I recently met a lovely retired couple from Lancaster County with an unfortunate problem; Bed Bugs in their home. Ugh! I always feel sorry for people who have Bed Bugs. Not only is the treatment costly, there is a tremendous amount of work that must be done in order to prepare for the treatment. Then there are the psychological effects that Bed Bugs bring (people will feel things crawling on them in their beds long after they know the problem is gone).
Interestingly, this couple had no idea how this problem happened to them. I asked them if they traveled a lot, to which they answered “Yes”. They then told me that they like to take their favorite pillows from home with them on vacations. This is likely where their trouble began.
I decided at that point to write this blog entry. If this information can help just one person or family prevent this problem from happening to them, then I will consider this time well spent. Here are some tips I recommend everybody follow when traveling this vacation season:
Try to travel as lightly as possible. Pack only what you absolutely need. Never take your own pillows or blankets with you (most hotels can provide you with any type of pillows or blankets you may need). Try to pack only items that can be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer when you get home.
Leave your bags at the door and inspect your room (or time-share, or resort, or beach house) before you bring your belongings in. Bring only a flashlight into the room and inspect the beds and furniture (the beds being the most important area). Pull back the sheets and mattress covers and look for live insects, dead insects or cast insect skins, and bed bug spotting (digested blood). Make sure you check the folds at the mattress edges, and the lower corners of the box springs. Look between the mattress or box spring and the wall. Also look behind the head board if it is easily removed. I know this seems like a lot of work, but you should be able to complete the entire inspection in about five or ten minutes, and it is time well spent.
Ask to be moved to another room if they are found. If you are staying in a reputable establishment, chances are that you find only evidence of a low level infestation, if you find anything at all. If you do find low level evidence, ask to be moved to another room not adjacent to the room you were originally assigned, and begin the inspection process again, and please remember, it is not the hotel’s fault. Bed Bugs are carried around from place to place by people, and the hotel or resort will certainly appreciate your bringing this situation to their attention. If you find a heavy infestation of Bed Bugs, then I would strongly consider changing hotels altogether, because the one you are in is obviously out of touch with the challenges being faced by the travel industry today.
Store Your Travel Items Carefully. Keep your toiletries, electronics, or any other items that cannot be laundered in sealed plastic bags when not using them. Keep you luggage on racks, and not on the extra bed or on upholstered furniture. Unpack if you like, but I recommend keeping stored clothing in sealed plastic bags as well.
Be extra cautious. Upon departure, put your luggage in large trash bags tied with a tight knot before you put it into your car. When you get home, unpack outside, carefully inspecting each item before bringing it into the home. Immediately launder all items in hot water, then a hot dryer. Take all fine washables to the dry cleaner. If you like, you can arrange to have your luggage heat treated (many pest control companies can do this for you), or you can treat your luggage with an appropriate spray. There are several to choose from on the internet. You can also buy a sealed luggage encasement before you go on your trip.
There is probably no way to be 100% certain you have not carried a single Bed Bug into your home, but if you follow these tips, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of bringing this problem home with you. Personally, I perform the room inspection before moving in, and if I find nothing, I relax and enjoy my vacation, but each person has his own comfort levels and thresholds that can only be self determined. Certainly it is, in my opinion, most important that you make sure you are not settling into a room with an active infestation.
If you are so unfortunate to bring bed bugs home with you, consult with a professional bed bug management company (or bed bug exterminators in old terminology. That will be the only way to get rid of bed bugs effectively.