How To Avoid Bed Bugs in Hotels? (Updated 2020)
How to Make Sure that Bed Bugs Don't Ruin your Travel.
In This Article I will Address the Following, Based on research.
(Jump to any section by clicking on the title).
And our biggest update in this blog:
Don't let the Bed Bugs Bite!
It is often mentioned in a joking manner as a goodnight farewell.
Most travellers staying at a friend’s home are not genuinely worried that lying in wait for them in the bed clothing will be these blood sucking parasites.
The thought of these pests conjures up feelings similar to that of the bogey-man or other mythical creatures of night time fear.
But a much scarier thought is that in increasing numbers travellers are having encounters with these nasty critters in their hotel beds.
In this article I will explain exactly what bed bugs are, how to spot them in your hotel room, and what to do if you encounter these little beasties.
So settle in, and get ready to have a bit of a scratch as you feel your skin crawl.
What Exactly are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are a parasitic insect of the Cimex genus with two main species being Cimex Lectularius and Cimex Hemipterus.
The strange thing is that although they have been mentioned throughout time in Egyptian, Greek and even biblical writings, bed bugs had largely disappeared in the years following World War 2.
Now they’re back!
Several theories have been put forward to explain the resurgence of bed bugs including easier travel between continents and many pesticides being regulated out (including DDT) due to their carcinogenic properties. (Hanlan, Bed Bug Control: Challenging and still Evolving).
Do you want cancer or bed bugs people? I don’t want either if I can avoid it thanks.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
They are small, oval, brownish insects about the size of an apple seed that primarily survive off the blood of humans.
Their saliva contains an anesthetic which deprives you of the sense of being bitten, allowing the bug to bite you multiple times without being detected.
Their saliva also contains an anticoagulant that prevents clotting of blood to help them get a good feed..
What Causes Bed Bugs Infestations?
Bed Bugs require blood to survive and also to breed.
So they lie in wait near their blood source (You!) by residing in a bed.
The only main causative factor for their infestation is that people transport them from one place to another.
Bed bugs can live in your clothes, suitcases, bags, and other items available to them to travel with you wherever you go.
A long held belief was that they occur only in filthy places and will spread in areas where regular hygiene is not maintained.
However, the truth is that they can thrive in dirty and clean places alike.
Public transport and hotel rooms are the go-to spot for infestation as they have the maximum human activity with plenty of different people coming and going.
The lack of regular care and maintenance of insect infestation is also a leading cause of serious problems with bed bugs in hotel rooms .
Unhygienic practices may not lead to infestation but a lack of care can definitely contribute to spreading them.
Why Should We Be Concerned About Bed Bugs?
If you are a frequent flyer and hotel room resident, then you are at the highest risk of picking up some unwanted travellers.
The absolute last thing you want to do is bring them home with you to infest your own home.
Many people who have brought them into their own homes have had to remove pieces of furniture to ensure they rid the house from bed bugs.
If you share any clothing or bed linen items with friends or other members of your family, then you are at a high risk of exposing them also.
Complications from infestations can range from being a nuisance to a potentially fatal health risk.
At the very least, they can crawl all over you leaving a nasty trail of bites as they go.
Their bites occur in straight lines or clusters often surrounded by a distinct, red rash.
These bites usually occur on the skin exposed particularly while sleeping, such as the face, hands, and soles of the feet.
More Severe Consequences
Bed bugs should never be treated as a trivial matter.
There are a couple of situations where bites from a bed bug can land you or a family member in serious medical danger.
Allergies including Anaphylaxis: Virtually every product on earth has someone who is allergic to it.
Check This One Out - An Allergy to Water!
I know it sounds crazy but I have actually met a young woman who told me she has a skin allergy to water! She went on to explain that her day starts with a shower at 4:30 am after which she takes her antihistamines to calm the red angry skin all over her.
Tears would leave red streaks down her face and swimming was out of the question altogether!
So it’s not surprising that some people will have allergies to the products produced (including anticoagulant) when a bed bug bites.
Most allergies to bed bugs will be quite mild, they may cause a very itchy rash which can be settled with some antihistamines and soothing lotion such as Calamine.
But! Bed Bugs can cause anaphylaxis which is a life threatening condition.
