How traveling families can protect their home from bed bugs
Despite our best efforts, our family recently had to deal with bed bugs! I hope that I can help others be educated on preventing bed bugs while traveling! Here are my tips to protect your family and prevent bed bugs during travel AND once you return home. (Disclaimer: Reading this may cause uncontrollable itching)
Two months ago and two days after my husband returned from a work trip, he awoke to find several bites on his side, arms, and legs. Knowing that he had not been outside without a shirt, we immediately reasoned that the bites had to be bed bugs. Hubby had just returned from a work trip a couple of nights before, and unfortunately, his travels called for a stay in a less-than-desirable hotel. (Did you know – it can take up to 14 days to react to a bed bug bite?)
At this point, what was most concerning to us was that the bag from his trip had sat on our bedroom floor for over 36 hours! We didn’t SEE any signs of life (i.e. bugs), but the eggs of bed bugs are smaller than the naked eye would notice. My husband threw the bag away, I washed all of our bedding from top to bottom, vacuumed the room profusely, and washed every item of clothing that was in the bag. And then, we waited.
Four weeks later, as I groggily made my way into the kitchen one morning, my husband stated, “I’m worried!” My husband is not a worrier- so this threw me off-guard – what could he possibly be worried about? “I have bites!” he exclaimed and pulled up his shirt to reveal a perfect little triangle of bites. More appeared on his arm that afternoon. Despite our best efforts, we prepared for the worst knowing that we probably had bed bugs in our home.
The next day a local exterminator visited our home and scoured our bedroom for signs of bed bugs. While inspecting our upholstered headboard, he found one tiny nymph, the stage after an egg. These guys are used to working with infestations, so they reassured us that we probably had only 5-10 bugs TOTAL, but in order to guarantee the treatment, we would need to treat the entire house. Despite everything we’d done to protect ourselves from bed bugs, we were about to shell out big bucks to get rid of them.
Preventing bed bugs while traveling and once you return home
There’s very little you can do to prevent a run-in with bed bugs while on the road. Bed bugs don’t discriminate – they’ve been found in the nicest and the shadiest of hotels. However, here are some dos and don’ts to practice while traveling AND once you get home to help protect yourself from an infestation.
DO – Check for bed bugs while traveling! Run a flashlight along the bottom of the mattress, the box spring, and the headboard to help you look for bed bugs. Also, examine the sheets for any bloodstains (yuck!) or bed bug feces. Our exterminator said that they are starting to see the bugs in upholstered headboards rather than mattresses, so pay careful attention to this area!
DO – While staying at a hotel or Airbnb, leave your suitcase or bag on a counter, a hard surface, or away from the beds. Put dirty clothes immediately into a bag and away from the floor. Before our issue, my husband sat his bag on the second double bed. This was probably the worst mistake.
DON’T – Upon returning home, don’t bring your bags and laundry straight into your home. For an extra hedge of protection, leave suitcases and bags in a cold garage (below freezing temps should kill eggs) or consider a ZappBug heat tent to kill bed bugs. At a minimum, take all bags immediately to the laundry and empty contents into the washer. Wash and dry everything on hot. After a recent trip, I put our duffle bag into the dryer for 30 minutes. (Don’t just take my advice- make sure this won’t ruin your bag)!
DO – Have all of your mattresses and box springs in mattress encasements. This keeps any bugs from getting into your mattress or box springs. Or, if you fear you do have an infestation, it keeps bugs from getting out! Bed bugs can’t live if they are unable to feed (gross!), so they will eventually die. Our exterminator recommended only taking off the encasements every 6 months- 1 year to wash! We are still using a waterproof mattress cover on top of all of the encasements.
DO – Before traveling, check a website like Bed Bug Reports to see if any bed bugs have been reported at your hotel of choice. You can also check TripAdvisor reviews.
DON’T – Let the fear of bed bugs prevent you from traveling! While bed bugs are a nuisance – and definitely not cheap to get rid of – the odds of getting them are extremely rare! We stay at all levels of accommodations and this was our first run-in with bugs! Protect your home with my above recommendations (i.e. laundry and mattress encasements), and then allow yourself to enjoy your travels.
After one treatment, we had no bugs and no bites. I’m glad we were able to get rid of the bed bugs as quickly as they came, but I know it was only because we were on high alert! If you are a frequent traveler, I recommend you pay attention to bites, too!
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