Bed Bugs and How to Avoid Bringing Them Home

by jenjenk on September 19, 2011

Bed Bugs. Blood suckers. Public nuisance. Eradicated when we will still used DDT but now making a resurgence throughout the world.  Resistant to most pesticides [and yes, resistant to Clorox wipes].  The mere thought of having been bitten by a bed bug is bad enough but to bring it into your home is a totally different thing.  Normally when I travel, I usually stay, if not in luxury resorts, at least hotels that are reputable and clean.  I kept hearing and reading about how no hotels are safe – all are equally likely to have bed bugs.  I neurotically wipe down telephones, remote controls, door handles; check the bed for bugs, droppings, shell casings; and pretty much always wear slippers around the room.

Imagine my surprise when the bites on my arms kept multiplying, even after my return home.  Confused, I went to my doctor’s begging him to tell me it wasn’t bed bugs.  He looked at me with pity in his eyes and told me that he can’t positively say that these were bites from bed bugs, but the patterns are similar to such [breakfast, lunch, dinner - 3 bites clusters].  He advised me on what I needed to do in my home [throw stuff away, dry clean clothes, wash EVERYTHING and dry in high heat].  I cried as I threw books away…I cried as I shelled out hundreds of dollars on home remedies…I cried even more as I shelled out hundreds of dollars on dry cleaning…and I became suicidal when I realized that I would have to pay to fumigate my duplex as well as for the displacement of the other tenant, after seeing a bed bug crawling across my foot.

At first, I hesitated sharing this embarrassing problem.  My first instinct was ABSOLUTELY NOT posting anything about it.  I didn’t even want to tell my friends or family but every part of my body was so bitten up, I couldn’t hide it.  To tell the 7 people who read my blog – how mortifying, I thought!!  Then I thought how I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy…I need to tell people what to look for and how to avoid it.  Please remember that I wasn’t at some slum hotel – I was at a couple of very upscale resorts when I brought these unwanted critters home with me.

Here are some of my tips on how to avoid bringing home that unwanted souvenir, Bed Bugs:

1.) Leave your suitcase off the wall, off the floor using either the luggage stand or leaving it on the bathroom counter, if there’s room.  Also, I purchased a luggage bag similar to the one by BugZip to keep my suitcase protected.

2.) Don’t unpack your suitcase or leave things in drawers.  Bed bugs do hide in dressers, as well.

3.) Check the bed area:

  • the mattress,
  • box springs,
  • sheets,
  • AND headboard.  I hate doing this part – the headboard is HEAVY.  I do my best but even then, it’s only a cursory check.

This is a good video on how to check and what you’re looking for

4.) Check the dresser area, floorboards AND the wall socket [where I saw evidence of bed bug feces but had no idea that's what I was looking at].  You’re mostly looking for bed bug feces which are black spots that you can’t easily wipe off [I kept trying to swipe at it with Clorox Wipes to no avail.]

5.) Spray your things with Bed Bug Repellant. I’ve used Lavender oil on my bed when I was being bitten by bed bugs at my house and it seemed to keep them away.

When you get home from a trip:

1.) Don’t bring your luggage inside your house if you can avoid it.

2.) The first thing I do is put my clothes into the washer or if it’s too late, I heat treat my clothes in a dryer for 30 minutes [thermal death point is 113 degrees, it's suggested that you heat your things up to about 140 - 160 degrees in order to reach thermal death temperatures].

3.) I put my suitcase into an airtight bag [along with everything else I traveled with] and set it outside for an hour or so in the sun until the heat kills any possible bed bugs.

4.) I spray down my stuff again with lavender oil in the hopes that it’ll draw out the bed bugs away from the item [still keeping it the bag].  This does not help if I’ve managed to bring home bed bug eggs/larvae.  This is not a proven method, I just think that it will help.

5.) On my wishlist of things I want that I still don’t have is the PackTite Portable Heating Unit. At $315, it’s a little steep for my pocket [especially after the thousands I had to plunk down].

I still feel creepy crawlies all over me and am convinced that I’ve got a bed bug crawling on me [it's not].  Psychologically, it’s such torture [broke down at work in a fit of tears].  Sleeping in your home is nearly impossible because you just know that bed bugs are crawling all over you while you’re sleeping. I hope that it never happens to you!!

* I won’t disclose the name of the hotel that I suspect that I got my bed bugs from as I did stay at a couple of hotels during that trip.  Flaming that resort isn’t the purpose of this post and I sincerely hope that you understand! 

** In case you were wondering, the hotel did not take responsibility or compensate me for the bed bugs.

*** Since the hotel was an international destination, I wasn’t able to enter it into the BedBugRegistry.com [it's only in the US right now]

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Salena of The Daily Rant September 19, 2011 at 7:19 am

OMG. This photo is HORRIBLE. I’m always worried about this, since it’s been such a topic lately. I have never checked in any of the hotels I stay at and always think “it won’t happen to me”.

