Bedbugs are both the rite of passage and the scourge of any long-term traveller. Some say you haven’t truly travelled long-term until you’ve met these nasty little creatures at least once. I’ve personally suffered through several attacks, some major but most very minor. Here’s some tips on what to do if you come into contact with bedbugs.
What Are Bedbugs?
Bedbugs are crawling, blood-sucking insects. The rusty-brown coloured adult bugs can grow up to half a centimetre long, while the nymphs are translucent and start at around a millimetre.
Bedbugs usually eat while their ‘prey’ sleeps, after which they hide nearby until their next feeding session, up to five days later.
Where Do Bedbugs Hide?
Bedbugs get their names because they are commonly found in and around beds. But this isn’t their only ‘hunting’ grounds. They will hide anywhere where there’s a good source of food; wardrobes, clothing, living-room chairs, couches, or even buses and trains. The London Tube rail systems been known to have an infestation in recent times.
Do You Have Bedbugs?
Unlike mosquitos and fleas, which bite randomly, bedbugs bite in clusters, leaving red itchy bites on the elbows, lower back or around the knees and ankles. The most common symptom is a line of bites, usually three or four in number. Depending on the size of the infestation, the number of bites can expand into the hundreds after only a couple of days.
Another means to determine if you’ve been attacked is by finding blood spots or smears on your sheets. When a bedbug has eaten it is slow and blood-bloated. They’re susceptible to being crushed if you should turn over in the night, exploding in a bloody smear.
The only true way to identify if you have bedbugs is to actually see one. This can be difficult unless you have a major infestation as they are usually only active between 2 and 5 a.m. Doing a thorough search of the bed during these hours should turn up at least one, often under the pillow or around the mattress fringing.
Checking For Bedbugs
When arriving at a new hostel, hotel or wherever you’re staying, it’s always a good idea to check if there may be an infestation. While you are more likely to find bed bugs in lower market accommodations, the more upmarket hotels can suffer infestations as well.
Check under the pillow, in the folds at the edges of mattresses, in tiny cracks in the woodwork and even around the corners of the wall. If there are no obvious bugs or small bloodspots then the room is probably free of bedbugs, but there are no guarantees here.
Avoid Spreading Bedbugs
If the bed you’ve been sleeping in has even one bedbug, there’s a chance that when you leave you’ll take it with you. Here are a few tips how not to spread bedbugs…
Don’t Put Your Bag On The Bed
Bedbugs look for places to hide both after they’ve eaten and if they’ve been disturbed. If your bag is on the bed, they may decide to take up residence. Most hotels have frames for you to put your bags on, but if yours doesn’t try to store your bag as far from the bed as possible. Unfortunately, if the room has a serious infestation they may find their way in anyway.
Shower In The Morning
The clothes you sleep in may take on a new travelling companion. If you plan to use them again leave them on the bed, otherwise shower and place them in a sealed plastic bag. As bedbugs are susceptible to heat, wash your clothes at 60ºC to kill them.
Getting Rid Of Bedbugs While Travelling
If you’re travelling long-term, limiting the infestation should be a high priority.
The best opportunity to get rid of bedbugs is when you’re about to move to a new location. Just before moving, get a couple of changes of clothing washed in hot water, 60ºC is best. These clothes should be free of infestation so when they are returned seal them in a plastic bag straight away.
On arrival at your new hostel/hotel, shower immediately and change into the clothes from the sealed bag. Then wash all the rest of your clothes in hot water. Then wash everything else you own. Everything. Spare shoes, sleeping bags, even find a large sink and drown your pack in hot soapy water.
Getting Rid Of Bedbugs At Home
If you manage to bring bedbugs home after your travels, here are a couple of suggestions as how to clean your home.
After washing everything, spray with a suitably strong insecticide, this includes your clothes, bed and your bed sheets. Leave it a few days and then spray everything again. Note, as insecticides are poisonous, overuse may have side effects. So go carefully.
Insect Bombs And Other Haze Insecticides
After following the processes above, buy some insect bombs and release them throughout your home. Results aren’t guaranteed, as bedbugs have begun evolving resistances to common insecticides, but it may be enough.
Burn You Bed
As silly as it may sound if you have a serious infestation and none of the above methods have worked, the only real way to deal with them is to get rid of your bed. Because most mattresses have ‘breathing holes’ built in, bedbugs can hide inside and be protected from sprays and insect bombs. As an alternative, you could always just move to a new house.
Until next time,