Traveling? 9 Ways to Guard Against Bedbugs

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Are you planning a getaway to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York or Columbus, Ohio? What about Los Angeles, Detroit, Cincinnati, Philadelphia or San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose?

Wherever you travel, you have a decent chance of bringing bedbugs home with you, but that is especially true if you visit cities on the list of Top 50 Cities for bedbug infestations, compiled by pest-control company Orkin. And, no, the problem is not confined to what were once called “flea-bag” hotels.

Bedbug infestations, are “not a sign of uncleanliness,” said Ron Harrison, an entomologist and director of technical services for Orkin. “Bedbugs only need blood to survive. We have treated for bedbugs in everything from million dollar homes to public housing.”

Bedbugs were almost unheard of a decade ago, but now impact single family homes, apartments, hotels and an array of public places including movie theaters, public transit, libraries and offices, said Harrison. They hitch rides in luggage, shoes, handbags and other everyday items. And if they infest your home, extermination could cost up to $1,500, reports Angie’s List.

So just how do you guard against bringing these pesky hitchhikers home with you when you travel? Consider these 9 expert tips:

1. Prepare for the worst

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Before you pack, set your suitcase on a coffee table and spray it with insecticide or eucalyptus oil, advises AARP. That will help ward off bugs. Pack clothes in tight zip-lock bags. Never hang up clothes in the hotel room. Instead keep them in the zip-locked bags during your trip, advises AARP.

2. Search the bed for signs of bugs

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It’s fairly easy to see signs of bedbugs if you have plentiful light, reports Orkin. Pack a small flashlight and closely examine sheets, headboards, mattresses and box springs, paying special attention to cracks and crevices. Bedbugs are the size of apple seeds and can easily hide. Spots of digested blood from the bugs are generally the size of the actual bedbug.

3. Examine beyond the bed

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Bedbugs can hide behind picture frames, under telephones and even in the Bible stored in the bedside stand, reports Health magazine. Sofas, chairs and pillows are other hiding places. Generally bedbugs stay within 15 feet from the bed, but can be farther away.

4. Keep your luggage off the floor

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Also, don’t lean it against a wall. In fact, the bathroom may be the best place for it. “Bedbugs are least likely to be found in the bathroom,” Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association, tells Health magazine. “They don’t like the tile floors, and there aren’t as many hiding places. They like to be closer to where people may be sleeping.”

5. Don’t be fooled by renovated rooms

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Bedbugs can live without blood for up to 18 months, and females lay up to four eggs a day, Jeff Eisenberg, author of “The Bed Bug Survival Guide” tells AARP. Even if the room is newly renovated, check for bugs.

6. Follow your nose

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If you smell something musty or bitter, the room may be infested with bedbugs, reports Prevention magazine. Although some report the smell of bedbugs is akin to that of spoiled raspberries, Terminix notes it is often likened to the herb coriander.

7. Do a skin check

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Everyone gets bug bites, bumps and bruises. If you have a number of bites when you awake, though, bedbugs could be the culprits. One rule of thumb, according to Prevention magazine: Three red welts grouped together are generally thought to be from bedbugs.

8. Unpack outside your home

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If you suspect you encountered bedbugs, unpack your whole suitcase outside your house (such as in a garage), recommends Real Simple. Put your empty suitcase with no-pest strips inside a sealed garbage bag for at least two weeks, Real Simple advises.

9. Thoroughly clean your clothes and other items

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Heat kills bedbugs. Eisenberg, speaking to AARP, recommends that upon return from a trip, all clothes be put in the dryer. A PackTite heater (not cheap) or steam vapor cleaning (for shoes, coats and other items) also kills the bugs.

Enjoy your getaway, but make sure you guard against bedbugs. If you do spot or suspect bedbugs in your room, immediately report your findings to hotel management. Some states require hoteliers to take certain measures to guard against bedbugs, and common law in every state requires hotels to take reasonable measures to protect you, reports USA Today.

Have you ever encountered bedbugs in your travels? Share your experience with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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