Ahh, summer is here… and that means it’s time for many Atlanta residents to enjoy a well-deserved vacation. But summer is also prime bed bug season. Make the most of your travels by keeping a few simple bed bugs prevention tips in mind.
PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP
You can come into contact with bed bugs just about anywhere – they have been found in all 50 states, in all types of locations. The assumption one must be a poor housekeeper or have poor hygiene to have these pests is simply untrue. They are good hitchhikers and can hide in luggage, clothing, bedding, furniture, boxes, and other places. Bed bugs are an equal-opportunity pest and can easily be transported from place to place as people travel.
- Do your research when selecting a hotel. Remember that bed bugs don’t discriminate– just because it’s a five-star hotel don’t assume that a hotel will be pest free. Check out online bed bug registries. Read reviews (cautiously) but also keep in mind that anonymous reviews aren’t always impartial so use your best judgment.
- When you make your reservation ask the hotel about their bed bug prevention and treatment policies. Many hotels work with pest management companies to conduct proactive inspections.
- Use hard-cased luggage, if possible. It is more difficult for bed bugs to attach to rigid materials than to fabric.
- Pack your clothing in resealable plastic bags. Bring extra bags in a variety of sizes for items you buy on your trip.
- Pack a small, bright flashlight to be better able to inspect your room once you arrive.
INSPECTING YOUR ROOM
It is important that you take some precautions to ensure your room is bed-bug free before settling in.
- Watch where you put your suitcase. When you first enter the hotel room, place your luggage on a hard elevated surface (like on a dresser) or on the tile floor of the bathroom. Do NOT place your suitcase on the bed, on upholstered furniture, or on the floor.
- Check the entire room before unpacking – here’s where your flashlight comes in handy! Thoroughly inspect all the nooks and crannies of your hotel room.
- Be sure to know what to look for. Bed bugs are about the size and shape of an apple seed (oval in shape and brown or reddish in color). They are experts at hiding and can squeeze into cracks and crevices as small as the width of a credit card, often going unnoticed.
- Other clues to look for are dark red blood stains; small black or brown spots (dried feces) that look like mold or ground pepper; piles of light brown skin casings /molted bed bugs’ shells/ shed skins; and most notably, an unusual smell – a sweet and musty, yet offensive odor that some compare to overripe raspberries.
- Inspect the hotel mattress, pillows, and behind the headboard. Pull back the sheets and inspect seams, edges, and folds in both the mattress and the box spring, particularly at the corners.
- Inspect upholstered sofa/chairs, nightstand and dresser drawers, under the telephone and alarm clock, carpets, closets, and wall hangings.
- If you find signs of bed bugs, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately. Bed bugs may spread to adjacent rooms via the wallboards or electrical sockets so be sure that you move to a room at least two floors away.
WHILE ON VACATION
- Keep your bags on the desktop, on top of the dresser, or on a luggage stand away from the wall. Keep bags closed when not in use.
- Keep your clothes and suitcase off of the bed, couch or chair, floor, and other soft surfaces.
- Do not put your clothing in drawers. Keep your clothes in your luggage.
- Don’t stow your shoes in the closet. Put them in an open area, such as on the bathroom tile floor. Or keep them inside your luggage.
- Don’t leave clothing lying out. Put all dirty clothes in bed bug-proof laundry bags.
- Recheck your bags before you leave the hotel. If you find bed bugs on your suitcase or clothes, leave them there. It’s much cheaper to buy yourself a new suitcase and outfit than it is to pay for a complete bed bug extermination of your home.
- After your trip, carefully inspect your suitcase before bringing it into the house. Examine seams, pockets and straps. Remember: bed bugs travel by hitching rides.
- Unpack your luggage right away. Do so outdoors or in an uncarpeted room like the garage or bathroom. Unpack your luggage against light-colored surfaces so you can easily see if any bed bugs have hitched a ride in your suitcase.
- Shake out clothing in a bathtub or shower.
- Wash all clothing – even those items that you didn’t wear – including your traveling clothes. Wash and dry your clothing in hot water and dry on the highest setting (more than 140°F to be safe) for at least 20 minutes.
- If you can’t wash your clothing, dry cleaning or steam cleaning will kill bed bugs in fabrics (including soft luggage).
- Alternatively, items that cannot be washed may be subject to extreme temperatures. You can leave your clothes in the extreme heat (over 140°F) or cold (below 32°F) for a few days.
- Thoroughly vacuum out or steam the inside and outside of your suitcase before storing away.
These steps may seem tedious, but it’s much easier to keep bed bugs out of your home than try to get them out once they settle in. If you suspect that you’ve brought home bed bugs from a vacation, call a Truly Nolen pest control professional as soon as possible to conduct an inspection. The sooner you involve a professional the better the chances to prevent the infestation from spreading. Bed bugs are not a do-it-yourself pest and continue to be one of the most difficult pests to treat, more so than cockroaches, ants, or termites.