Bed Bugs Make Bad Travel Buddies

    The following is a contribution from Susan Sternthal at InnStyle.

    Hotels are bed bug hives.

    Okay, so this description is going to sound unflattering to those who work in the hospitality industry.  But for pest control professionals, it’s difficult to view hotels the way the rest of society sees hotels. After all, hotels solicit the services of pest control professionals more than most people would guess (or care to know).

    While some hotels don’t clean enough or educate their staff about spotting bed bugs, most establishments have bed bug problems because of factors outside of their control. Simply put, hotels can’t search their guests’ luggage, find out their cleaning habits, or examine individual articles of clothing, all of which are prime causes of bed bug outbreaks.

    How bed bugs spread
    Bed bugs can spread quite quickly, and it’s hard to assign anyone blame when they arrive.
    For example, let’s say a woman—we’ll call her Nancy—is traveling from Cincinnati to New York on a business trip. Nancy’s home doesn’t have a bed bug problem, but -- unbeknownst to her -- the house where her kids hang out after school does.

    This becomes relevant when one of her son’s socks gets mixed in with her clothing for the trip. When Nancy arrives in New York, she notices the sock and thinks nothing of it. Unfortunately, her son’s sock is carrying four bed bugs. Now Nancy has an infested bag propped up against the bed in her hotel room. By the time she returns from a day of meetings, the bugs have crawled into the mattress area and begun to multiply. The room is now infested and because Nancy never notices, future tenants are in danger of bringing bugs home in their luggage. None of this is Nancy’s fault, but she could have avoided this situation with four easy steps.

    1. Inspect your baggage
    People don’t clean their luggage often enough. Although bags get tossed into the bottoms of planes and rolled down airport floors, people rarely examine them for the presence of bed bugs. Nancy’s bag wasn’t the cause of her problem, but it couldn’t have hurt her to give it a quick inspection.

    2. Check your clothing
    This one is tough, because there are so many places for bed bugs to hide in clothing, but this was Nancy’s biggest oversight. When you’re carrying a bunch of clothing from place to place, it’s vital to check them for bugs, especially if you have clean and dirty clothes mixed together. If you have some piece of clothing in your bag that doesn’t belong to you (like a pair of socks), you should definitely check this article for bugs.

    3. Remember: Your hotel room is only yours for a short time
    It’s tempting not to clean up when you’re at a hotel. We’re not saying you have to do housekeeping’s job for them, but you should try to remember that what happens in your room can affect future guests. By not inspecting her mattress, Nancy opened the door to future infestations.

    4. Don’t bring bed bugs to your bedroom
    When you get home, unpack your suitcase downstairs and clean it. Take every item out and wash and dry them before bringing any clothes or your suitcase back into your bedroom.

    If you’re going to check for bed bugs, it’s helpful to know what you’re looking for. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the best way to spot an infestation is to look for physical signs of the bugs:
    • Rusty or reddish stains on sheets or mattresses, caused by bed bugs being squashed.
    • Dark spots (roughly this size: •) which are bed bug excrement and could bleed into the fabric, the way a marker would.
    • Check for eggs and egg shells, and the pale yellow skins the young bed bug nymphs shed as they get older.
    • Look for bed bugs themselves. They are light brown or reddish brown about .16 to .2 inches long, flat and oval-shaped.
    If you lift your mattress, after a guest leaves, or every time you change your linens, it gives you an opportunity to see if you have any evidence of bed bugs. Bed bugs prefer the area near the top of the bed where a person’s head lies. Bed bugs (or their eggs) can also be found along the corners of your carpets (hiding in there) and also behind picture frames on the wall. If you remove a picture off the wall, you can see the same red marks on the back of the artwork that you may find on your sheets or mattress since bed bugs can crawl. This is one reason that we always recommend using luggage racks and never putting luggage on a bed!

    InnStyle has a product called Rest Easy that can be sprayed along the edge of the carpet, around the edge of the mattress and box spring after a guest leaves your property or home. Obviously, if you have a real infestation, you will need to call an exterminator knowledgeable in this area. This is why we recommend protection before an infestation begins. In addition to encouraging inspections, hotels can also reduce bed bug infestations by installing bed bug mattress encasements. These products trap and kill bed bugs and their eggs by cutting them off from food and water. Covering all of your mattresses with bed bug encasements doesn't need to be expensive.

    Learn more about bed bug protection, view bed bug statistics and other products available in bed bug protection at the InnStyle website. Contact InnStyle via e-mail at info@innstyle.com, or telephone at 800-877-4667.
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