Every time I read a story like this, I freak out. It completely sucks that the hotel did not offer any compensation, but what’s worse is everything you had to go through when you got home.

And I thought coming home from our vacation in Turks and Caicos to a refrigerator of rotting food was bad! I’d clean up that dead-body-smelling crap again anyday over discovering I brought bed bugs home with me!

Now I will be more diligent next time I stay somehwere….ripping apart the room will be the first thing on my list! Thanks for sharing your story!

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jenjenk September 21, 2011 at 4:34 am

just being careful is key! the chances that this will happen to you is pretty low. I was just stupid & careless. :(

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Azu @ Sweetly Made September 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Oh, Jenny that’s just awful. I have to admit I have never checked my hotel bed for bed bugs. I spray the sheets with anti-bacterial febreeze and wipe things down with clorox wipes but from now on you can bet I will be checking for those suckers. Thank you for sharing all these helpful tips. I hope your home is now bug free, that your bites are on the mend, and that you will soon be able to sleep soundly once again.

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HeatherChristo September 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Jen. I know I saw you when you were going through this, and you put on a very brave face. This sounds just awful, and I’m so sorry that you went through this. I travel enough that this is majorly scary, and I check for them always- but I will be far more detailed after reading this. I will be sure to pass this along to my other friends who travel often. xo, Heather

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jenjenk September 21, 2011 at 4:35 am

Yeah, I was still pretty traumatized when I saw you! thankfully it is ALL CLEARED UP!

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Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista September 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm

I’ll admit I don’t check for bed bugs either but I may after reading this! I had no idea the bites were so bad. Ugh, this is a frustrating problem.

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The Italian Dish September 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I have always worried about this. Thanks for posting – your links are very helpful. I’m going to get a couple of those luggage bags!

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Chez Us September 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm

This is really terrible and I am so sorry you had to go through with this. I cannot believe you had to pay for your apartment complex and that the hotel will not reimburse you anything. You need to contact Finney at Five!

My sister had a similar experience. Her husband brought them home from hunting, and did not know it. The kids started getting little bits and she could not figure it out. Took them to the doctor and that is what it was. By the time they found out, the bed bugs were living in the wood in their bedrooms, etc…. they had to throw out furniture, mattresses, bedding, etc…. she said it was horrible.

I use to tease a co-worker about bringing his own sheets with him when he traveled – now I know why he probably did it!!

Glad you shared this with everyone … I am going to be on the lookout for unwanted bed partners now when I travel!

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jenjenk September 21, 2011 at 4:36 am

seriously! if I thought bringing sheets would prevent bed bugs, i’d do it! ;)

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Christy @ Ordinary Traveler September 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I’m so sorry you had to go through this. It’s one of my worst nightmares. I joke around sometimes that I have bed bugs when I feel itchy, but it really isn’t something to joke about. I would FREAK if I had to deal with this at home. I think I would end up moving. :) Thanks for the great tips. I’m pretty good about washing all my clothes as soon as I get home, but I’m going to keep by bags outside from now on!

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jenjenk September 21, 2011 at 4:36 am

It was mine, too! but I just never thought that I’d ever go to a hotel that would actually have it!!

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Shirlene from Idelish September 19, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I am sorry to hear about your experience! I always think “it’s not gonna happen to me” but your post is a reality check for me and a great reminder that “it can happen to me!”

Thank you SO much for sharing this. It is such a useful post with great information. I’m off on my next trip this weekend so I’m definitely going to check for bed bugs now!

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kelly September 20, 2011 at 12:02 am

You poor thing! Is it all sorted out now?

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jenjenk September 21, 2011 at 4:37 am

thankfully, YES!!! phew!

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jade September 20, 2011 at 12:27 am

this is my worst nightmare! Hope you are okay now!

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Barbara - The Dropout Diaries September 20, 2011 at 3:40 am

Holy moly, it’s like an alien invasion! Especially the “thermal death point”.
I thought bed bugs were a problem in the U.S. Has it traveled further? I hope I’m safe over here in Southeast Asia. Can you catch diseases from bed bugs, or is it just the itchy bites that are the problem?

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jenjenk September 21, 2011 at 4:38 am

If there’s ANY silver lining in all this, bed bugs [currently] do NOT carry any diseases. The itchy bites last for weeks!!! I don’t think I’ve ever itched as much as that period in my life!

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Technosyncratic September 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

This is terrible – what an awful experience! I remember reading about the bed bug issue almost a year ago when it was sweeping New York and everyone was freaking out (rightly so). We lived in an RV at the time so we didn’t deal with hotels… which meant that I sort of put it to the back of my mind.

