Hotel bed bugs are no laughing matter, but I must admit, I always thought bed bugs were just a myth. Almost every night before I went to bed as a child, my mom would say, “Good night and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I totally thought she was joking because when I was a child, the U.S. had licked the bed bug problem. Most people don’t know that bed bugs were common in this country before World War II and only became rare after the pesticide DDT was used in the 1940s and 1950s. But guess what? They’re b-a-c-k.
Where are bed bugs found?
Bed bug infestations have been on the increase again in the United States in recent years and top bed bug cities include New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. This may be in part to an increase in immigration and travel from the developing world plus restrictions on the use of stronger pesticides. Bed bugs have been found on airplanes, in reputable hotels and stores in all 50 states.
While bed bugs are often found in crowded living situations with poor sanitation conditions, it may surprise you to know that bed bugs can also live and thrive in clean environments which is why five-star hotels are just as susceptible to the problem as roadside motels. As a matter of fact, hotel room cleanliness is a bit of a phobia of mine especially since I travel a lot.
What are bed bugs and what do they look like?
Bed bugs are small, oval, reddish-brown, non-flying insects. They’re capable of feeding largely unnoticed and the main indication that you’ve been bitten by hotel bed bugs is persistent itching and skin rashes. These parasitic insects feed on human blood and while they can survive for up to a year without it, they prefer to feed every five to ten days. They have flat bodies and may sometimes be mistaken for ticks or even small cockroaches. These creepy little creatures are most active at night and bite any exposed areas of skin while you’re sleeping. The face, neck, hands, and arms are the most common sites for bed bug bites.
What is the treatment for bed bug bites?
Although a bed bug bite is initially painless, small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin are the most common sign you’ve have a bed bug bite and redness, swelling, and itching commonly occur. In general, no treatment is required for bed bug bites but if severe itching does occur, you may want to apply a steroid cream to the affected area to relieve the symptoms. Also, oral antihistamines may be used for symptom relief. The biggest danger is that secondary bacterial infections can develop over heavily scratched areas that may require the use of antibiotics.
How are bed bugs spread?
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), bedbugs are brought into hotels by guests and they are not a hotel sanitation issue. Since the nasty little critters can hitchhike on clothing or in the suitcases of guests from infested homes or other hotels harboring the pests, hotels can be easy targets for a bed bug infestation. The AHLA also says that the increase of bed bugs in the U.S. has had a minimal impact on the vast majority of hotels. Although I hear what the AHLA is saying, I’m still taking preventative measures when I stay at hotels.
To protect yourself against this clear and present danger, there are several tips on how to avoid hotel bed bugs when you travel to prevent a close encounter with a bed bug or two.
So hopefully you know more about hotel bed bugs than you ever thought you would need to know so as my mom used to say, “Good night and don’t let the hotel bed bugs bite.”
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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer
For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more