Bed Bugs: A Survival Guide

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As of January 27, 2015, I can cross BED BUGS off my travel bucket list (no, they certainly weren’t on my list to begin with). I’m also hoping this means I can cross “Grossest Thing to Ever Happen To Me While Traveling EVER” off the list as well.

In case you were wondering, this is a bed bug:

And this is the stages of life for a bed bug:

If this doesn’t make your skin crawl, we can’t be friends. ICK.

Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, but you generally won’t ever even see them since they like to hide out during the day and feed at night. They live off of human blood, and can live for up to 10 months without feeding (gross!). 

I woke up that morning to find a few insect bites on my arm. The weather in Texas was exceptionally nice that week (80 and sunny – in January!) so I had eaten my lunch outside in the grass the day before, so I thought maybe I got bit by something there. I re-checked the bed for bed bugs (I always do a cursory check when I enter a hotel room) and found *some* evidence, so I snapped a few pictures and sent them to my bed bug and insect infestation expert, my friend Erissa. 

This is the box springs – the mattress was clean. You can also see some evidence of bed bugs on the wall on the bottom right. 

Erissa has had the unfortunate luck of dealing with bed bugs and carpet beetles. She texted back and said it was possible, but not definite, so I didn’t panic. I was scheduled to check out of the hotel that day anyway so I went on to the next stop on my trip.

By that evening, I was COVERED in itchy red bites. I stopped at a Target and bought some Benadryl and some Benadryl cream. I also had to find a laundromat that day to wash ALL of the clothes in my suitcase – how convenient.

Both of these photos were actually taken 8 days later, so it gives you an idea of how bad the bites were. This shows about 1/4 of the bites on my arm. 
The bites were suuuuuper itchy and inflamed and my foot actually swelled at various times from all the inflammation – this caused an unplanned break in my running :-/. I also had them in random places, like the palm of my hand, a fingertip, and four on my FACE (including one on my eyelid – !!!). 

Night time was the worst. Between the paranoia of bed bugs being at another hotel (I stayed at 3 more hotels in the 6 days following the incident) and having nothing to distract me from the itching, it usually took a while to fall asleep. 

Bed bugs: I don’t recommend them. 

What can you to do prevent them?

Always check your hotel room before you bring your luggage in. If you must bring your luggage in, leave it in the bathroom.

Check the mattress on all sides, the box spring, and the walls near the bed. Most bed bugs are usually found within a few feet of the bed in hotel rooms. If you see anything, alert the hotel staff immediately and request a new room. 

Keep your luggage on the provided luggage rack whenever possible.

It is important to realize that bed bugs live on blood, not dirt, so their presence is not limited to “dirty, flea bag motels”. This particular incident happened at a Hampton Inn (and the manager has compensated me and will be addressing the issue with the housekeeping staff so they know what to look for). Bed bugs can happen anywhere from college dorms to five star luxury hotels

What should you do if you do get bit?

Bed bugs are not known to carry human diseases, so the bites are relatively harmless and would only be likely to get infected if they were exposed to bacteria (like if you scratched them open). 

Salt water baths can help the bites heal faster – I found a combination of table salt and Epsom salt to be really effective in eliminating the itching and healing the bites faster. 

I also wiped the bites down with hydrogen peroxide before applying Aveeno lotion and Benadryl cream. I’ve taken Benadryl tablets each day too.

Try not to scratch the bites! This is hard. I was too little when I had the chicken pox to remember them, but I imagine it felt something like this. 

Who do you tell? 

I reported the incident to the hotel directly, and to Hilton (who owns the Hampton Inn brand). I also filed a report with the Texas health department and posted a review on Trip Advisor. I also filed it with the unofficial bed bug registry, but it doesn’t really look like that’s regularly updated anymore. 

Better safe than sorry! Always check and remember they can happen anywhere. If you ever aren’t sure, feel free to send me some pictures as I’m happy to lend my expert advice haha. 

Have any of you ever experienced bed bugs? Have any additional tips or advice to share? Post in the comments! 

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