The winter holiday season is upon us. This year looks to be a welcome return to celebrations as usual with holiday travel predictions looking particularly bright. People are on the move and families are making plans to gather for some long overdue good times.
I guess we all remember last holiday season. Interstate and international travel was in a funk and most of us were sticking close to home. No one was happy about it, but the dip in holiday travel did have an upside. There was a marked drop in the spread of bed bugs.
But this year, with holiday travel getting closer to pre-pandemic norms, it looks like bed bugs are back on the move. So it seems like a good time to talk about how to avoid bed bugs over the holiday season. How to avoid bringing them home from your holiday travels, and how to avoid spreading them to your holiday hosts.
Winter and Bed Bugs
With the days getting shorter and the nights getting colder it would be nice to think that we would at least get a temporary bed bug reprieve. Alas, we can expect no such luck. Unlike other insects bed bugs can survive for weeks at frigid temperatures. The cold only makes these parasites that much more interested in finding a nice warm host. That’d be us.
Winter travel, especially during the holidays, provides bed bugs with ample opportunities to find those new hosts. Whether it’s in a hotel room or airport lounge; a bus seat or a relative’s guest room bed bugs spend the winter months in search of new horizons. They hitch a ride on unsuspecting travelers and follow them to their destinations. Sometimes that destination is Grandma’s house and sometimes it’s our own homes.
That’s why it’s so important to be on the lookout for bed bugs when you’re traveling over the holidays. You don’t want to bring home any unwanted pests. And you certainly don’t want to bring any unwanted visitors with you when your visiting friends and relatives.
So let’s talk over a few simple tips to protect you, your holiday visitors, and your holiday hosts.
How to Keep Your Home Safe from Bed Bugs When You Host Holiday Visitors
If you’re planning to host holiday visitors this season you’ll want to take some preliminary steps to ensure you don’t also end up with some unwanted visitors. The first step is to inspect your home for bed bugs. You want to be sure your home is free from pests before you start welcoming people into your home.
Any bed bug inspection should begin in the bedroom. Bed bugs can be found in all parts of the home, that’s true. But they typically feed at night when their hosts are sleeping. So if you do have a bed bug problem these pests will most likely be found in the bedrooms.
Check beds and bed linen for stains. These will typically present as small rust colored sports or streaks. Check behind picture frames, along baseboards, and along the seams of upholstered furniture. These are prime hiding spots of bed bugs. Also check your family for any bed bug bites.
Checking Your Guests for Bed Bugs
Once your home passes inspection it’s time to think about how you’re going to prevent your guests from bringing any stray bed bugs into the house. Naturally, inspecting everyone that comes through the door is going to be fairly off putting – if not downright rude.
You can always explain to family and friends that you’re trying to avoid a bed bug infestation, and that you’ll need to inspect their clothing and luggage before they settle in for their stay. Of course, you run the risk of insulting your visitors.
A less invasive (and frankly less rude) method for preventing a holiday bed bug infestation is to check for the pests after your guests leave. This may not entirely prevent a bed bug infestation. But it will allow you to uncover the infestation during its earliest stages, making it easier to treat successfully.
Keeping Your Home Safe from Bed Bugs When YOU Are the Visitor
Things are a little easier to manage when you are the visitor. You can check your belongings and your room for bed bugs to your heart’s content. It’s important to remember that any place can have a bed bug problem. Bed bugs are particular – they’ll nest in ritzy hotels, motor lodges, or (you guessed it) you Great Aunt Mildred’s guest room. So it pays to look out for yourself.
When you get to your destination the first thing you want to do is inspect your room. Before you bring your luggage in or even think about unpacking have a look at where you’ll be staying for the next few days.
Here some tips on what to look for:
Check the bed and the bed linen. Pull back the blankets and sheets and check for any rust colored spots or stains that may indicate the presence of bed bugs.
Check the mattress. Look along the stitching and seams checking for stains, shed bed bug exoskeletons, or live bed bugs.
Check along the headboard.
Look behind wall hangings, vanities, and shelves.
Inspect any upholstered furniture in the room (another popular hiding place for bed bugs).
Check along baseboards and in closets.
If the room looks clean and free from pests bring in your luggage. But try to keep it up off the floor for the remainder of your stay. Just to be on the safe side.
Tips for Heading Home
When you pack up to head back home there are a few things you can do to minimize the chances of bring along any unwanted pests. First, put any dirty laundry in plastic bags and seal them tightly. This will prevent any hitchhiking bed bugs from escaping before you get home and do your laundry.
When you get back home follow these tips to add another layer of bed bug protection:
Before bringing anything into your home inspect it for signs of bed bugs. This includes luggage, gifts, shopping, etc.
Unpack your luggage in the laundry room. Wash all of your laundry thoroughly and dry at the highest setting. If you have items that need dry cleaning leave them in plastic bags and take them to the cleaners as soon as you can. Do not bring any laundry into the rest of your home until it is all washed.
Inspect your empty luggage and determine they are free of bed bugs before returning them to storage.
Protect Yourself from Bed Bugs
Protecting your home and your family from bed bugs is a gift that will keep on giving. Well beyond the holiday season. It only takes a few stray bed bugs to lay the groundwork for a full scale infestation. So any steps you take during the holidays to minimize your exposure to these pests is money in the bank.
Published by Scott Palatnik
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