Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite....

An article on Huffington Post today has me thinking of something I use to say to my kids when they were younger:  “Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite”, which for most of us, is just a cute little night time ritual.  But recent outbreaks in hotels across major US cities have made headlines, causing concerns and prompting Bedbug Summits around the country to sell out.

Cimex lectularius, or bedbug, gets its nickname from its preferred hiding place of beds or other furniture where humans sleep.  These blood sucking parasites are not completely nocturnal, but they are most active at night; going un-noticed by its host until red, itchy bite marks appear in either a rough line or a cluster on exposed areas of the victim.  Some victims of bedbug bites experience welts and allergic reactions.

So now that we are all scratching (and a bit paranoid), let’s talk about the best way to avoid bringing these little critters home as a souvenir.

First things first.  Remember that no amount of stars can make a hotel or resort immune from a begbug infestation (see Huffington Post article).  Be sure and check websites such as The Bedbug Registry prior to making reservations.  Also be sure and read reviews from other travelers on websites such as TripAdvisor to get unbiased reviews and opinions of hotels/resorts you are considering.  

Once you get to your room, leave your luggage with the bellhop, outside, or place it in the bathroom since bedbugs are not likely to hang out there.  Do not place your luggage on the bed.  Proceed to check the room for bedbugs using the guidelines outlined here.  If bedbugs are found, request a new room immediately and start the process over.

Once you are settled into your room, be sure and keep your luggage elevated since there are other bugs that can crawl in and make a home.  When leaving, be sure to shake out all articles of clothing and your suitcase before repacking.

Also remember that bedbugs do not only hide in beds.  You can pick up one of these hitchhikers in a cab, on a bus or train, other furniture you may come in contact with during your travels such as seats in the airport or even on the plane.  If you check your bag, a bedbug can wonder into your luggage from another traveler's luggage, which has prompted some airports to offer machines that will wrap your suitcase in plastic.  Once you return home from your vacation, quickly wash ALL articles of clothing (even clothing you did not wear) in warm, soapy water and dry them on the highest temperature setting possible. 

Taking precautions will not guarantee that you do not come home with unwanted guests, but it will reduce your chances.  If you find, or suspect, that you have brought home bedbugs, a quick response is necessary since bedbugs reproduce quickly.  There are various treatments for bedbugs ranging from do-it-yourself remedies to having a professional exterminator come in.  Your treatment may depend on the severity of your infestation.

So, next time someone says to you “Good Night, Sleep Tight" will you run and pull back the sheets to make sure the bedbugs truly won’t bite?!  I know I will.....

For more information on the prevention and treatment of bedbugs, click here.