How To Prevent Bed Bug Bites While Traveling

How to Prevent Bed Bugs While Traveling: The Ultimate Guide

On a late October night in Toronto, Canada,I rolled my suitcase into my rented room for the week and wanted nothing more than to climb into bed.But, I’d had this fear of bed bugs ever since my friend found some in her apartment in Peru.

“Maybe I should check the room for bed bugs first,” I thought.

I lifted the sheets and did a cursory glance. I opened the nightstand drawers.

“Let’s just go to bed,” I told myself.“We can do a more thorough check in the morning, and besides, it’s way more likely that there are NO bed bugs here.”

But something told me to keep checking, just in case. Probably just that old anxiety, I assured myself, but nonetheless, I kept checking.

And lo and behold—I found bed bugs. Not one, not two, but THREE dead alongside their eggs on the floor beside the foot of the bed.

I tell this story not to scare you, but to show just how easily I might have NOT found the bed bugs until it was too late.It was BECAUSE I knew how to protect myself from bed bugs while traveling that I did NOT bring them home that trip.

I’d say is biggest non-fatal travel fear is bed bugs. I have a lot of fears, most of which never come to fruition, and for a long time bed bugs was one of them.

Bed bugs are SO common that if you travel a lot, you are BOUND to run into them. In fact, I’ll bet if you’re a frequent traveler, you probably have slept in a place with bed bugs but just didn’t realize it.

Though I’ve been traveling extensively since 2014, I didn’t start inspecting rooms for bed bugs until 2017.

What I’ve written below is the most detailed guide onhow to prevent bed bugs while traveling.I’ve done an extensive amount of research on bed bugs (like, more than a normal person would do…) and here’s what I’ve learned:

*There are some affiliate links below, which means I get a commission should you choose to purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you!

Bed Bug FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are flat, wingless, parasitic insects that hide during the day and come out at night to feed on the blood of sleeping humans. They are brown in color and about the size of an apple seed or the size of a tick. Their eggs are tiny and slightly transparent. They look like tiny grains of white rice.

This is a photo of a bed bug lying on its back next to a bed bug egg. I took this photo in October 2017 in my rented room in Toronto.

How common are bed bugs?

Extremely common. While bed bugs were practically eradicated from the U.S. around WWII, they have been on the rise rapidly in this country in the past several years. They are most commonly found in cities because of the large amount of people and travelers.

Where can I “catch” bed bugs?

You can get bed bugs from any place that’s infested with them, such as hotels, rentals, other people’s homes, used furniture and mattresses, or even used books.

Can bed bugs transmit diseases?

Some good news: no! Though bed bugs are gross and can cost you a TON of money, they do NOT, as far as we know, transmit diseases to humans through their bites. (Here’s some scientific literature backing up my claim.)

Okay, but there is some new research, as of January 2018, that suggests bed bugs can harbor Chagas disease, and some earlier research showed they could transmit the disease to MICE via bites, but we don’t have proof they can transmit it to humans.

Bottomline: Don’t get in a tizzy over diseases from bed bugs. We simply don’t have enough evidence to say it’s true.

Can bed bugs fly or jump?

No. One important piece of learning how to prevent bed bugs while traveling is understandinghow they get around. They CANNOT fly or jump! That’s whythese climb-upswork so well at capturing bed bugs.

What do bed bug bites look like?

You may have heard that famous adage that bed bug bites come in threes, that they’re in the shape of a triangle, or that they are three in a row. This is commonly referred to as “breakfast, lunch, dinner” bites.

BUT, here’s the crazy thing: That’s not necessarily true!

Bed bug bites can look pretty much like anything, sadly. They might be like mosquito bites, they might swell up like an allergic reaction, or—and this is wild—they may not show up on your skin AT ALL. That’s how some people never realize they have an infestation.

Also, it’s important to note that bed bugs don’t necessarily feed every night. They might go days or weeks without biting anyone. In fact, and this is super creepy, bed bugs can live for up to a year or so without food! This point ishotly debated by scientiststhough.

What happens if I find evidence of bed bugs?

Immediately alert the hotel or your host. DO NOT stay in that room or house. Bed bugs can hitch a ride on your belongings. If you’re at a hotel, they should move you to a room on a different FLOOR of the hotel.

