Imagine that you’re traveling and staying in a nice hotel. The next morning you discover bites and confirm that your room has bed bugs. What do you do? This is an increasingly common problem for travelers, as well as a nightmare for the hotel industry.
Recently a question came into our office from a person with just this experience. She had stayed in a hotel with bed bugs. Immediately after returning home she called her local health department and was advised to discard all her personal belonging if she didn’t want to bring the bed bugs home. She did this, and is now fighting with hotel management for reimbursement of the cost of her lost personal items.
While you should be legitimately concerned about bringing bed bugs home from a stay in an infested hotel, there are easier, less drastic solutions. After reporting the infestation to the hotel, there are several things you can do to protect yourself if you suspect you’ve stayed in a bed bug infested room:
- First, don’t panic. Not everyone who stays in a bed bug infested room will take bed bugs home. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to act as if you may have picked up a stray bed bug or two. The most likely place to pick up bed bugs in luggage is on, or next to, the bed. If you kept your luggage away from the bed, say on the luggage rack in the closet, your risk will be lower.
- Luggage should be kept in the garage or on an outdoor porch when arriving home. At your convenience take out washables and place in a garbage bag for direct transport to the washing machine. Place clothing in the washer and run on the high temperature cycle for at least 30 minutes. Placing in a drier on the HOT setting for 30 minutes (7.7 lb load) will also kill bed bugs and their eggs. Don’t forget to tie-up and throw out the empty garbage bag immediately after unloading the clothes into the washer. Suits and sweaters that cannot be washed in hot water should be sent to the dry cleaners (keep bill for possible reimbursement).
- Remaining items (toiletry, shoes, suitcase, etc.) should stay isolated outdoors until they can be carefully inspected or treated with heat, cold or insecticide. To kill bed bugs with heat, place items in a plastic bag in a hot, sunny location (summer) and raise temps to 120 degrees for an hour or more to kill. If you have a chest freezer with space, luggage can be dis-infested by placing in such a freezer for a day or two. If neither of these options are available, non-washables can be treated by a pest management professional using Nuvan Prostrips (dichlorvos) fumigant strips. Items to be treated are placed in a 2-mil thick (minimum) plastic bag with fumigant strips for 48 hours.