How to Protect Yourself From Bed Bugs
By : Dawn Bowman
As much fun as Khaosan Road in Bangkok, Thailand can be, I’ve had more than one unfortunate encounter with bed bugs in the guesthouses and hotels on the infamous backpacker strip. I quickly understood why the bed in my room didn’t have a top sheet or blankets, and it wasn’t because of the heat.
Where do Bed Bugs exist?
It’s not just $5-a-night guesthouses and cheap hostels that can harbor these awful little vampires, however. And despite popular belief, they’re not just found in developing countries either.
Although the United States previously enjoyed about 50 years of nearly bed bug free existence, the little critters returned in full force in 2010. The parasites showed up in hotels, dorm rooms, offices, and even penthouses across the country and they are still a threat to our otherwise happy travels.
What are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are actually parasites that feed on human blood. They can survive for an entire year without feeding. Although they are mostly active at night, bed bugs are not strictly nocturnal. They are most often found in bedding but they can also live on other furniture such as chairs and sofas as well as on clothing, curtains, and in carpet. They may also be found in luggage, handbags, and backpacks.
Health Effects of Bed Bugs
People who are bitten by bed bugs don’t always feel the bites or even notice them at first. Bed bug bites can cause skin rashes, blisters, allergic reactions and even psychological problems.
How to Avoid Bed Bugs
If traveling, check your hotel room for bed bugs as soon as you arrive and before you open your luggage or place clothing on the bed or other furniture. Check the bed, chairs, sofas, nightstands and any other tables or furniture for the bugs and also keep an eye out for blood stains or bug feces.
If you do not find any bed bugs or signs of them in your room, don’t assume there aren’t any. Avoid inadvertently taking bed bugs home with you with some simple precautions. If possible, place your suitcase on a stand or table, as far away from the bed as possible. Keep your suitcase zipped up tight when not in use. Before heading home, pack your dirty clothes in sealable bags and wash them as soon as possible when you get home.
If you suspect that your hotel room does have bed bugs, certainly change rooms or hotels if possible and alert the hotel staff to your specific concern. Just because one room in a certain hotel has bed bugs, that does not always mean that all rooms in that hotel do.
What to do if You’re Bitten by a Bed Bug
If you do get bitten, do not scratch the bites. Wash the area and apply an anti-itch cream. Once you return home, wash all of your clothing – even the items you did not wear – as soon as possible, with the hottest water temp possible for that specific type of clothing. Also dry your clothing on “hot” if you can.
If you’re planning a trip and concerned about bed bugs, there are bed bug sprays and powders that you can bring with you to spray the bed in your hotel. Some sprays contain chemical insecticides but there are also natural, oil-based sprays on the market.