Bedbugs can disrupt a fabulous trip quicker than almost anything else and leave you with an itchy rash for several days as well. Although these bites are usually not harmful and the itching will abate in several days, travelers who have been exposed to bedbugs must still worry about bringing these invasive little insects home with them. Bedbugs have a way of hitching a ride on clothing, bags, and shoes to travel right along with their chosen hosts, and it does not take long for one or two bedbugs to become thousands. Travelers wishing to protect their homes from these prolific pests should take the following precautions:
Make a Visual Inspection of Rooms
Most people check to make sure a hotel room is clean before they agree to stay, but cleanliness is no way to judge whether the room is infested with bedbugs. Before you sign on the dotted line for any room, be sure to closely inspect the following for actual bedbugs or the spots of reddish brown excrement that they leave behind:
• Pillow cases, sheets, and coverlets
• Mattress seams
• Curtain hems
• Carpeting along the baseboards
• Underneath the cushions of any upholstered couches or chairs
Pack Appropriately for Bedbug Prevention
When packing for your journey, it is recommended that you encase each set of clothing in a separate plastic bag. Some people also take these extra precautions:
• Pack a flashlight to make a more careful inspection of the premises upon arrival.
• Include zippered pillow case coverings and a plastic mattress cover if space permits.
• Use a hard plastic suitcase, rather than a duffle bag type made of fabric.
• Carry a roll of garbage bags to serve as a barrier in the seats of chairs and to put underneath purses or baggage in carpeted areas.
Be Careful When Returning Home
Even if you have seen no evidence of bedbugs in any of your hotel rooms, it never hurts to take some preventative measures after the trip. These ideas will provide extra insurance against any bedbugs getting a foothold in your house:
• Unpack suitcases before entering the house and then leave them in a storage building for a while.
• Dispose of any plastic bags in an outdoor receptacle, including any shopping bags in which souvenirs were placed.
• Immediately take the articles of clothing to the washer using the most direct route.
• Use hot water and high temperatures when drying the clothing.
• Visually inspect bedding and upholstery during the month following the trip in order to catch a bedbug problem early.
All of these actions do not guarantee that you will not bring bedbugs into your home, but they certainly make it less likely. A vacation is intended to relieve stress; it would be tragic to come home contented and relaxed only to find that you must wage a war against these tiny invaders.
Karen Barnes writes on behalf of www.bedbugs.org, which has lots of practical tips on how to keep these pesky little mites at bay. There is also information on identifying bedbug bite marks, to ensure that you stay protected on vacation.