By Caroline Morse, SmarterTravel.com (special for USATODAY.com)
Bedbugs are one souvenir you don't want to bring home. The National Pest Management Association's Vice President of Public Affairs, Missy Henriksen, shares the following tips for avoiding these pests while traveling.
Check your room. If you don't want to let the bedbugs bite, thoroughly inspect your room for signs of infestation. Henriksen advises placing your luggage in the bathroom when you first arrive in your hotel room, because there's no place for bedbugs to hide in most bathrooms. Next, says Henriksen, "Pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for pepper-like stains or spots or even the bugs themselves. Adult bedbugs resemble a flat apple seed." Also look behind the headboard, inside chair and couch cushions, behind picture frames, and around electrical outlets. If you see anything suspicious, notify management and change rooms (or better yet, establishments) immediately.
Request a different room. If you do have to change rooms, don't move to a room adjacent to or directly above or below the site of the bedbug infestation. "Bedbugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts and luggage or even through wall sockets," notes Henriksen. "If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin."
Cover your bags. Even if you don't see any signs of bedbugs, you should still take precautions. Never place luggage on a hotel bed or floor. Use luggage racks if available, and place your suitcase in a protective cover. Even a plastic trash bag will suffice.
Keep everything off the floor. Despite the name, bedbugs lurk in many spots, not just where you sleep. Always be vigilant when you travel. Avoid putting your personal belongings on the floor of an airplane, bus, train, or taxi. Keep your small bag or purse on your lap at all times, and seal your bigger bags inside plastic or protective covers before checking or storing them in overhead bins.
Treat your luggage and clothes after travel. "The best way to prevent bedbugs is to remain vigilant both during travel and once you return home," says Henriksen. The National Pest Management Association offers the following checklist to make sure you leave the bedbugs behind:
•Inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house, and vacuum all luggage before storing it.
•Consider using a handheld garment steamer to steam your luggage; this can kill any bedbugs or eggs that might have hitched a ride home.
•Immediately wash and dry all of your clothes-even those that have not been worn-in hot temperatures to ensure that any stowaway bedbugs are not transported into your drawers or closet.
•Keep clothes that must be dry-cleaned in a plastic bag and take them to the dry cleaner as soon as possible.
For more information about bedbugs, visit AllThingsBedBugs.org. To find a local pest control professional, visit PestWorld.org.
•If you suspect a bedbug infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional promptly. Bedbugs are not a DIY pest, and the longer you wait, the larger the infestation will grow. A trained professional has the tools and knowledge to effectively treat your infestation.
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