Vacationing with bed bugs

If you’re among the millions of American vacationers this summer, you may want to pack a plan for how to avoid bed bugs.  Yes, those tiny blood-sucking insects you’ve heard about on the news might just be waiting for you in a hotel or hostel.

I admit that I’ve not yet personally stayed in a hotel room with bed bugs (although I know others who have, and I’ve seen evidence of bed bugs in very nice hotels).  Most hotels and hotel rooms around the country are bed bug free, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe.  Here are a few simple steps to reduce your chance of picking up bed bugs while traveling:

  • When you first enter your hotel room, place your bags in the bathroom (the least likely place for bed bugs).  Setting your luggage or purse on or next to a bed increases your risk of bed bugs climbing aboard and hitching a ride home.  Most bed bugs in a hotel room are likely to be found in and around a bed or on the easy chair.  Avoid dumping your stuff on the carpet.
  • It’s a good idea to use a small flashlight to check around headboards and on the seams of your bed mattress.  Look for clusters of very dark fecal spots (poppy seed size) near cracks or on mattress seams.  Keep your eye open for live insects also.  They will move fast and be the size of an apple seed or smaller.  If you are unsure of something you’ve found, show it to the hotel clerk (By the way, I do my checks quickly without much fuss, especially when I’m tired, because bed bugs can be very difficult to find–even for professionals.  But I admit that I feel a little better having even a quick look around, nevertheless).
  • Once I’ve checked the bed, I use my flashlight to check the luggage rack.  If it looks clean, I’ll put my luggage on the luggage rack for the rest of my stay.
  • If, despite your best efforts, you think you’ve encountered bed bugs during a hotel stay, check out my April post about how to avoid bring bed bugs home.

Are some city destinations more risky for bed bugs?  Yes, according to a story this week by Orkin Pest Control, who recently published their top 50 cities for bed bugs.  At the top of the list is Cincinnati, Ohio (population 296,000).  It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the folks from Cincinnati, whose city ranks several places ahead of New York City (6th place), despite the Big Apple’s reputation as a bed bug haven and its much larger population (8.2 million). Other notable bed bug hot spots include Chicago (2nd place), Denver (4th place) and Detroit (5th place).  In Texas, 29th place Dallas still looks relatively good compared to Ohio and New York.  Our fourth largest U.S. city, Houston, is ranked 18th on the bed bug list; and Austin, the only other Texas city, is listed as 44th.

What does this all mean?  The data clearly show that bed bugs are not uniformly distributed throughout the U.S., and you might want to be extra careful when traveling to some of the top bed bug towns. Don’t assume that nice hotels are immune from bed bug infestations; they aren’t.  And wherever you go, bed bugs could have gotten there ahead of you.

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