

5. Sleep Under the Covers

One way to avoid getting bitten at night is to sleep under the covers. It helps because bed bugs cannot bite you through the thick layer of fabric. They usually attack your exposed skin only. By covering your skin, you will be denying them a blood meal.

6. Do Not Let Water Pool Near Your House

No matter what you do to get rid of bugs, they will return when you do nothing to eliminate standing water from your home. You should take steps to avoid accumulation of water in your house.

Do not let water pool in trashcans – simply drill holes in these containers. Be sure to change your pets’ water bowls and birdbaths often. Also, it is important to avoid leaving pans, pots, or full glasses of water out.

7. Seal Your Home Properly

To avoid getting bed bug bites while sleeping, you should take steps to keep bed bugs from entering your home. This may involve taking several steps to seal your home well.

Start by closing all cracks and crevices near wiring or bare plumbing. Use silicon or acrylic latex caulk to fill holes around your windows or doors. Moreover, it will really help keep bugs away when you improve your general sanitation.

8. Use Bug Repellents

Using a repellent really helps lower the chances of getting bitten while sleeping. Be sure to use products that are safe – certain repellents can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Ideally, you should be going for products that contain picaridin or DEET.

Repellents should only be applied to exposed areas to avoid any problems; don’t spray under your clothes. Apply it to your hands and then rub on the face – do not let it touch your eyes. Ask a professional if you do not know which repellent is safe for you and is effective against the types of bugs you are dealing with.

9. Work with Professional Exterminators

When you have taken all the steps and have failed to stop the bug bites while sleeping, you may consider hiring a professional exterminator.

Be sure to take your time to select the best service provider. Ask for references and look for exterminators who can offer eco-friendly treatment options. You may also want to talk to your landlord before using any professional services – they may agree to share the cost of clearing an infestation.

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites

How to prevent bed bug bites. that’s front and center in the mind of anyone dealing with the irritating little critters. Here are three strategies that work – and a few important warnings. While you may not be able to get rid of bed bug bites all together, there are certainly things you can do to reduce how often these buggers make a meal of you.

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites by the Numbers

No calculator needed. The math is really simple.

Fewer Bed Bugs = Fewer Bites

Reducing your bed bug infestation is the most obvious way to prevent bed bug bites, even if it’s not the easiest. The more bed bugs you can get rid of (or contain), the more you will prevent the bites. It’s simple math.

Use the IPM (Integrated pest management) techniques laid out in the bed bug control section of this site. Follow the plan laid out by your exterminator. Or if you are going the DIY route (not recommended unless you have no choice), create your best IPM action plan using our step-by-step tutorial. All of the suggestions below are only effective as part of a coordinated plan to eliminate the bed bug infestation in your home.

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites by Protecting the Bed

Regardless of whether you are working with an exterminator or not,the single best thing you can do to prevent bed bug bites is to protect your bed.

Encase your mattress, pillows and box spring in a good quality mattress encasement that is designed for bed bugs.The encasements trap the bedbugs that are living there and prevents them from biting you.It also makes it easy to spot (and kill) the ones that show up from other hiding places. Obviously, that also helps you accomplish bed bug bite prevention tactic #1 above. Nice how that works, right?

Also, use bed bug detectors/traps like the climb-up interceptors to catch ‘em on the way up to the bed and on the way down. These won’t eliminate your bed bug infestation on their own, but they will help protect you from being bitten.

Prevent Bed Bug Bites by Covering Up and Getting Tucked in Tight

Bed bugs typically bite on exposed skin, so wear pajamas with long pants and long sleeves if at all possible.Even if its late July and the heat index is 100. Crank up the A/C if necessary! The middle of a full-fledged bed bug infestation isnotthe time to be sleeping in your skivvies, or worse yet, your birthday suit!

Sleep under the covers and tuck them in tight.(Maybe that’s where the old saying “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” came from?) Again, bed bugs have difficulty biting through fabric and are looking for exposed skin. So not giving them any skin to feast on is a solid strategy to prevent bed bug bites.

Note:This will really only work if you have properly protected the bed with mattress and box spring encasements.

Things That Will NOT Prevent Bed Bug Bites

Many people’s first instinct is to move to another room to avoid getting bitten.BAD IDEA.They will follow you and you will just spread the infestation to other parts of the house. Bed Bugs are attracted to the heat of our bodies and the carbon dioxide we exhale, so they can find you – and they will – no matter where you go to try to avoid them.

Some people also believe that leaving the light on at night will prevent them from coming out.Unfortunately, this is a myth. While they are nocturnal and prefer the cover of darkness, they are blood thirsty and they will go to extremes if necessary to get their next meal. So leaving the lights on won’t go a long way to prevent bed bug bites. See more bed bug control "DOs and DON’Ts" here.

A Few Words About Bed Bug Repellents

While it mayseemlike bed bug repellents are a logical way to prevent bed bug bites, in reality they do more harm than good.Repellents can be a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  1. Many repellents you spray on your skin are not intended to be applied to skin that will be covered or left on for long periods of time (Read the label!)
  2. You can’t wear bug repellent 24 hrs a day. They’ll just find you in the daytime in another part of the house (same logic as sleeping in another room applies here too)
  3. Repellents that you spray on the bed may not be safe for you to sleep on (again, always read the label first)

Some people have recommended using a number of essential oils as a natural bed bug repellents. They may be a safer option and may work at preventing bed bug bites in the short-term. But again, that’s not really going to solve your problem.

Notwithstanding the health and safety concerns, repellents are just going to drive bed bugs further into their hiding places – and they can live there for up to 18 months without a blood meal – so in reality, you are not really preventing bed bug bites. You are just prolonging your agony.

There’s also one reason why it would be a good idea to just go ahead and "let the bed bugs bite". Ormore accurately(if you’ve protected the bed correctly), let themtryto bite.

You Need to Bait Them to Get Rid of Them

What? Let the bedbugs try to bite me?!That’s right, and here’s the reason why.

If you want to get rid bed bugs, you’re going to have to draw them out and so they can meet their death on their way to you. Unfortunately, that meansyouare the bait. If you’re using residual spray insecticides or bed bug dust (DE) they have to come in contact with it for it to kill them.

The bottom line is this. in most cases you are going to have to endure at leastsomebites for at leasta little whileto effectively get rid of the bed bugs. The trick is to make it as few bites as possible, for little time as possible.

There’s no doubt about it – bed bug bites are a pain! So to ease your mind (and soothe your itch), here are some treatment tips for making your bed bug bites a little more bearable.

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