“Bedbugs”, the word is enough to strike fear into the hearts of travellers, backpackers, and accommodation providers alike. The scourge that crawls into every nook and cranny of your possessions and leaves you scratching like a flea ridden dog.
After my personal experience with bedbugs whilst in Cambodia, I know how much it sucks, so I figured I would cover a few misconceptions and offer some tips that worked for me, in the event you have the misfortune to come across the little bastards.
Fear not, you will not necessarily have to destroy all of your things and on the bright side, as much as they are annoying, they are not known to spread diseases.
What do they look like? Contrary to popular belief, bedbugs are not microscopic and can often be seen. However, they are crafty, and usually only make an appearance at night, drawn out by the body temperature of their victim. They are little round/oval shaped critters of a brownish gold colour.
Some people may not actually show any symptoms of bed bug bites, no visible marks, no itchiness. The bites I got were horrendously almost unbearably itchy, bright red and raised above the skin.
Bedbugs always bite in lines, usually in rows of three to five; so if you’re debating whether you’ve become victim to mosquitos or not, this will be your biggest clue.
Usually, the bites will go away of their own accord, but to help with the itchiness, try witch hazel, gel from an aloe vera plant, lemon juice, or hydrocortisone cream. Be sure to wash them with unscented soap to prevent infection, and consider possibly taking some oral antihistamines.
Thoroughly inspect your mattress, along the seams and underneath, check your sheets and pillow cases etc. Look for specks of blood, empty bedbug exoskeletons, droppings (that will look like little black dots), and whether there are any strange smells in your room.
Don’t put your bags on the bed! This is one of the main reasons that hotels and hostels end up with them in the first place. A bedbug infestation, unlike say cockroaches, is not always the result of poor hygiene in terms of accommodation. Most of the time, they are spread by travellers. More often than not, this is because the bedbugs are in your luggage, and the first thing many people do is put their bags down on the end of the bed.
In fact, if you are able to store your luggage off the ground, then that is the best place for it. Bedbugs are not contained to just mattresses or pillows, they can travel and run around the floor to find a safe spot to nest in.
Tell the staff immediately and asked to be moved. Staff should be willing to bend over backwards to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
HEAT. Another common misconception is that cold will kill bedbugs but they will merely hibernate, so ignore suggestions of putting your items in a freezer. Go outside, empty the contents of your luggage, shake everything off and transfer everything washable into bin bags. Place other items into a separate bin bag.
Take all your laundry to a cleaner and be honest with the fact that you have bed bugs so that they know how to treat it. The best thing to do is to put everything in a dryer on high heat, transfer to a washing machine to be washed on a high heat wash and then back into the tumble dryer on high heat again. This should kill all of the bedbugs, although be mentally prepared for the possibility of some of your clothes shrinking.
For things that are too large or that the cleaner won’t take such as a backpack or trainers, tie them in a black bin liner and leave in direct sunlight for at least 24hrs but longer would be more ideal.
SPRAY. Get yourself a super duper strong bug killing spray and fumigate everything and I mean everything. Leave no stone unturned, bag up all your stuff, spray the shit out of it and then tie the bag up. Repeat this as often as possible while you are waiting for everything else to be treated. Try spraying on to a cloth or tissue and wiping everything down, every crevice you can think of, from chargers to books because they can hide anywhere!
I hope this helps and gives you guys some clarification so that you’ll know what to do if you get bedbugs.