As we enter the holiday travel season, I would like to educate my Tareen Dermatology patients about bed bugs, and more importantly, how to avoid picking them up at hotels.
Bed bugs are parasitic insects of the cimicid family that feed exclusively on blood. Cimex lectularius is the most common type of bed bug and the type that causes most human infestations.
Unfortunately, bed bugs can live months (and even YEARS) between blood meals. Bed bugs also lay a great deal of eggs and have many offspring. In addition, bed bugs have evolved to become resistant to many insecticides and can survive weeks at extreme temperatures. Thus, PREVENTING bed bugs infestation is the best strategy.
- Look around: Bed bugs like right angles, so they can be found on headboards, bed frames, mattress piping, drawers, and windows. They can also be present on the under surfaces of furniture or in peeling paint.
- Check for droppings: Bed bug droppings typically are round brown splotches. Check mattresses and sheets as well as other furniture. If droppings are seen, bed bugs have been there and are probably still there.
- Follow the 3 foot rule: Check areas within 3 feet or so of hotel beds for evidence of bed bugs as this is the typical distance that they travel.
If you picked them up at your hotel and are now home:
- Utilize high heat: Heavy vacuuming and steaming may kill bed bugs if the temperatures are high enough.
- Lose the insecticide and forget cold: Insecticides are rarely effective. Bed bugs can also withstand freezing temperatures. Heat and mattress encasements tend to be most effective.
- Call Dr. Tareen: For resistant infestations, there are pills and topicals that can be prescribed.
If infestation with bed bugs does occur, do not worry. Bed bug bites are not dangerous. They are however very itchy and do look bad. So, follow the above tips to prevent these little nuisances from ruining your winter vacation.