Now that we’re traveling internationally, though, I need to pay more attention! We still rarely stay in hotels (opting to go with apartments and housesitting), but the risks are still there.

Thanks for the tips and reminder, and I hope the bed bugs are solidly in your past and you don’t have to deal with them again!

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Eileen Ludwig September 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Wow, this is awful and it is a problem getting worse everywhere not sure how we control it or make it better

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Sophie September 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Ouch, looks painful! Good tips.

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Stephanie - The Travel Chica September 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

This is has been a big fear of mine staying in hostels. I wouldn’t even suspect it in a hotel. I hope I never have to deal with this, but at least I’ll know what to do if it happens.

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Liz September 25, 2011 at 6:40 am

I work in a residential treatment center. We get kids from detention, from CPS group homes, and we double bag everything and let it sit out in the sun for 3 hours. Then we put everything through the drier. This is a royal pain in the patookis, but it is totally worth it. So sorry you had this experience!

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nod 'n' smile September 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I just did a story on my blog about bed bugs today! HORRIBLE, although I didn’t realize that mine were bed bug bites until years later. I remember feeling really nauseated just looking at myself in the mirror. So sorry to hear you had to go through it, too!

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Dave E Wilkes March 15, 2012 at 5:18 am

Your phrase “I still feel creepy crawlies all over me” really got to me and I think that that would be the thing that made me feel bad.
I love the post, thank you and I hope you get your portable heating unit soon.
Happy travelling. Stay bed bug free!
Dave E Wilkes recently posted..3 things You Need to Know Before Using a Home Remedy For Bed BugsMy Profile

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yvette October 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I just found this site and wondered if you had managed iradicate the problem. We have just came back from a caravan holiday with a uk site, my 11 month old daughte started getting big red spots on the 2nd day of our holiday, we were only there 4 days and now we are home she is covered with bed bug bites which she obviously got there, I’m terrified that we have brought them home as we have a 2 yr old aswel. I’ve washed and tumble dryed clothes and babies blankets but she still seems to coming up with more and seem to hurt.

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jenjenk October 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

Oh, yvette – i’m SO sorry to hear this.

Yes, I did eventually get rid of the bedbugs but i did have to call in a pest control company to fumigate. There are other ways that I thought about exploring but just didn’t have the time to work it out [heat treatment & green pesticides]. You can try spot spraying as well, but if the spray doesn’t hit the bugs [which it really can't if they're hiding in a crevice], it won’t do you much good.

The bites ARE painful – at least mine were. To keep the bed bugs away from your baby, you might want to try to sprinkle lavender oil around the perimeter of the mattress/bed. It seemed to keep the bedbugs away from me before I had treated the solution.

Unfortunately, the clothes & blankets are not enough since the bedbugs are probably elsewhere in the bedroom. you’ll have to check the bed/mattress/boxspring/frame, dressers, any crevices [no matter how small it looks]. I even threw out some books because i figured they could hide there, too. Look for feces, bedbug shells/casings on the mattress and the floor.

Good luck and I’m so sorry this happened to you!!!

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jenne August 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

My son slept 2 nights at his grannys the other day, came home and next day he woke up I noticed he had 3 bite marks on his back! I freaked out and put everything possible in bags and threw some clothes out and took the bed to the dump and burned it! Will doing all that prevent an infestation? I hope so! Later that evening I took RAID and sprayed the walls, sockets and baseboards of his room and then sprayed his sisters room and her bed just in case! Trying to prevent an infestation so can someone please let me know if that’s is enough to prevent them in our home? I’m so scared:(

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Pamela Latimore April 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

My son is staying at a halfway house. He came home with little tiny red spots, their were maybe 8 in a row. he said then some over their developed a rash. I don’t want bed bugs in my. What do I do to avoid getting them in my home. Or is it too Late. Please the last thing I need now is bed bugs. I have 2 cats and a bird, are they in danger. I don’t have a lot of money, I am disabled. Any advise will be appreciated.

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jenjenk April 23, 2013 at 12:12 am

Yikes! Try to spot check to see if you can find the bed bugs. it’s hard to tell if the bites are from bedbugs or from mosquitos/fleas. Bedbugs bites tend to be more painful and itchier. Good luck and i hope you don’t have bed bugs!

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jenjenk August 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

Raid won’t do anything to the bedbugs.

the 3 bite marks could just be mosquitoes or fleas, too. just keep an eye on them to see if it’s recurring or not. Don’t panic.

You should check with your parents/in laws to see if they’ve had any bites as well. while people have different reactions to the bedbug bites, it’s still a good place to start.

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