Bed Bugs ~ Suggestions for Travelers
Although reports of bed bug infestations are on the rise, there is no reason to panic. Reputable hotels have routine checkups and treatments for pests including bed bugs. There are a few simple steps that you can take when checking into a hotel to help protect you from picking up unwanted guests.
What to bring:
You are a bed bug inspector for the night! Even though the hotel rooms were likely inspected by staff and/or a pest control operator, there may be a chance that previous guests introduced the pests to the room you are going to use. You can be prepared with a few simple tools – plastic bags, flashlight and a hand-held magnifier. If possible, bring and use a permethrin-based insect repellent to spray on your luggage.
When you check in, ask hotel staff if they have any rooms with a current or recent bed bug infestation. Try to avoid any room that has been treated within 30 days. Bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate in less than two weeks.
IN YOUR ROOM
Inspect the room before unpacking your belongings. If you believe there is a high risk, it would be wise to bring only necessary items into your room and put your luggage and other belongings inside a closed plastic bag over night. Bed bugs hide during the day and are difficult to find. It is easier to find traces of their presence. Using your flashlight and hand-held magnifier, look for black, dot-like stains on the head board, mattress (especially corners) and box springs. These could be stains left as the bugs excrete the remains of a blood meal. In the morning, you may find blood marks on the bedding. You may see adults or nymphs. The adults are dark brown and the size of an apple or lentil seed. Nymphs are smaller, and lighter in color. The adults and nymphs like to stay hidden and will stay in cracks and crevices, moving quickly if they are disturbed.
IF YOU FIND ANY SIGNS OF INFESTATION
Talk to hotel staff and ask them to allow you to change rooms. Avoid adjoining rooms or any rooms directly above or below the room you suspect of having bed bugs.
Upon waking, you may find suspicious bite marks. Bed bug bites can appear as a wheal or welt and may form a blister. Bites sometimes occur in a row or a cluster. Arms, shoulders, back and neck are the most common areas to find bed bug bites. Please be aware that not all individuals have an allergic reaction in response to bed bug bites. Also, bites are easily misdiagnosed when they could have another source, such as poison ivy, scabies, chicken pox, skin allergies or tick bites. The best way to confirm bed bug bites is by collecting some of the bed bugs in your plastic bags and submitting them for identification.
If you inadvertently spent the night in a room you suspect of having bed bugs, be aware that your belongings may have picked up a hitchhiker or two. Make sure you disinfect your belongings before taking them into your home. Seal everything in a plastic bag. Wash all clothing in the hottest water possible and dry at the highest heat setting for at least 15-30 minutes. Treat other items as recommended in “Controlling Bed Bugs”.
If you think you have encountered bedbugs, please contact your local health department or the Sleep Products Section at (919) 733-6407.