How To Check If Your Hotel Room Has Bed Bugs
Bed bugs and the itchy, red bites they impose are definitely not souvenirs you want to bring home after vacation. But, unfortunately, these hardy, fast-multiplying critters can hitchhike into hotels—and not just the cheap, roadside lodges, but luxury hotels and resorts, too. If you stay in a room that’s got them, the bug can also catch a ride home with you in your suitcase, invading your space, and causing a costly and stubborn infestation.
“Bed bugs are a primarily hitchhiking insect as opposed to a foraging one, meaning that they get carried around on people’s clothes and belongings,” says Christian Tweed, a service manager at Killingsworth Environmental, a North Carolina-based pest control service. “Someone with an active infestation in their home can easily bring bed bugs to their hotel, but bed bugs can also be picked up during travel—on airplanes, taxis and rideshare services—and brought to a hotel room.”
Orkin, a pest control company, published findings in 2017 that hotels, on average, spend $6,383 per bed bug incident. At the time of their analysis, eight in 10 hotels had dealt with bed bug issues within a year period.
So, how can you know if your hotel has bed bugs before you crawl under the covers? Here’s how pest management experts suggest you inspect your room upon check-in.
First, Keep Bed Bugs Out of Your Suitcase
Bed bugs are very mobile insects, but they’re not well-adapted to climb smooth surfaces, says Robert Puckett, Ph.D., an associate professor and extension entomologist at Texas A&M AgriLife.
So when you enter a hotel room, the first thing you should do is place your belongings in the bathtub, an area that’s tough for these critters to access, Puckett recommends.
Once you’ve inspected the room thoroughly (more on that below), you can move your belongings to the luggage stand, which often have stainless steel legs that are also difficult for these bugs to climb, Puckett says.
How to Check If Your Hotel Has Bed Bugs?
Start your inspection by zeroing in on the headboard, looking for bed bugs, their exoskeletons, and black stains they leave on the edges or in the crevices of headboards, Tweed recommends. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an appleseed and they’re reddish-brown in color, and they have flat, oval-shaped bodies.
Next, give the sheets, comforter, pillowcases, mattress, and box spring a good lookover for bed bug fecal stains, which are basically dried and digested blood that’s rusty red, brown, or black in color. Bed bugs can be on other upholstered furniture in the room and the baseboards, too. But they mostly come out at night, and are usually hiding during the daytime so they can be tough to spot unless you look in space where they’re burrowing.
If you find bed bugs, or signs of them, you should report the infestation to the hotel management team. If you get another room at the hotel, be sure it doesn’t share a contiguous wall, floor, or ceiling with the infested room, says Puckett.
Don’t Let Your Laundry Sit After You Get Home
In the case that you picked up some bed bugs, you don’t want to let them have an opportunity to invade your home by letting your suitcase or dirty clothes sit out.
When you come home, leave the luggage outside if possible and place all clothing directly into the laundry, says Garrett Thrasher, the vice president at Thrasher Termite Pest Control of So Cal, Inc. It’s not the water that kills bed bugs and bed bug eggs, it is drying clothes on the highest setting for 30 minutes, he says.
How to Know If You Have Bed Bug Bites?
Bed bug bites are blood feeders and they leave behind red, inflamed bites, says Dr. Laura Purdy, M.D., a board-certified family medicine physician.
“The bites are often in a small cluster on your skin and can even look like red pimples, welts, other typical bug bites or hives,” Purdy says.
Bed bugs tend to be most active at night, and they strike when you’re asleep because they’re attracted to your body heat, she explains.
Most bites will heal on their own, but you can consult your doctor for confirmation that you have bug bites.
You can use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help alleviate swelling and pain. A steroid cream may also help to decrease inflammation and itching and Benadryl can also help relieve the itching. A cold compress like a cold cloth or ice pack can bring relief, too, or you can make a thin paste of baking soda and water, Purdy suggests.
As hard as it may be, avoid scratching the bites, she says.