They're baaack...well, actually they never really left. Ranging from around seven down to just one milimetre (a quarter to 1/32 of an inch) in size, cimex lectualarius lurk on mattresses and sheets and feed on your blood - usually at night while you sleep, and can cause reactions from patches of redness to good-size blisters, usually accompanied by itching and occasionally allergic symptoms. Bed bugs are tenacious - able to survive nearly a year without feeding - and getting rid of them is a bloody pain, with methods including superheating affected rooms; washing affected bedding and clothing in very hot water; and frequent and thorough vacuuming. Bed bugs have especially burrowed into the news headlines in recent days because of fears of a widespread outbreak of "punaises" in Paris. But it´s not just the City of Blight - they´ve been on the rise across the world since the 1990s, boosted in part by the explosion in travel. So they´re a fact of travel life, but there are a few ways you can minimise their impacts:
First of all, know your enemy: the photo at top is obviously vastly amplified, and these pinprick-size critters can be difficult to discern among other debris or mites you might find in the bedclothes. So have a look at the video below, and other online images
Check out online hotel reviews. If they’ve had a bed bug infestation recently, it definitely will have been written about online. Just keep in mind that just because they had an infestation in the past doesn’t mean the hotel has one now.
When you pack your clothes, isolate them in plastic bags before putting them into the suitcase. That way, even if a bed bug does get into your luggage, your clothing will be protected.
When you get to the hotel, keep your luggage off the bed and put them in the bathroom or leave them by the door until you’ve checked the room. Look out for signs of bed bugs like small blood spots as well as brown coloured shed skin (more about that in the video below). And use a torch to look around the darker or hidden areas of the room. The places to look are around the nightstands, the edges of carpets, skirting boards, upholstered furniture, and around plug sockets.
Keep your clothing and luggage up off the floor and luggage racks even when you think a room is bed bug free. There could still be creepy crawlies lurking around.
On your return home, inspect your luggage, unpack in your garage, laundry room, or hallway, then wash your clothes immediately and vacuum the inside of your suitcases. This should stop any potential hitchhikers from spreading into your home.
Even so, keep an eye out for bed bugs in your home after your return from a trip. Sometimes it takes a while to notice an infestation because bed bugs are so great at hiding.
Good luck - and again, don´t let the bed bugs bite!