If you’ve found bed bugs in your own home (I’m so sorry!), then you need to hire a professional exterminator ASAP.

How do bed bug infestations spread?

Typically, bed bugs spread by crawling into the luggage of travelers and hitching a ride to the next destination. They also might lay their eggs inside a luggage and spread that way.

It’s VERY rare that a bed bug will actually hitch a ride ON a person or on a person’s clothes.

In some cases, bed bugs may spread through library books, secondhand clothing, or used furniture. This is why I would never buy a used mattress or box spring from someone.

How do I know if I have bed bugs?

Unless you find an actual bed bug, don’t just assume you have them. There are some tell-tale signs, though, that indicate you should start trying to locate potential the bed bug infestation in your home, hotel, or rental:

  • Inexplicable bug bites on your body
  • Dried blood stains in your bedsheets
  • Dark, pepper-like spots on your bedsheets or mattress
  • The shedded skins of a bed bug
  • Bed bug eggs, which are whitish-clear and look like tiny grains of rice

A very popular service is bed-bug-sniffing dogs. These dogs are trained to sniff out bed bugs and can find them more easily then an exterminator can.

How can I get rid of bed bugs?

While there are certain chemicals that can be used to kill bed bugs, the number one most effective way to kill bed bugs is to use high heat treatment.

How much does it cost to exterminate bed bugs?

HomeAdvisor says you could pay anywhere from $300 to $5,000 to get rid of bed bugs, depending on the level of infestation and the size of your house.

What kills bed bugs?

GREAT question! Okay, so here’s the thing: Back in the day, they used to kill bed bugs with insecticides such as DEET, but the darn bugs became RESISTANT to insecticides! Though some pest control companies till offer to spray insecticide, DO NOT DO THAT. IT IS NOT EFFECTIVE. Neither are those bed bug sprays you find at the store effective.

As of March 2017, Penn State researchers had high hopes for a new biopesticide, a sort of fungal spore that infected bed bugs at a rate of 100% and killed them in the laboratory. We’ll see if this goes to market.

Freezing might kill bed bugs too, but it’s not as effective as heat.

The number one bed bug killer is HIGH HEAT. Heat treatment is safe for YOU because it doesn’t leave harmful chemicals behind. Get the heat treatment.

Here is an excerpt from research by Dr. Dini M. Miller, Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech:

“Bed bugs exposed to 113°F will die if they receive constant exposure to that temperature for 90 minutes or more.However, they will die within 20 minutes if exposed to 118°F. Interestingly, bed bug eggs must be exposed to 118°F for 90 minutes to reach 100% mortality.Note that whole room heat treatments (see below) are based on a thermal death point of 113°F, yet these treatments have been very successful. This is due to the use of powerful fans to create convection currents within the heated room. These currents heat the bed bugs very rapidly, thus increasing their mortality.”

BUT, the latest research indicates that the temperatures may need to be even higher. Here’s a study by Stephen A. Kells of the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology:

“Based on these results, eggs are more heat resistant than adults, andminimum exposure times for a whole-room heat treatment should be 48 °C for 71.5 min or cessation once ≥50 °C is achieved in all sites where bed bugs may hide.”

So, basically, you NEED to heat all infested items at AT LEAST 118 degrees Fahrenheit for AT LEAST 71.5 minutes.

How can I prevent bed bugs while traveling?

  • The number one thing you can do is tothoroughly check your room for bed bugs before settling in for the night. Catching them early is key.
  • Another thing you can do isplace your belongings inside sealed plastic bags during the duration of your stay. I use these bags to protect my luggage from bed bugs crawling inside.
  • Lastly, when you return home, you can place your luggage inside this bed bug heater to exterminate any bed bugs that may have hitched a ride on your luggage.

How can I prevent bringing bed bugs home with me?

After my bed bug incident, I always throw my luggage inside a bed bug heater BEFORE bringing the luggage into the house. Call me crazy, but I love the peace of mind (plus, they WORK).

How to Check Your Hotel Room for Bed Bugs

Okay, bear with me because this is pretty detailed:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Besides the actual bed bug itself, it’s important to check for SIGNS of bed bugs, such as

  • Black, pepper-like spots on the mattress or box spring (this is their fecal matter)
  • Dried blood stains on the mattress
  • Casings or shells. Bed bugs shed their skin as they grow, leaving behind their in-tact shells
  • Bed bug eggs, which look like tiny grains of rice

Step 1: When you get inside the hotel room, IMMEDIATELY place your luggage inside the bathtub.