Usually people who know they suffer anaphylaxis will carry an epipen, but if it’s their first exposure to bed bugs, they are unlikely to know.
Many hotels will have an Epipen in their first aid kit which can be accessed by alerting management. In these cases time really is of the essence and a call to the ambulance is also necessary.
The other major risk factor is secondary infections as a result of the break in the skin incurred during bed bug bites.
These can range from mild to severe depending on the bacteria involved.
Signs of an infection include: a growing area of redness, increased pain in the area, a fever, feeling confused and generally unwell, and yellow, white or green pus.
If any of these signs occur seek out a medical officer who will likely prescribe antibiotics in mild cases, and possibly admit the patient to hospital if more severe. Again, early intervention is key.
Detecting Bed Bugs in Your Hotel Room.
With bed bugs being so small (size of an apple seed at their largest) they can often go undetected.
Diagnosing a bed bug infestation in hotel rooms is extremely important to prevent the spread and harm to you or your family.
Knowing what signs to look for is crucial to you continuing on in your bed bug free life.
Here’s what to look for:
Bites or skin rashes:
- Bed bugs live exclusively off the blood of human beings.
- As mentioned above their saliva contains both an anticoagulant to allow your blood to flow freely into them without clotting; and a mild local anaesthetic to prevent you realising that you’ve been bitten.
- Bites are red and swollen and tend to have a darker centre.
- Bites from bed bugs usually exist in a straight line or a cluster.
- They are often accompanied by rashes surrounding the bite which can become quite itchy.
- Bed bug bites can easily be mistaken for bites from other insects like mosquitoes or spiders.
A Peculiar smell:
- Bed bugs leave behind a musty, sweet smell.
- This occurs due to the blood-sucking properties and the fluids they leave behind.
- This smell is quite distinctly noticeable if you aren’t used to having bed bugs in your home.
- Whereas hotel staff can sometimes get accustomed to this smell without giving it a second thought.
Brown or red spots on mattresses:
- While sucking blood, bed bugs sometimes leave behind red or brown stains on the mattresses and bed furniture.
- Any occurrence of dark colored spots can be a sure sign of bed bugs on mattresses in your hotel room.
Open crevices around the bed:
- Bed bugs aren’t just limited to beds.
- If your hotel room has open crevices in the vicinity of the bed, chances are a family or two of bed bugs may be hiding in there.
- Bed frames, headboards, door frames, bedside tables, furniture, loose wallpaper, wall cracks, and drapery are some excellent hideout spots to watch out for bugs.
So... Now What?
What do you do now that you have found that there are bed bugs in your hotel room?
The first thing you must do is bring the situation to the attention of the hotel management.
Remember that bed bugs are quite common and the hotel management may not be aware that someone has brought bed bugs into their hotel.
What the hotel management does next though, is crucial.
They need to quickly implement measures to eradicate the bed bugs from the infested room.
If your stay has been adversely affected by the presence of bed bugs, you are well within your rights (in most modern countries) to demand a refund from your hotel.
The refund should cover any nights you have already stayed, and medications you had to purchase to treat yourself and family for bed bug bites, and any property such as clothes or bags that have been damaged or infested by bed bugs.
Michael Roennevig of website AZCentral (read the whole article here) explains it thus:
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs!
Now that you know what they look like, what they do, and how to find them, you need to know how to get rid of these parasites!
Although there are many novel methods being trialled including sniffer dogs to detect and carbon dioxide “snow” to get rid of them, bed bugs are proving to be a very elusive and difficult to kill pest.
This means that we are likely to see more and more of them in hotels and homes in the near future.
So what are you to do once you leave an infested hotel room?
Isolate infested items. If you are able to work out what items of clothes are infested, put them into plastic bags to isolate them from your bags and any other clothing items.
Be aware that despite your best efforts, bed bugs are good survivors and may have infested your whole luggage.
When you get home from your break, take all of your items outside, vacuum them thoroughly and tie the vacuum contents in a plastic bag before disposing of them.
Now inspect all items outside for any signs of bugs including eggs, shed shells, or brown stains and remove whatever physical matter you can.
One effective method is to place any infested items inside a plastic bag and then into a freezer.
