How to Avoid Bringing Bedbug Souvenirs Back From Your European Vacation

by Michael Franco
close up of a bed bug

Traveling is an exciting venture that broadens horizons and creates lasting memories, but the rising concern of bedbug outbreaks in major cities like Paris and London has cast a shadow on this joy.

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The last thing anyone wants is to inadvertently bring these unwelcome hitchhikers back home to the U.S.

What Are Bedbugs?

Bed bugs, scientifically known as Cimex lectularius, are small, non-flying insects that feed only on human and animal blood. These parasitic pests belong to the Cimicidae family and have been unwelcome companions to humans for centuries. Ranging from 1 to 7 millimeters in size, bedbugs are flat, oval-shaped insects with a reddish-brown hue. They are adept at hiding in cracks, crevices and the seams of mattresses and furniture, emerging primarily at night to feed on their hosts.

Bed bugs are attracted to the warmth we radiate and the carbon dioxide we exhale during sleep, making beds and sleeping areas their primary habitats. While their bites are generally not known to transmit diseases, they can cause itchy, red welts on the skin. The resilience of bed bugs is notable, as they can survive for several months without feeding.

Severe infestations often require professional pest control intervention, as these insects are skilled at evading detection and can rapidly reproduce. Understanding the characteristics and habits of bed bugs is crucial for effective prevention and management to ensure a pest-free living environment.

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Avoiding Bedbug Infestations Abroad

Preventing bedbug infestations starts with proactive measures during your travels. Before settling into your accommodations, conduct a thorough inspection of the room. Begin with the bed, lifting the mattress and checking seams, folds and crevices. Inspect the headboard, nightstands and any upholstered furniture in the room. Look for small reddish-brown bugs, molted exoskeletons and tiny white eggs. Remember that bedbugs can hide in cracks as thin as a credit card, so be meticulous in your examination.

Consider bringing a small flashlight to aid in your inspection, as bedbugs are nocturnal and tend to hide in dark places. If you spot any signs of bedbugs, request a room change or consider finding alternative accommodations.

Clothes and Luggage Hygiene

Once you've enjoyed your stay and are ready to head back to the U.S., it's crucial to take preventive measures to ensure you don't unwittingly transport bedbugs. Start by keeping your luggage elevated and away from the bed or upholstered furniture during your stay. Upon returning home, follow these steps to wash your clothes and sanitize your luggage:

Laundering Clothes

  • Separate your clothes into two categories: washable and non-washable.
  • Wash washable clothes in hot water, preferably at a temperature above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius), as this is effective in killing bedbugs and their eggs.
  • Dry clothes on high heat for at least a half hour to make sure any lingering bedbugs are eliminated.

Treating Non-Washable Items

  • Items that can't be laundered, such as shoes or delicate fabrics, can be treated with a bedbug-killing spray. Be sure to follow the product's instructions carefully.

Luggage Sanitization and Storage

  • Vacuum the interior of your luggage thoroughly, paying special attention to seams and pockets.
  • Wipe down the exterior with a disinfectant or bedbug-killing solution.
  • Consider using a bedbug-proof luggage liner for added protection during future travels.
  • Don’t store your luggage under your bed! This can allow any lingering bedbugs to easily find their way to their favorite location: your mattress.

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Signs of a Bedbug Infestation

If you've taken all of the above steps, you should be fine. However, if you've missed something, recognizing the signs of a bedbug infestation is crucial for swift intervention. Keep an eye out for the following indicators:

Visible Bedbugs

Adult bedbugs are approximately the size of an apple seed and are reddish-brown in color. Younger bedbugs — nymphs — are smaller and lighter in color.

Bite Marks

Bedbug bites are often clustered or can show up in linear patterns and can cause itching. However, not everyone reacts to bedbug bites, so the absence of bites does not necessarily mean an absence of bedbugs.

Tiny Blood Stains

Bedbugs feed on blood and may leave behind tiny bloodstains on sheets, pillowcases, or other bedding.

Dark Stains

Bedbugs excrete dark stains, resembling small ink spots, on bedding and other surfaces.

Molted Exoskeletons

As bedbugs grow, they shed their exoskeletons, leaving behind translucent shells.

Getting Rid of Bedbugs

If you suspect a bedbug infestation in your home, prompt and thorough action is essential. Consider the following options:

Deep Cleaning

Vacuum your home thoroughly, paying close attention to seams, cracks, and crevices where bedbugs may hide. Wash all bedding, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry on high heat.

Professional Pest Control

Word with a professional pest control company experienced in dealing with bedbug infestations. They may use a combination of chemical treatments, heat treatments, and other methods to eliminate the pests.

Isolation of Infested Items

Seal infested items, such as bedding or clothing, in plastic bags. This will keep the bedbugs from spreading while awaiting professional treatment.

Preventive Measures

After successfully eliminating bedbugs, implement preventive measures such as regularly vacuuming, inspecting second-hand furniture, and using mattress encasements.

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