Bed bugs have difficulty climbing smooth surfaces. Plus, they’re unlikely to live in the bathroom, as they tend to be within 5 feet of the bed, where they feed on the people who sleep there. DO NOT put your luggage on the bed!

Step 2: Go to the bed and remove ALL the covers.

Yes, all the covers. Next, lift up the mattress and look underneath. Bed bugs might be in the box spring. Also, run your fingers along the edges of the mattress, making sure to lift the little lip up and check if the bed bugs are living underneath the folds of the mattress seam.

Step 3: Check behind the headboard.

Step 4: Check along the floor around the bed.

Step 5: Open up the drawers of the nightstand.

Bed bugs LOVE wood, so they often live or lay eggs in the nightstand drawers. The drawer of the nightstand is actually where I found my first sign of a bed bug infestation: there was a tiny bed bug skin molt inside one of the drawers.

Step 6: Look behind anything hanging on the wall.

Bed bugs might be hanging out behind picture frames.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs While Traveling

  • Thoroughly inspect your hotel room before settling in, as we talked about above.
  • Keep your luggage inside the bathtub for the duration of your stay.
  • Okay, that’s a hassle. Instead, keep your luggage insidesealed plastic bagsduring your stay. Easy peasy! These are great and I use them at home for all sorts of storage items!
  • When you return home from your travels, throw your luggage intothis heaterBEFORE bringing it back inside your house.
  • Alternatively, carefully inspect your luggage before bringing it inside your house and throw all your clothes into the washing machine on HOT water and dry it on HIGH heat.

If you want to prevent bed bugs from coming home with you, I highly recommend getting a bed bug heater!

After my first bed bug scare, I bought this to heat all my luggage after every trip: the ThermalStrike Bed Bug Heater. But sadly, ThermalStrike has stopped manufacturing their bed bug heater. 🙁

Some good news, though! Thankfully, ZappBug makesthis excellent bed bug heater—and it gets rave reviews!

The reason I strongly suggest abed bug heateris that, yes, you can place your luggage inside zip-up bags while you’re at your hotel, BUT, bed bugs can also hitch a ride on your luggage while it’s on the airplane. And you can’t really place your backpack in a ziplock bag before stowing it in the overhead bin (I mean, you could try, but it would look super weird).

So the only way to really ensure you’re bed bug free is toinvest in a heater.

Alternatively, you COULD wash all your clothes in hot water when you return home, carefully inspect all other items and your suitcase, and then get a high qualitysteamerto steam clean your luggage. Some of the Amazon reviews are from people who successfully used that steamer to kill bed bugs.

These are just great to have around the house any time – whether it’s bed bug related or not!

Your Shopping List to Prevent Bed Bugs

  • Extra large,sealable plastic bagsto protect your luggage while traveling. It depends on how large your luggage is, of course. I travel with this backpack and it fits perfectly inside with plenty of room to spare!
  • Zippered vinyl mattress encasementto “seal in” any potential bed bugs in the mattress. I boughtthis one.
  • Bed bug climbupsto capture any bed bugs that are either trying to climb up your bed legs or down them. This is really only for if you suspect you have bed bugs in your home. I guess you could travel with them if you want to check your hotel for them, but I haven’t started doing that (yet. Haha.).
  • Bed bug heaterto make sure your luggage is bed-bug-free BEFORE you bring it back in the house after traveling.
  • Bed bug heating luggageif you want an all-in-one solution.

Don’t Stop Traveling!

Just Know How to Prevent Bed Bugs From Traveling With You!!

Again, I do NOT want this post to scare you off from ever traveling again. While bed bugs are creepy and expensive to get rid of, they don’t kill you, and as far as we know, they don’t transmit any diseases.

The easiest thing is prevention. Knowing how to prevent bed bugs while you’re traveling is KEY to preventing an infestation (and an extermination bill).

Now, you’re armed and ready. Get out there and see the world!

How To Prevent Bed Bugs While Travelling

October 20, 2018

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Everyone knows the saying, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” It has never been more true than it is now.