Keep at below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees F) for at least 4 days.
Items can also be steamed using a steamer.
This could be especially convenient for eliminating bed bugs from luggage bags which are more difficult to launder or put into a freezer.
If you don’t have a steamer you can leave all items out in the sun for a few hours.
Infested items can be laundered but heat must be used.
The recommended heat required is 45 degrees Celcius (113 Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Prevention is Better Than the Cure so Here are
11 Tools to Avoid Bed Bugs When Travelling!
Old pesticides like DDT were very effective against bed bugs.
The problem was they are very damaging to humans as well! So they have understandably been regulated out of existence.
Most of the currently available pesticides available today are pyrethroids, which are much gentler on humans.
Starting with a nice and logical one, insecticides containing DEET, are one of the most effective ways of protecting your body from bed bugs.
Originally developed for use by the United States Army to repel mosquitoes in jungle warfare, DEET has been found to be very offensive smelling to insects including bed bugs.
Please note the there have been some people who have had adverse reactions to DEET including headaches, nausea, seizures and in only a handful of cases, death. Overall though the number of people found to suffer such reactions has been comparatively very small.
2. Long Sleeved Bed Clothes
As most bed bug bites occur on areas of exposed skin, it makes sense that one of the easiest things you can do to protect yourself is to cover up as much skin as possible.
Long sleeved and long legged bed clothes or pyjamas will therefore go a fair way towards preventing too many bites occurring.
Wearing a hoodie or a onesie may provide even more thorough protection.
3. Sealable Luggage Covers
A simple way to keep them out of your luggage is to invest in some sealable luggage covers.
Obviously you need to make sure that you keep the covers on your luggage at all times when you aren’t using them.
Another way to use them of course is to help you from bringing bed bugs from your hotel room into your house when you arrive back home.
You can take your luggage out to the back yard or patio or straight to the washing machine to kill any remaining bed bugs with some heat.
4. Mattress Cover
Probably one of the best investments you can make to protect yourself from bed bugs when travelling.
Although the mattress is not the only place that Bed Bugs tend to lie in wait of a human, a good mattress cover is likely to reduce significantly the number of them that can attack you.
You can pick these covers up on Amazon for between $25-$65 for a Queen mattress cover. (Please Note I receive a small commission from sales through this site).
5. Bed Bug Barrier - for Bed Legs.
Quite a crafty invention, the legs of your bed sit in the bed bug barrier which then prevents the bugs from climbing up the bed legs.
Quite inexpensive, but then you will probably need from 4 to 9 of them, one for each bed leg.
You can pick up a 4 pack od the Bed Bug Blocker Pro for $15.99 US.
6. Hard Case Luggage
This one seemed a little odd to me at first. I mean, are we to believe that bed bugs are capable of chewing through the nylon of soft sided luggage pieces?
So I read up a bit more and realised that, no, that isn’t why hard sided luggage is recommended.
Apparently bed bugs love to tuck themselves into those seams and zippers that run around the edges of soft sided luggage bags.
In contrast hard sided clam luggage has much less spaces for them to hide in and stow away for the ride back to your inviting home.
7. A Travel Bag That Heats Itself Up to Kill Bed Bugs!
A company called Thermalstrike have created a bag that they claim will heat up to a temperature (requires a power outlet) that will actually kill any bed bugs in your luggage!
As you can imagine, you’re not going to get luggage like that very cheaply, and you can expect to pay at least $199.95 for one of these bad boys.
8. Plastic Bags for Wrapping Clothes
Got to be the cheapest (almost free) and easiest measure you can take to protect yourself from bed bugs is to wrap them up in plastic bags inside your luggage.
Obviously keep a bag or two exclusively for clean clothes and another for dirty clothes. You may also want to pack another for clothes you think may be contaminated with Bed Bugs, so that you don’t allow them to spread any further.
9. Laundry Additives
If you get a chance to do your laundry whilst you’re away, there is a range of laundry products that claim to kill bed bugs.
If you don’t get the chance on the road, then of course you could use the detergent as soon as you get home and do the whole wash.
Laundry industry website Pressure Washerify have posted a list of 7 of the laundry detergents claiming to kill bed bugs click here to check out their picks.
