Sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite! If you think this expression is just an old wives’ tale…think again. These nasty critters may be lurking in your next hotel stay. Yes, that’s right Bedbugs are on the rise so much so that there is actually a website, bedbugregistry.com, devoted to tracking infestations in apartment buildings and hotels in North America.
Not only that, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) held two National Bedbug Symposiums In Newark, NJ, and Seattle, WA with the intent to educate operators about the pests. In addition, the first bedbug summit was held in Washington last year sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency reporting the infestations reaching nearly epidemic proportions in major cities like New York.
The good news is bedbugs do not transmit disease but living with these insects can make you want to run for the hills. Imagine settling into bed, placing your head on the pillow, anticipating a good night’s sleep only to get your blood sucked out by these crawling insects. The “bed bug renaissance”, as it is so aptly called, is a growing problem in both cities and suburbs.
More about bedbugs…
Bedbugs are small, flat, wingless insects with six legs that feed on blood from animals or people. They turn rusty red after feeding but are usually almost white to brown in color. Bedbugs can be seen by the naked eye and get their name because they love to hide in bedding. These pests can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.
There is a misconception that bedbugs are associated with an unclean environment. This is not the case. Some of the best and worst hotels in the country have fallen victim to bedbug sightings. Keep in mind that bedbugs, any bug, can hitchhike into your suitcase, purse, or jacket pocket and take a ride to your warm, comfortable, and clean surroundings. Bedbugs thrive anywhere and hide where there are cracks and crevices. It’s not a wonder they have become a nuisance for hotels and other public places such as dorms, hospitals, movie theaters, and maybe even cruise ships.
You may be wondering why you can’t just reach for a can of Raid and kill the varmints. There are a couple reasons. Bedbugs are difficult to get rid of because pesticides are less powerful than they used to be making them safe for pets and children but less deadly for insects. As a nation, international travel has increased, as has immigration from other parts of the world increasing the possibility of insect transport.
Symptoms and treatment of bedbug bites
Out of sight during the day, bedbugs lay in wait to inject an anesthetic type substance that numbs the flesh so you don’t feel their bite. They also insert an anticoagulant to keep your blood flowing as they suck. You may notice welts later on along with blood or feces stained sheets. The first sign that a bedbug has bitten you is an itchy, red bite mark on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders.
Bedbug bites don’t normally need to be treated but if too much scratching occurs, you may need to apply a local antiseptic lotion or antibiotic cream. See a doctor if inflammation results or you are allergic to certain medicines. You may need a prescription for a cream with corticosteroids or an oral antihistamine.
What can you do to prevent a bedbug breeding ground?
If you are traveling to a hotel or returning home you might be interested in some of the things you can do to stop the spread of bedbugs. Here are just a few:
- Vacuum your suitcase
- Wash all your clothes in hot water after you return
- If you know you have bedbugs in your home, wrap your mattress and box spring with a plastic cover or better yet, replace it
- Place the bed legs in cups of water. This may keep the pests out of your bed.
- Fill cracks in walls where bugs can crawl from one room to another.
- Check your room for bugs by peeling back the bed sheets and examining the mattress
- Check behind the headboard if possible for black spots of excrement, shed skins, or the bugs themselves
Is the media making a big deal out of a small bite?
Although the bedbug population is on the rise it is “miniscule”, according to the president and CEO of the AHLA Joe McInerney. There are 4.4 million hotel rooms in this country and out of that number; very few cases of bedbugs have been reported. Mr. McInerney believes that the only people making a big deal out of the bedbug problem are the media.
This may be true but if you are anything like me, you’ll want to check out bedbugregistry.com just to make sure your next destination hotel isn’t listed as one with reported cases. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than waking up with bed bug bites on your arms and shoulders. I’m not sure what’s worse, the bite or the thought of being the subject of a bedbug’s eating frenzy.
So heads up to those of you who travel and oh, by the way, you might not want to leave your purse on the seat next to you in the movie theater either. You might just bring home an uninvited guest!