Bed bugs are extremely efficient hitch hikers. They can move easily across a room and climb onto luggage or anything left on a bed in just one night. Hotels are perfect homes for bed bugs because of the ready supply of fresh hosts to feed on, and the difficulty of sustaining bed bug control in such facilities over the long-term.

Here are some tips to help you sleep tight while traveling.

Upon arrival always inspect your hotel room. Travellers should look for live insects, blood stains, dead bugs and eggs throughout the room. Bed bugs are not a sanitation or cleanliness issue. This means bed bugs can be found in any hotel or motel – from a one-star all the way up to a five-star location. What signs should you look for? With any large infestation of bed bugs you will notice a sweet, musty, odour, similar to soda pop syrup. Bed bugs will leave small brown or red spots on the sheets.

Bed bugs usually hide in close proximity to their food source – you! Bed bugs are nocturnal insects and disappear into the crevices of mattresses (pay particular attention to the seams and crevasses), box springs, sheets, furniture, upholstery and hollow bedposts during the day. Other hiding spots include behind baseboards or pictures and even in any wallpaper that might be cracked or torn. You can lift and look around all these possible hiding spots in order to check for bed bugs in a hotel room.

Make sure to elevate your luggage and any other personal items. Always inspect the luggage rack carefully for any signs of bed bugs. If it appears free of bed bug signs use it to keep your suitcase off the floor and away from the bed. Moving the luggage rack away from the wall will help reduce the risk of bed bugs crawling up the wall and into your belongings.

When you are packing to check out always examine your luggage to make sure you have not picked up any unwelcome guests. Since bed bugs are such great hitch hikers be sure to check your luggage and clothing upon your return home. Many recommend unpacking and checking in your garage or utility room.

When you return home, leave your luggage in the garage, and immediately launder all cloth items. The first places bed bugs typically encounter are bags and suitcases so keeping your luggage outside may help keep them out of your home. Depending on where you live, keeping luggage outdoors may also leave bed bugs outside their comfortable range of temperatures. You can also eliminate bed bugs that may have gotten into clothing by laundering (washing and drying) all fabric items in hot water, although recent studies show that 20 minutes in a clothes dryer is all that is needed to ensure 100% control.

Efficiently treating and detecting for a bed bug infestation requires the use of a licensed, professional Pest Control Operator with specific experience dealing with these pests. No one has more experience than Orkin Canada so call today and schedule a bed bug inspection.

QUICK FACTS & TIPS

Some things you can do to reduce the risk of picking up bed bugs as you travel include:

  • Do not put your clothing or luggage directly on the bed. If bed bugs are present in the bed, they can climb into bags, suitcases or any laundry left on the bed.
  • Use metal luggage racks at all times. Bed bugs cannot easily climb metal surfaces, so they make an ideal overnight spot for your suitcase. Keep the rack away from the walls and any wooden furniture.
  • Use small plastic bags to pack clothing, shoes and other personal items. This will help prevent any bed bugs that climb into your suitcase from getting into your house with your clothing. Bed bugs can also hide in books, cloth toiletry kits and other non-metal personal items.
  • Hotels aren’t the only bed bug travel threats. Bed bugs thrive in dark, cool places with long-term access to humans. They can also be found on airplane and train seats, buses or in rental cars. It’s rare but it is possible to pick up bed bugs in places like these.

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Bed Bug Travel Tips

Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers and aren’t picky about who they choose to travel with. These tiny pests can infest any space – including your hotel or cottage – and are not a sign of poor sanitation. Bed bugs are sneaky and can make their way into your belongings easily without being detected.

Bed Bugs – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug? How do I identify a bed bug when I see one? Get the answers to the most frequently asked questions on bed bugs, all answered by the experts at Orkin Canada.

Signs And Symptoms of Bed Bugs

Knowing the signs of bed bugs is the first step in finding and removing these pests.

Bed Bug Treatment & Control

Bed bugs are mostly found in bedding, mattresses, on headboards and in bed frames and box springs.

Remove pests from your home, and stop them from coming back

We work hard to listen, understand and assess your unique situation. Request a free, no-obligation estimate today for a customized pest program that fits your needs.

