Remember that old rhyme, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite?” That was just a saying, wasn’t it? Bed bugs weren’t really real, were they? Well, like most childhood rhymes this one was based on reality. Bed bugs are very real. So what are they? Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that survive by feeding on the blood of warm-blooded humans and other animals. They have been around forever but nearly vanished as pests in the 1940’s – 50’s. However, bed bug infestations have been on the rise for years and the problem seems to be getting worse. Here are some things you can do to help protect yourself against bed bugs while traveling.
Bed bugs do not read hotel ratings and reviews. (As a matter of fact, I don’t believe they read at all.) This means that they will occupy a five star hotel as easily as they will occupy a one star hotel. They do not have a hotel preference and if bed bugs are present, there’s not much that can be done to prevent them from biting you. Hungry bed bugs are very persistent and they do not discriminate. They will bite anyone anywhere. The best defense is to avoid sleeping anywhere near bed bugs.
When you enter your room at a hotel, cabin, on a cruise ship, or anywhere you plan to sleep – first inspect the room. Bed bugs like to live in dark places and they don’t necessarily need to live inside a mattress. You’ll want to check the mattress and any dark places nearby it. Examine the bed. Pull back the covers of the bed and check for red or dark brown spots on top of the mattress and along the seams. Check underneath the mattress as well. Look behind any headboards or night stands. Check behind any pictures that are hung above the bed or near it. Also, check inside drawers before unpacking your clothes. If you see any signs of bed bugs, inform hotel personnel and request a new room immediately.
Insect repellents may help but minimally as these are not proven to deter bed bugs and in any case, they tend to wear off after a few hours. Using sleep sacks or bringing your own bedding may not be very effective against bed bugs either. Since bed bugs do not need to live inside the mattress, they can simply crawl inside a sack or on top of your own sheets. The best defense is to check to see if they’re present and if so, leave.
Bed bugs are not unlike any other blood-sucking creatures in that we prefer to avoid them. They’ve been around for a long time and will continue to be around so don’t freak out about them. Educate yourself about bed bugs and make it a habit to thoroughly check your sleeping area when you first arrive. By being aware and being proactive, you won’t let the bed bugs bite!