Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Here's How To AVOID Bed Bugs

It's vacation time and many of us are looking forward to enjoying the many amenities hotels offer. 

But they also increase our risk of bringing home an infestation of bed bugs.

I can tell you from personal experience that bed bugs are no laughing matter! Several years back, unbeknownst to us, my late father-in-law had them in his apartment. I remember sleeping in his spare bed one night and feeling itchy, as if a hoard of mosquitoes had attacked me. I looked on the sheets and between the mattress, but saw nothing. The next night, the same thing happened again. 

The itching woke me up and the scratching left me with sore, bleeding legs.

We, of course, brought bed bugs home and the itching continued. I thought maybe my legs were dry, so I moisturized them. It was no help. I looked everywhere – between the mattress, in our clothes, in our luggage – and never did see them. I postulated that my reaction was due to allergies or the new laundry detergent we were using. A decade later, my husband told me that shortly after we'd gotten back from his Dad's and while I was going crazy trying to find the source of my itching, he had found the bed bugs stationed on the side of our mattress. I had seen them, too, but thought they were just dirt since they looked like brown and gray specks. He'd vacuumed the entire room and thrown the vacuum bag out. He'd decided not to tell me because he knew I'd flip out (EXCELLENT CALL).

We were lucky because a bed bug infestation can cause thousands of dollar to eradicate. Most of the statistics I found on the number of reported bed bug cases were quoted by extermination companies which, of course, have a vested interest in their eradication, but municipalities across the United States and world wide agree that bed bugs infestations are on the rise: in some cases, dramatically! 

No, they do not spread disease, but once you've been affected by these critters, you will NEVER forget it! So what can you do?

  • Investigate the hotel before you check in. Heck, I even look it up before I make the reservation! My favorite sources for this data are and  but TripAdvisor  often lists this info as well. Be aware, however, that just because a hotel is flagged as once having bed bugs, does not mean they still have them. And one that has not been flagged may, in fact, have them. These critters are fluid, moving with people and their belongings. Their presence is not an indication of how clean or dirty an establishment is. 

  • Minimize the amount of stuff you pack – You know how your kids always want to take more toys and clothes than they'll ever need? This is the time to say “no.” The less stuff you bring, the fewer items you'll need to worry about later on.

  • Try to pack your items in resealable plastic – There are many manufacturers of resealable bags that are large enough to pack clothes in. Place your clothes, etc., in those and then place the bags inside your luggage. 

  • ALWAYS inspect your hotel room BEFORE you move in - When you enter the room, put your luggage in the bathroom where bugs are less likely to hide, take a flashlight (download the Tesla light from the Google Play Store if you have an Android) and check the perimeter of the bed, between the mattress, around the headboard, etc. Also check chair cushions, drapes, etc. Here's a nice article and checklist with more details on how to conduct a hotel inspection.

When you return home, place all travel materials in a separate space, like the garage. Wash and dry all clothes worn on the trip. If possible, place the luggage in the dryer, which you've set on high, for about 20 minutes. Many stuffed animals which cannot be washed can usually also be put in the dryer for 20 minutes. Leave shoes outside until you've had a chance to inspect them. Yes, this is colossal pain, but preventing a problem and the peace of mind is worth it!

“Bed bug proofing” products are becoming more common and easier to find.  Various en casements for mattresses are available at Costco, Amazon, and department stores. You can also buy heaters that you can use to treat non-washable items in case you don't have a dryer or access to one. Although there are a lot of sprays readily available, I haven't seen any convincing evidence that they do much good and , besides, who needs toxins in your environment, especially if you've got kids around? For a list of products that might help keep you safe from bedbugs, click on this article I found on the website

For more information, visit:

  •  – This article lists how to prevent and treat a bed bug problem.
  • – Yes, this is the site for pest control company, but the checklist is handy if you suspect you may have a problem.
  • – This fact sheet from the Virginia Department Of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences is a nice, calming, source of information on bed bugs.
  • – A less calming, but still informative sheet from the New Hampshire Department Of Health & Human Services serves a reminder of where else you should check for bed bugs, like your car and trains.

Performing due diligence before and while I check into a hotel may be a pain, and may even make you feel silly, but I'm figuring that if I ever do bring bed bugs home again, it won't be due to carelessness.  

Better to make the efforts to prevent an infestation than deal with one. Try these steps, use these resources, and, hopefully, you'll never experience the trauma of bed bugs in your home!


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