Bedbug infestations are on the rise, but savvy travellers know how to stop the pests from spoiling holiday trips.
Before you settle into a hotel room, check for signs of the tiny blood-sucking parasites, advised Dr. Theodore Rosen, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of dermatology at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. Infestations have been on the rise in the United States for the past several years.
A few years ago a huge infestation of bed bugs at a backpacker's hostel in Cape Town showed that bed bugs also occur in South Africa.
Bedbugs tend to stay within a meter of a bed but may move farther. Check the mattress, box spring and bed frame, both sides of the headboard, and the inside and back of the nightstand.
"Bedbugs tend to settle in corners, so make sure to pay attention to those areas. Look closely anywhere there's a 90-degree angle," Rosen said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release.
Bedbugs are roughly the size of an apple seed, so they and their eggs can be difficult to spot, he warned.
What to do if you see signs of bedbugs in your hotel room
Signs of bedbug infestation include specks of blood, small dark spots of bedbug excrement and their discarded outer shells. A sweet, musty odor in the room may indicate a heavy infestation of the tiny bloodsuckers.
If you see signs of bedbugs in hotels, ask for another room that is not next to, immediately above or immediately below the infested room, Rosen said.
Store your luggage as high and as far away from the bed as possible. Place suitcases on the dresser or luggage rack instead of on the floor or the bed. Hang clothes in the closet, rather than putting them in drawers where bedbugs may be hiding.
If you think you picked up bedbugs at a hotel, inspect all of your belongings when you get home, ideally before you take anything inside. If you find evidence of bedbugs, wash and dry all the clothes using the hottest settings, and vacuum or steam clean your luggage.
But even people who take all the right precautions can still be affected by bedbugs.
"People associate bedbugs with filth, but a bedbug infestation doesn't mean you're dirty. Anyone can get bedbugs, no matter how clean or careful they are," Rosen said.
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Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention