Bedbugs Are Making for a Cruel Summer – Here’s Why

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Jessica is a respected contributor to the Sampling America writing team, eloquently sharing tales of adventures across the country and beyond.

This summer, the number of people traveling has increased enormously. The end of pandemic restrictions and wanderlust denied for far too long are combining to make for a very busy tourism season.

Hotels all over the U.S. are filling up, and not just with human guests. Bedbugs are having a ball this year, and their presence in your hotel mattress may mean a ruined vacation — and then some.

More Travelers + Staff Shortages = More Bedbugs

Bedbug close-up
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This summer’s upsurge in travelers is, on the one hand, a boon for hotels and other overnight lodging facilities. On the other hand, though, it also puts a lot of stress on a system that is already not functioning at its highest capacity.

Shortages of staff in the hospitality industry as a whole increase the likelihood that a bedbug or two — or an entire colony of them — could slip through the literal cracks.

According to professor emeritus in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky Michael F. Potter, “The staff shortage issue is concerning because the best way for hotels to prevent infestations from escalating within their hotels is staying vigilant. And the biggest way they can do that is by performing regular inspections of their rooms … by the housekeepers who need to be trained and educated to spot infestations at their initial stages.” 

Fewer members of the staff mean fewer people employees who a) are knowledgeable about how to check for signs of a bedbug infestation before it gets out of hand and b) have the time to do so.

If there is no time for an in-depth check of the mattresses, bedding, and other places the little buggers could hide, one bedbug could quickly lead to hundreds or thousands without anyone being the wiser.

The Bedbug Problem May Not Stop When You Check Out

Bedbug on mattress
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As if sleeping in a bed full of begs during your vacation doesn’t give you a bad enough case of the heebie-jeebies, know this: you can take the little guys home with you as well.

Bedbugs aren’t just limited to mattresses and bedding. They will happily hitch a ride on your suitcase and come home with you, where they’ll set up a brand new home in your mattress or other furniture.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this, and the most important one is to be aware of your surroundings.

How To Spot Bedbugs

No bedbugs hotel mattress
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Okay, now that we’re all itchy just thinking about what could be lurking in our hotel rooms, what can we do about it?

First things first: when you get into your hotel room, don’t put your suitcase on the floor, and especially don’t put it in the corner. Bedbugs love carpet and dark corners. Instead, place your luggage on a dresser or in an elevated luggage rack.

And whatever you do, don’t put it on the second mattress if your room has two.

The next step is to check your bed for bedbugs. The bugs themselves are around the size of apple seeds with an oval-shaped body and a brownish color as adults (if they’ve recently eaten, they’ll be more puffy, longer, and reddish). Juvenile bedbugs are a bit smaller and are a whitish-yellow color or translucent. These can be almost impossible to spot, unfortunately.

Other signs of bedbugs include red-brown stains on the mattress or sheets from where bedbugs have been squished, or darker spots that mark the places where a bedbug did his business after a big meal.

You may also see the exoskeletons of the bedbugs who have molted, or smell a musty, sweet odor if the infestation is extreme.

What If You’ve Already Been Bitten?

Bedbug bites
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Even after a thorough check, it is still possible to miss the signs of a bedbug infestation and get bitten. Luckily, the bugs themselves don’t spread diseases, although the bites may be very itchy.

If you do get bitten, gently wash the bites and the areas around them with soap and water. If the itching gets too much, apply a cream or lotion one to two times daily, preferably one with hydrocortisone 1%.

The main thing to remember is to not let these bugs drive you buggy. Yes, there is always a possibility that they could be in your hotel bedding. But don’t cause yourself undue stress by worrying about them at the risk of your vacation. If you take the proper precautions when you check into a hotel and know where to purchase some anti-itch cream if things don’t turn out the way you hoped, no pesky pest can stop you from having a great vacation.

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