Bed Bug Prevention When Traveling

If you stay in a hotel or motel, keep these bed bug travel tips in mind. It is important that you take some precautions to ensure that your room is bed-bug free before you settle in. In a recent survey by NPMA, 75% of pest control professionals indicated that they have encountered infestations of bed bugs in hotels and motels. The NPMA recommends the following tips for bed bug prevention when traveling:

  • At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately.
  • Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If any pests are spotted, change rooms/establishments immediately.
  • If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
  • Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.
  • Remember: bed bugs travel by hitching rides. After your trip, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.
  • Wash all of your clothes – even those that have not been worn – in hot water to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet.

Check out our other tips for preventing bed bugs in different settings:

History of Bed Bugs

Learn about the history of bed bugs and the factors that lead to their resurgence.

Bed Bug Biology

Learn about the biology of bed bugs – from their shape and size to their life cycle and feeding habits.

Location of Bed Bugs

Wondering where bed bugs are found? Discover common bed bug habitats and infestation regions.

Signs of Bed Bugs

Learn about the common signs of bed bugs – from bites on the skin to spots on the mattress to sticky eggs.

Bed Bug Facts and Stats

Read bed bug facts and statistics compiled by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

How to Deal with Bed Bugs when Travelling

Last updated: April 5, 2019 . Written by Laurence Norah
9 Comments

As a traveller, one thing that is certain is that you are going to be sleeping in many different places. With this comes risk, one of which is to wake up one morning covered in tracks of red bites – the possible mark of bed bug bites!

Of course, your initial thought may be that you’ve been the victim of a highly trained vicious mosquito squadron. But look a little closer – because you may have been the victim of something else entirely, something that is going to get fellow travellers all terribly excitable and probably freak you out too – the fearsomely savage and much feared bed bug.

In today’s post I’m going to share with you some knowledge on bed bugs that I picked up from my time spent working in hospitality, and particularly in a hostel in New Zealand, where a great deal of my time was taken up with activities relating to bed bugs and bed bug management. Which wasn’t on the initial job description.

As a result of that experience I have seen and squished far more bed bugs than any person ought to, and spent tremendous amounts of time peering into tiny cracks looking for the evidence of their presence.

Today I’m going to tell how to know if you’ve been nibbled on by bed bugs, how to look out for signs that you’re not sleeping alone, what to do if you’re bitten by bed bugs, how to get rid of bed bug bites, plus what you can do to deal with the bed bug issue. First though, let’s take a look at some facts about bed bugs.

Bed Bug Facts!

Bed bugs are actually pretty amazing little critters! Here are some quick facts for you:

  • Bed bugs can survive for up to a year without food, particularly when it is cold. They can survive temperatures ranges down to around –32C and up to 45C. When it is cold, they go into a sort of hibernation, and pop out of it when it warms up.
  • In the right conditions it takes one pregnant adult female six months to create an infestation of literally hundreds of thousands of bugs. She is bloody awesome at hiding in the meantime.
  • When it gets warmer, bed bugs reproduce faster. This is why bed bug issues are often commonly associated with warmer countries. In higher temperatures, the reproductive cycle goes from 21 days down to as fast as 8 days.
  • Bed bug sex is not a fun thing for the bed bug female. It involves carapace piercing in order to get the necessary fluids inside her. If I was a bed bug girl, I’d want to go bite someone, too.
  • Bed bugs like other bed bugs. They secrete a pheromone that attracts more bed bugs. Sociable little chaps.
  • Bed bugs are bigger than you might think, particularly in their adult stage, which they reach after five junior stages. And I thought one go at puberty was tough. They grow up to 0.5cm long, easily visible by the naked eye, in their adult stage at least.
  • They are attracted to their victims by carbon dioxide and warmth, amongst other things.
  • Bed bugs love travelling almost as much as you do. They or their eggs will happily hitch a ride in your clothes or on your backpack, and then hop off when they reach somewhere new and exciting with fresh fields of blood filled meat to suck on. This makes eradicating them a bit tricky in a well visited bed!

Which Countries Have Bed Bugs?

The reality is that pretty much every temperate to warm country will have bed bugs. So you’ll find bed bugs in Thailand, bed bugs in Australia, bed bugs in the USA – the list goes on. Basically every continent except Antarctica has bed bugs!

