As the holiday season comes to a close many of us have wonderful memories, either from a fabulous vacation spot we’ve recently returned from, or simply having spent time with loved ones that had travelled from afar. Unfortunately, due to the recent resurgence of Bedbugs, for some unsuspecting victims, these wonderful memories can quickly turn into the biggest nightmare.
Bedbugs are one of the oldest insects known to man. They once lived in the caves of our prehistoric ancestors. Since they feed exclusively on blood, they tend to nest in very close proximity to their host, humans. The use of DDT in the 40’s and 50’s eliminated Bedbugs in the western world. This is why most people living today have never experienced or know of anyone who has had a Bedbug infestation. Many of us associate Bedbugs with that famous comforting quote “DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE”. The words a mother whispered in her child’s ear as she tucked them into bed and kissed them goodnight.
Many factors have contributed to the reappearance of Bedbugs in the last few years. The two most significant are the worldwide ban of DDT in the 1970’s, and the frequency of which people travel. Rich or poor, clean or dirty, Bedbugs do not discriminate. Since they do not live outdoors, they have to be brought into a home. They are great hitchhikers, and can easily squeeze themselves into your suitcase, the cracks of your shoes or any of your other belongings.
There are a few precautions one can take to prevent having to deal with a Bedbug nightmare. The most important is to stay away from, what we call, ‘high risk’ activity. This may include: bringing home furniture that others have discarded, having family and friends sleep over often, and most commonly, traveling.
Some ‘high risk’ activity however, is sometimes unavoidable. A health care worker or Social worker that is required to frequent many homes, or spend the night in a risky environment such as a group-home, as well as those that travel often for business and/or pleasure, must take extra precautions.
The following are some general rules to abide by when faced with the above-mentioned circumstances. Most importantly, before travelling, read the reviews on the hotel you’ll be staying at. You are particularly looking for comments past guests have posted relating to Bedbugs. You may find that the most prestigious hotels have had a Bedbug encounter. Don’t be alarmed! The critical issue is how these situations were/are dealt with, as well as the precautions the hotel has established to prevent their spread. Educating their housekeeping staff as to what to look out for, as well as prompt and thorough action when an infestation is identified, are just a few examples.
When arriving at your destination…
Once you feel comfortable with your choice of hotel, it doesn’t hurt to do some checking yourself. When arriving at your destination, leave your luggage by the door. Pull the covers and sheets back by the head of the bed to check for Bedbug stains. Inspect the headboard, as well as the edges of the box spring. You are looking for Bedbug excrement (feces) that appears as charcoal grey or reddish black dots clustered together by the seams of the mattress and/or box spring. You can also look between the mattress and box spring for signs. When an infestation is new, you may not necessarily see an actual Bedbug. This is why it is important to look for this ‘primary’ sign, stains. Supposing you do not find any evidence of Bedbugs but are still feeling anxious, place your belongings (toiletry/cosmetic bags, laptops, suitcases etc.), in the bathtub overnight. This will protect your things, as Bedbugs cannot climb up a porcelain bathtub. If you discover anything suspicious, of course, report your findings to the hotel management immediately!
Better Safe than Sorry…
Whether or not you encountered Bedbugs in your travels it is best to do the following when getting home. Leave some garbage/plastic bags by your front door or in your garage. When arriving home, immediately separate and place all the clothing from your trip into the bags, and then directly into your washing machine. Items that will ruin if washed should be kept in sealed bags and taken to be dry-cleaned. Inspect and vacuum personal items that cannot be washed. Most importantly, suitcases should be vacuumed thoroughly and placed in large garbage bags for storage in your garage or on your balcony. NEVER BRING SUITCASES UP TO YOUR BEDROOM!
I hope the above-mentioned recommendations will be helpful in preventing future Bedbug Infestations. For my next blog, I will focus on Bedbug habitat and treatment.