Unwanted Visitors on your Travels: Bed Bugs
Many of you will remember the old nursery rhyme “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Bed bugs were once a common occurrence throughout the world, but with use of insecticides bed bugs infestations declined in the 1940s. Bed bugs are not, however, just a thing of the past. There has been a resurgence of bed bugs over the last decade across the globe, especially in hotels, college dorms, multi-family housing units, hospitals, etc. Bed bugs are a common concern for travellers as even 5-star hotels and have been found to have bed bug infestations. Here’s what you need to know about bed bugs and how to deal with them if they decide to join you on your vacation.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, oval, non-winged, reddish-brown insects that are usually 5mm to 7mm long. They feed solely on the blood of sleeping people and animals so are most active at night. They usually feed weekly but can live for several months (and sometimes up to a year!) without a blood meal.
Where can bed bugs be found?
Bed bug infestations occur throughout the world, including North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. You don’t need to travel to a developing country to come face to face with bed bugs. There has been a resurgence of bed bugs in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and across Europe. The presence of bed bugs is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions they are found, so infestations can occur in 5-star hotels and resorts.
Bed bugs do not live on blood hosts, but only visit them to feed. They like to be close to their hosts which is why they are usually found in beds, such as the seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards. They also like to hide in objects close to beds such as dressers, night tables, behind wallpaper, or among other objects around the bed. Bed bugs can travel to new homes on clothing, backpacks, luggage, and books.
What do bed bug bites look like?
Bed bug bites tend to appear from 1 to 14 days after being bitten. The bite usually looks like a slightly swollen red area that may feel itchy and irritated. People respond to bug bites differently so some people may have no reaction at all. Other people might be allergic to bed bug bites and have enlarged and painful swelling of the bite mark, and rarely anaphylaxis. Bed bug bites may be random or in a straight line, especially around the face, neck, arms and hands.
The health risks of bed bugs
Bed bugs are not dangerous and are not known to spread disease. An allergic reaction may need medical attention, as can bites that become infected due to scratching. Applying an antiseptic or antibiotic cream to the bite can help prevent infection. A bed bug infestation can also take a toll on a person’s mental health causing stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Signs of a bed bug infestation
In addition to the tell-tale bedbug bites, there may be other clues that your room has bed bugs:
- Dark, rusty-coloured spotting and staining from bed bugs’ feces and blood from crushed insects on sheets, pillow, mattress, bed frame, carpets, clothing, etc.
- Old skins (exoskeletons) after molting
- A sweet, musty odour from bed bugs’ scent glands in extreme infestations
Avoid bringing bed bugs home from your vacation!
- When checking into your accommodation inspect the room for signs of bed bugs including:
- Mattress, box springs, bed frames, headboards, couches
- In, under, and behind furniture
- Under items on nightstands
- Cracks along baseboards
- Behind paintings
- Store luggage away from the bed and off the floor, such as on a luggage stand
- Most people don’t realize they are transporting bed bugs so inspect your clothing, backpacks, and luggage before bringing items into your home
- If you suspect your accommodation has a bed bug infestation – stay elsewhere!
Getting rid of bed bugs
Bed bugs can be treated by chemical or non-chemical means. If your home has a bed bug infestation it’s recommended to contact a qualified pest management professional, which will usually use chemical insecticides or very high heat.
To avoid bringing bed bugs back from your travels wash bedding, clothing, and backpacks in hot water or laundry detergent and dry your clean clothes and non-washable items in clothes dryer at a high temperature for at least 30 minutes. Items that can’t be washed or put in the dryer can be steam cleaned. You can also buy chemical spray to treat objects that cannot be washed.
For more information about treating bed bugs in your home visit HealthLinkBC: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/bed-bugs
TravelSafe Immunization Clinic