It’s also a worsening problem it seems as we are travelling more and more, and our climate seems to be providing warmer days. These two factors combine to produce the ideal conditions for bed bugs to spread, and for bed bugs to breed!

How to know if you’ve been bitten by bed bugs

People react to bed bug bites, like any other bites, in different ways. You may have been munched upon countless times, and have absolutely nothing to show for it, or you may come up in horrific pustules, blisters, or bumps that look just like mosquito bites. Diagnosis can be tricky! Additionally, for some reason, elderly people barely react at all.

The easiest way to tell though is the classic line pattern that the bed bug leaves behind. This will be a nice straight line of red bumps, that looks like something has methodically chewed you up. And that would be because somethinghasmethodically chewed you up!

Bed bug bite example

Often this will be a line of three bumps, sometimes more, depending on a variety of factors, including whether or not the bug was disturbed during the meal, or if the bug didn’t quite find what it was looking for on the first, second, third.. or.. well, you get the idea.

Bed bug bites can also take a while to appear after you’ve been bitten, sometimes up to a couple of weeks. Which makes working out what bit you and when fairly difficult. Very often, you will discount the bites as nothing more than mozzie bites, and move on with your life.

Bed bugs also tend to bite in areas that aren’t covered, however in tropical areas you’re not likely to be sleeping in much anyway. They also don’t usually target armpits or the back of your knees.

How to spot bed bugs in your hotel room or bed – the warning signs!

There is a bit of a misconception that for a place to have bed bugs, it needs to be dirty, or unkempt, or messy. This sadly isn’t the case – the hostel I worked in for example was absolutely fanatic about cleanliness and bed bug management, and we still had the odd bug.

Of course, if your chosen accommodation doesn’t care too much about basic things like cleanliness or tidiness, then you can be pretty damn sure that they aren’t that bothered about bed bugs either. So the two can be linked, even if one doesn’t cause the other.

So how to tell if you might not be sleeping alone? Here are some ways to spot bed bugs:

  • Bed bugs are fairly shy and retiring creatures. They mostly come out at night. In the day time they like to hide, not too far away from their evening meal. Obvious places to look therefore include in your bed frame, and anywhere near the bed that harbours cracks that they can squeeze into. Curtain rails, skirting boards, door frames – even the heads of screws. You get the idea.
  • Bed bugs secrete a black gooey substance. You might find this on the bed sheets after you have been bitten. You can also look for it on the bed frame. Lots of black goo around a hole or crack indicates the likely presence of our friends. If it is recent, you will be able to easily smear it with your fingers.
  • Bed bugs have a distinctive aroma, which is how they attract other bed bugs. It’s a bit like the smell of a stink bug.
  • Bed bugs have six different sizes, from the super tiny to the fairly large. So there are a variety of body shapes and sizes to look out for.
  • Bed bugs are not excited by heat or excess amounts of carbon dioxide. If you think there are bed bugs in a hole, you could try breathing into it, or blowing a hair dryer into it on a low setting. This may force them out of hiding, or boil them in their shells. Whichever works for you. It may also distribute bed bug eggs all over the room.
  • You may find blood stains on the bed after you’ve been bitten. However, you can get these with any bite, so it’s not a guarantee of bed bugs.

What to do if you think you’ve been bitten by bed bugs

If you think you have been bitten by bed bugs in a hotel or other accommodation, the first thing is not to panic. Whilst the bites can be itchy and annoying, bed bugs are not currently known to carry any actual diseases.

So in that sense, you are better off having been bitten by a bed bug than a mosquito.

Photo CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan;

You should, of course, mention to your host that you think you have been bitten. There are two main reasons to do this:

  • If the problem is with the place you are currently at, then they need to know so that they can do something about it
  • If you were bitten somewhere else, there is a possibility that you have brought the eggs or bugs with you. They therefore need to keep an eye out for future problems. Be aware that they are unlikely to thank you for this.

When you inform your host, a variety of things will happen. It is very likely that, even if the accommodation believes itself to have bed bugs, it will deny this. Admitting to having bed bugs is akin to admitting you have the plague, due to the bad reputation these critters carry.

So unless you have the dead body to prove your case, don’t expect too much in the way of liability being admitted.

