The Norman Transcript

June 8, 2014

Avoid hitchhiking bed bugs during travels

By Brenda Hill, Ph.D.
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Do you like to travel? It turns out that bed bugs do, too. With summer just around the corner, family vacation season will soon be in full swing, and that means being prepared to avoid picking up any unwelcome passengers.

Beg bugs can’t fly or jump, but they are fantastic hitchhikers. Taking a few simple precautions as you travel can cut your risk of exposure to this annoying pest.

Adult bed bugs are about the size and shape of an apple seed. Mainly active at night, they need a blood meal to survive and feed almost exclusively on humans. Reactions to being bitten vary from person to person. Some people have no reaction, while others may experience itchy, red welts or localized swelling within a day or two.

One way to cut your exposure to bed bugs while traveling is check your motel or hotel room for signs of the pest before settling in. Start by storing your suitcases in the clean, dry bathtub or leaving your luggage just outside the room.

Heavily infested rooms could smell sweet or musty, like rotten raspberries and/or moldy shoes. The odor most likely will be strongest under the headboard and mattress. Take a deep breath. If something smells off, don’t hesitate to ask for another room.

Bed bugs are commonly found in beds and sleeping areas. Most bed bugs hide within 15 feet of the bed and are likely to be found at the top of the bed.

Carefully pull back the blankets, sheets and mattress pad at the top of the bed to search for eggs, bugs, blood and black fecal spots, which are signs of a bed bug infestation. Pay close attention to the box springs, headboards, seams, tufts and crevices of mattresses.

Bed bugs also can make themselves at home in upholstered chairs and sofas, especially if the furniture is used for sleeping. They can be found in the cracks, crevices and recesses of nightstands and dressers, as well. Check the luggage rack for signs of the pests by looking on and under the straps.

After inspecting your room and the luggage rack, and confirming to the best of your ability that no bed bugs are present, it is OK to move your luggage into the room. Never set your suitcase on the bed or other cloth-covered furniture. Use the luggage rack or a hard surface such as a desk.

Once you return home, unpack immediately in a location other than your bedroom, such as the bathroom or garage. Then wash and dry all your clothing. Heat effectively kills bed bugs.

Put items that can be laundered into the dryer on medium high heat for at least 20 minutes, then wash and dry them again to ensure all pests were eliminated.

It is also a good idea to take your luggage outside and clean the interior and pockets to be sure there are no signs of bed bugs.

For more information, call the Cleveland County Extension office at 321-4774.

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