Avoiding Bed Bugs When Traveling
How to Check Your Hotel Room for these Tiny Vampires
Podcast Episode # 5
by Brad Kammlah
In this Episode, You'll Learn:
- What Travelers Need to Know About Bed Bugs
- What Bed Bugs Look Like
- How to Identify Bed Bugs
- How to Check Your Hotel Room for Bed Bugs
- Where do Bed Bugs Hide
- How to Prevent Bringing Bed Bugs Back Home
- How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Luggage
Bed Bugs are a Real Problem for Travelers
Nighty, night, don't let the bed bugs bite!
I have to admit I am somewhat of a germa-phobe, so even the thought of bed bugs grosses me out. So to get through all the research for today's episode, I had to keep watching this clip from the Office where Jim tries to convince Dwight that that their hotel room has bed bugs.
But the truth is, bed bugs are a real problem for travelers.
- They can easily be overlooked
- They cause painful bites, rashes and swelling
- Worst of all, they can hitchhike on your stuff and you can wind up bringing them back home
So we're going to fix that by talking about how to spot them, where to look for them them, how to keep from bringing them home with you and what to do if you get them.
Things Travelers Need to Know about Bed Bugs
What are Bed Bugs and what do they eat?
Bed bugs are literally tiny vampires. They feed off human blood and can go for 3 months to a year without eating so they can linger around for quite some time.
What do Bed Bugs Look like? How do I spot bed bugs?
Most people assume that you can't see bed bugs, but they are in fact very easy to spot if you take the time to look for them. The easiest way to spot them is by either looking for the bugs themselves or the stains they leave behind.
Bed Bug Appearance:
- Small oval bug about the size of an apple seed (4-5mm in length)
- Black or dark red
Bed Bug Stains:
- They leave behind waste that shows up as
- Reddish stains – think rust streaks about an inch long
- Black dots the size of a period at the end of a sentence
Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
No, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, there have been no cases or studies that indicate bed bugs can transmit diseases between humans. But they can be incredibly painful.
Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites
The problem with bed bugs is that most people don't notice them until after they've been bitten. Another interesting fact is that you won't feel the bed bug bite itself because the insect releases as small anesthetic as it bites you, which allows them to feed for longer. Yes, gross I know! If they do bite you, then you likely won't notice till the next day when the symptoms show up:
- Itchiness like a mosquito bite
- Small red rash
- Swelling of the skin
- Look like the bite from most other insects
Treatment for Bed Bug Bites
Thankfully, since bed bugs do not transmit disease the treatment is simply managing the symptoms of the bite itself. So these are things to make you feel better and reduce the itching.
Where can you find Bed Bugs when Travelling?
The name Bed Bugs is really a misnomer because you can find them just about anywhere from movie theaters to hotel rooms. But for us travelers there are a few spots that we should double check.
- Hotel Mattresses
- Hotel Couches
- Hotel Chairs
- Hotel Luggage Rack
- Airplane Seats
Where do Bed Bugs Hide?
While it is possible to find a bed bug crawling across the surface of any of these things, it is much more likely to find them gathered together in clusters along the seams and cracks of objects. This is likely a survival mechanism for the bugs.
- Along the seams of mattresses
- Along the piping around the edge of mattresses
- In between sofa cushions
- In the cracks of furniture or drawers
Bed Bug Prevention for Travelers
How do you Check For Bed Bugs in Hotel Rooms?
Alright, now that we know more about these little guys let's talk about how to ensure that we don't get them.
My recommendation is to take 2 minutes when you first check into your hotel room to check for bed bugs… BEFORE YOU GET THEM! The key here is to do this EVERY TIME YOU CHECK IN. It doesn't matter how nice the hotel is or if you check every once and a while. Do it every time, it's fast!
You can download the free Bed Bug Hotel Check Pocket Guide and keep it in your phone so you can quickly refer to it next time you check into a hotel.