Additionally, as the bites can take so long to come up, the accommodation provider may actually have a point, in that you could have brought a problem into their previously clean environment. This is a great way to make you feel guilty and thus shut you up. After all, who is going to tell their friends that they may be a carrier of bed bugs?

What you should see, if they are at all bothered / professional / caring are some efforts by the accommodation provider to find any problems.

Where I worked, if someone seemed to have an issue, we would take their room apart, literally. Bed frames would be disassembled, and any bugs we found would be squished. We also used a heat gun to sterilise cracks in wood or metal. However, if we found bugs or eggs, this was never disclosed to guests.

How to Treat Bed Bug Bites

Treating bed bug bites is much the same as treating any other bites. The application of topical anti-histamine creams or ingestion of anti histamine is about the best you can do. A bite is a sign of an allergic reaction, and anti-histamine can help.

Try not to scratch the bites – your nails are dirty and this will lead to infection.

If you have reacted particularly badly, then get yourself down to the doctors where they may be able to help out with more powerful creams or pills.

Ultimately though, it’s going to be a waiting game where you’ll just have to wait for the bites to subside.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

If you are travelling, as previously mentioned, it can be hard to prevent bed bugs as you are not in control of the situation.

However, you can stop yourself from taking bed bugs home, and take preventative measures in your home.

The first thing you’ll want to do when travelling is to get used to inspecting the accommodation you are staying in for bed bugs. If there are signs of bed bugs, you should ask for another room, or consider another property. If the room has bed bugs, it is very likely that some of these bugs might get into your luggage, and that you will take them home with you.

You also can take some preventative measures like spraying your luggage with one of the bed bug sprays mentioned further on in the post. You might also want to invest in a heating device which will heat your luggage up above a temperature which kills bed bugs, thus sanitizing your belongings.

For your home, we would suggest investing in mattress covers for your beds. This stops bed bugs getting into the mattress, which is one of the most common places for them to hide. It also means you don’t need to discard of your mattress if you do get bed bugs, which can be costly if you have a nice mattress. See here for another well reviewed mattress protector.

The main thing to consider is how bed bugs might get into your property. The most common ways are for you to bring them back from a trip in your luggage, or for guests to bring them when they visit. Mattress covers can help in guest rooms, and careful inspection of your guests room after they leave is also a wise idea.

Another common vector for bed bugs is through furniture. We would advise against buying second hand furniture for this reason, as it can be very hard to tell if it is home to bed bugs.

There are a range of other products to help you deal with bed bugs in the home. These include electronic ultrasonic repelling devices, bed bug traps for your bed legs, and diatomaceous earth, which is a non-toxic substance that kills insects.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

The bad news about bed bugs is that in a well visited environment like a hostel or hotel, it is pretty much impossible to eradicate bed bugs.

This is because even if you were able to find and kill every last egg, nymph and adult from the premises, all it takes is one new arrival with a pregnant adult female to turn up, and the problem starts all over again. In a warm climate where the bugs can breed quickly, the problem is only going to be worse.

In such an environment, the best that can be done is to try to manage and stay on top of the problem. Regular inspections of sleeping areas, blocking up inviting cracks and the occasional use of some sort of anti-bed bug chemicals are the best that can be done so that the issue stays small – akin to a few mosquitoes flying in through a window at night, rather than spiralling out of control into a serious infestation.

Speaking of chemicals, another problem arises. The most effective chemicals for properly killing off the whole bed bug lifecycle are also not exactly human friendly. Fumigating a room is actually therefore more hazardous to human health than a few bites is ever going to be – and in fact more people have probably died from reactions to the anti bed bug chemicals than from actual bed bug bites. However, there are some non-toxic options, one of which I have listed below.

Products to help you deal with Bed Bugs

There are some products you can get to help stop that most nightmare of all situations – taking the bed bugs from your travels to your home, as well as other sprays for killing bugs generally.

