Author: Sarah Sharpe
Yes it's for real. Since 2006, the number of reviews about bed bugs submitted to HotelGuide has grown. At first, it seemed like an aberration or a hoax. But the evidence quickly mounted that this is a serious problem being experienced by travelers worldwide. The bloodsucking insects typically bite while people sleep just before dawn. Where do these creatures come from, are they dangerous and what can you do about them?
Bed bugs are globetrotting hitchhikers, hiding in luggage and clothing and moving stealthily from place to place. These repulsive insects are tiny and hide in cracks and creases such as the edges of a mattress. They can also hide behind baseboards, in back of picture frames and in the light switch and electrical plates. They are not necessarily related to the cleanliness of a hotel as they can hop from place to place by climbing off an unsuspecting person's luggage when they arrive or climbing on anyone's luggage or clothes before they leave. Infestations can be found from the lowliest motel to the priciest 5 star resort.
The species name is Cimex lectularius. The pests, fast becoming a worldwide nuisance, are brownish in color and range in size from a poppy seed to a quarter inch. When they bite, they use a numbing agent to keep the victim from waking up and their saliva has an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing while they feed. Unlike some other pests, they are not associated with the spread of disease. People do have allergic reactions from the saliva which typically present as welts similar to mosquito bites. Oftentimes in the morning there will be small streaks or trails of blood on the sheets after a bedbug attack.
If you detect signs of bed bugs, the best thing to do is to request different accommodations. The bugs are known to routinely travel up to 100 feet, so the next room over probably isn't a good solution. In an emergency, an insect repellant that contains DEET may help. The bugs are attracted not just to body heat and exhaled air, but to the human body's smell. Taking a shower before bed may lessen the chances the little monsters detect your presence. To reduce the chances of taking bugs home with you, inspect every article of clothing before repacking them. At home, laundering in hot water and detergent, followed with the dryer for at least 20 minutes should eliminate bugs and eggs from clothing items. Dry cleaning works, too. You may want to consider keeping your suitcase on a luggage rack on a side of the room as far away from the bed as possible to minimize the changes of an unwelcome stowaway.
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