Step 1: Set Bag Down in Right Place:
Do NOT set your bag down on the bed! If the room does have bed bugs, they can quickly make their way into your bag. Instead, place your suitcase in the hotel bathroom.
Step 2: Use Phone's Flashlight
Next use the flashlight mode on your smartphone to make looking for them a bit easier.
Step 3: Inspect Mattress & Headboard
This is the most likely place you'll find bed bugs if they are present. Go over to the top corner of the mattress by the pillow and remove the corner of the sheets as well as the mattress pad and any other mattress protector and look for bed bugs along the seams and piping. Then put the sheets back on and check the other side.
Step 4: Inspect Luggage Rack
Pull out the metal luggage rack from the closet and check all the crevices for any signs of bed bugs before you use set your bag on the luggage rack.
Step 5: Inspect Other Furniture – Couch, Chair, Desk, Drawers
Lastly, you can quickly check the rest of the furniture in the room, especially the couch and the drawers if you're going to use them.
What if you find Bed Bugs?
If you see anything that might be a bed bug or stains, grab ALL your stuff, walk back down to the front desk and ask to change rooms. Be sure to ask for a room that is not adjacent to that room.
Preventing Hitchhikers: How to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Back Home
Now, while we've reduced the likelihood that you might pick them up from your hotel room, you might have inadvertently picked up a few somewhere else like the plane, the office or even a retail store. And since they don't like heat they tend not to remain on our skin for very long, instead preferring to stay close by on backpacks, luggage and shoes.
So we need a procedure to check for them when we get home to ensure we don't bring them inside.
Step 1: Unpack in Laundry Room
First, unpack in a bright area where you can easily spot a stowaway and do it in a remote room away from your bedroom and living areas. The laundry room is perfect because it makes it easy to go right to step 2.
Step 2: Unpack Directly into Washing Machine
Just in case there is a bed bug in your dirty clothes, getting them washed as soon as possible will prevent one from spreading.
Step 3: Inspect Suitcase while Unpacking
As you're unpacking, carefully check the seams and piping of your suitcase for any bed bugs, checking both the inside and outside of the bag.
Step 4: Store Suitcase outside Bedroom
As an extra precaution, keep your empty bag somewhere else as well preferable the laundry room closet.
What to do if you Get Bed Bugs while Traveling
If somehow you manage to come in contact with bed bugs anywhere along your journey, there are some things we can do to minimize the damage.
Step 1: Isolate
The first step is to prevent them from spreading. DO NOT bring your suitcase inside the house! Instead, keep it outside or in the garage. Then take your entire suitcase with everything still in it and place it in a garbage bag. Now seal it closed with packing tape making sure that it's completely sealed off. This gives you time to plan your next step.
Step 2: Eliminate
Next is to kill the bed bugs on all your stuff. There are really a few options here:
- Heat: High temperatures above 120 degrees easily kill bed bugs, the problem is getting it to that high temperature.
- Dryer at Highest Temperature for 30 minutes
- Hot Box at 120 degrees for at least 90 minutes.
- Cold: Cold temperatures also kill bed bugs
- If you have a Freezer that will stay around 0 degrees for 4 days or more that should kill those guys
- Pesticides: Unfortunately many bed bugs now are pesticide resistant so your best bet is to call a pro.
While some of these might work if you happen to live in an areas where it's really hot or a really cold days, most of these other home remedies seem to have mixed and unreliable results. My recommendation is to seal off your suitcase and clothes in a plastic bag and then call your local pest control company and ask them what procedures they recommend.
Step 3: Clean
Once the bed bugs are dead, you can begin to clean your clothes and suitcase. The easiest method is to:
- Wash and dry all your clothes
- Wipe down any belongings in your bag
- Vacuum your Suitcase
Now that you know more about bed bugs than you probably ever wanted to, it's time to incorporate this prevention checklist into your travel routine. Simply download the free 2 Minute Hotel Bed Bug Check and keep it in your phone so the next time you check into your hotel you have a quick reminder of what you're looking and where they might be hiding.
Thanks for listening!