Another good idea is to wash at a high temperature (make sure to check the washing instructions on your clothes first), as high temperatures are known to kill bed bugs.
10. Bed Bug Traps
Most of the bed bug traps on the market tend to use some type of glue or adhesive which is attractive to bugs and then traps them by sticking to them.
One that I particularly liked the idea of is JT Eaton’s Bug-O. They have circular traps that can go around the feet of your bed to ensure that they don’t climb up the legs to get to you.
This is only useful of course if you have made sure that they are not already in your bed!
11. Portable UV Vacuum Cleaner
First things first– the evidence that Ultraviolet light in a vacuum cleaner can kill bed bugs is very scant.
So don’t get too excited about the claims by advertisers that their UV vacuum will kill bed bugs.
What the UV light on these vacuums is great for, is detecting where the bed bugs are and where they’ve been.
This makes it easier to help you eradicate them by vacuuming and cleaning these areas.
Many of them are small enough and light enough that you could pack them in your luggage without losing too much space.
Here is a guide to some of the best portable UV vacuum cleaners by Trends Vacuum, a company that reviews all kinds of vacuum cleaners.
As none of the treatments listed above are 100% effective in eliminating bed bugs, it is important that you continue to check your bedrooms for any signs that the bed bugs have moved from your luggage to your home.
Check along the seams of your mattresses, in any crevices in the base or the frame of your bed, and behind picture frames and any other places where bed bugs could possibly hide.
It has been shown that bed bugs like to hide within 1.5mtrs (5 feet) of their host (You and your family), but they are capable of hiding up to 6 mtrs (20 feet) away!
This allows them many little nooks and crannies within your home for them to hide in wait for their next blood meal.
Over to the Local Health Authorities
If you get no satisfaction from the hotel management, then unfortunately you may have to go to the local health or hotel authorities.
The health authorities in most states and countries will have set guidelines as to how hotels are to act in the knowledge of a bed bug infestation.
Collect some evidence if you can before approaching hotel management via one or more of these methods:
- Take pictures of the stains and bed bugs if you spot any.
- Show them any bites, especially if they present in the pattern of typical bed bug bites.
- If you are able to trap or kill any bed bugs, well that leaves little doubt.
For instance, in California the law states:
Similarly the state government of New South Wales in Australia has several pages devoted to their policies for management of bed bugs in hotels.
All staff involved in cleaning and inspecting rooms, including front of house, managerial and maintenance staff, must have specific, documented training in the detection and eradication of bed bugs.
They acknowledge that bed bug infestation is a growing problem which can hit any hotel, but they must have a plan to effectively manage the problem.
You can read the full document here.
Asking For a Refund
To make it easier for you to get a refund, bring any evidence you have such as photos, bites or actual bed bugs that you have killed or captured, with you when approaching management.
As mentioned earlier the hotel may not be aware that they have a bed bug problem, and it is no indication of their cleanliness in general.
So don’t be aggressive when approaching the management, and try to see things from their point of view.
Most competent hotel managers will be more than happy to refund your money and to help you to find a place to stay in the vicinity so that you may continue your holiday in comfort.
To Sum Up
- Bed bugs are a parasitic insect that feed off the blood from mammals including humans.
- Hotel rooms are an excellent breeding ground for bed bugs and owners must be proactive in ensuring their establishment is not infested.
- When you check into a hotel, do an inspection of the most common hiding places such as the seems along mattresses, the ridges in bed frames, and even behind picture frames.
- Be aware of the tell tale signs of bed bugs such as dark red/brown stains, a musty sweet odour. After a night or two bites may appear on you or a family member as a line or cluster of dark red spots on the skin.
- Be sure to check your clothes and bags before you leave the hotel.
- If you do find evidence of bed bugs, alert the hotel management, who should swiftly act to eradicate the bugs and find you a comfortable place to stay.
- Ask for a refund for any nights already spent and any medication you purchase to treat bites, as well as any personal items which become infested.
- Most local state or council laws will have strict laws on how hotel managers must behave in the face of a bed bug infestation.
- On returning home, isolate your luggage from your home and perform actions to eradicate bed bugs from your luggage.
- Remain vigilant within your home to the presence of bed bugs and be prepared to take action to eradicate if required.
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