  • EcoRaider is one of the better natural options for killing bed bugs. This is available from the manufacturer, and also on eBay here. In a study by the US Entomological Society of America, this was the only natural bed-bug killing product that effectively killed both bed bug nymphs and bed bug eggs
  • The other recommended product from the above study is this Bed Bug Spray by Bed Bug Patrol, available on Amazon. This was also successful against bed bugs. It’s also highly rated by commentators, as well as being both organic and non-toxic.
  • This is another well rated natural product available on Amazon
  • Electronic repellers like this work by emitting ultrasonic sounds to deter a range of insects, including bed bugs
  • There are a wealth of other options also available from both Amazon.com and UK.
  • This Travel Sized Luggage Spray by Bed Bug Patrol on Amazon.com is designed to help protect you from bringing the bed bugs back from your travels – possibly the worst outcome of any bed bug encounter!

If you do have a problem in your home, it is likely that you will have to call in professionals to fully clean out your house. They will use all sorts of nasty chemicals, and you will probably have to move out for a while. That is the only way to really sort out the problem once and for all.

And that is that for bed bugs! If you’ve got any comments, questions or experiences to share from your travels, including horrific photos, don’t be afraid to share them below! Otherwise happy travels, and remember, sleep tight.. don’t let the bed bugs bite!

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About the authors

Laurence and Jessica Norah are the British-American travel blogging couple behind photography & adventure travel blog Finding the Universe and luxury / couples travel blog Independent Travel Cats.

We’ve been running this site since 2010. We’re full time professional travel bloggers, and we visit all the places we write about personally. All our content is based on our own first hand travel experiences, and we take all the photos you see on our sites. Read more about us here.

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There are 9 comments on this post

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Does regular bug spray kill them? I’ve gotten bit in Sarajevo and no clue where to find bed bug spray for my luggage.

As far as I know, no it doesn’t. They are tough critters to kill!

I have read all sorts of post about bedbugs and none of them say anything about bedbugs being in your vehicle so my question is if you Go to someone’s house for a couple hours that has bedbugs and then get in your vehicle are you and your vehicle contaminated

Laurence Norah says

It’s hard to answer this. Bedbugs are more likely to be transported on luggage rather than people, so if you don’t take anything into the house, it is unlikely they will jump on you and then into your car and then on into your house. And as there isn’t a source of food in the car, it’s not an attractive place to live for them either. So I would say that the chances are low, but not impossible of course.

Thank you for telling a blog about dealing with bed bug as traveler. It is very much a serious issue. The information provided is very relevant.

Laurence Norah says

Great tips on how to clean a room with suspected bugs – would love some recommendations for those who have been bitten in hotels and are now fearful of bringing them home! I am covered in bed bug bites after backpacking through South America and now am terrified I will introduce them to my own bed and have no idea what to do!

Laurence Norah says

So the only thing that really works is heat – bugs can’t handle temperatures higher than 117F – 122F. So your best option is to wash everything you can (clothes, bag etc..) at a high heat. If you have items you can’t heat to that temperature, the safest option is to throw them out 🙁

How to prevent bed bug bites while traveling

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC twenty four seven. Saving Lives, Protecting People

Avoid bug bites

Bugs, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and some flies, can spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and Lyme, all of which have risk of severe and lasting consequences. Several diseases spread by bug bites cannot be prevented or treated with vaccines or medicine, such as Zika, dengue, and Lyme. Reduce your risk of getting these diseases by taking steps to prevent bug bites.

Check Your Destination for Health Risks

Find out what shots, medicines, or advice can help you to prevent bug-bite diseases where you are going.

Prevent Bug Bites During Your Trip

Use Insect Repellent

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Find an EPA-registered insect repellent that’s right for you.
  • The effectiveness of insect repellents not registered with the EPA, including some natural repellents, is not known.

How to Apply Insect Repellent: Always follow the product label instructions.

  • Reapply as directed.
  • If you are also using sunscreen,apply sunscreen first, and insect repellent second.
  • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

Application Instructions for Children

  • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
  • Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • When using insect repellent on your child:
  • Always follow label instructions.
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
  • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
  • Adults: spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

Permethrin:Treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) with 0.5%permethrin(an insecticide). You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do NOT use permethrin directly on skin.

Cover Exposed Skin:Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Some bugs, such as tsetse flies, can bite through thin fabric.

Avoid Bugs Where You Are Staying:Choose hotel rooms or other accommodations that are air-conditioned or have window and door screens with no holes, so bugs can’t get inside. If bugs can get into where you are sleeping, sleep under a permethrin-treated bed net that can be tucked under the mattress.

Other Bugs to Consider at YourDestination

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