First, there should be a thorough inspection of areas that may be infested to identify bedbugs. Once a room is identified as infested, don't remove anything from the room unless it is sealed in a plastic bag. Furniture and items that you want to discard rather than treat should be bagged and destroyed so other people don't use them. Call your trash collection agency to arrange for an immediate pickup. Reduce the clutter in the room and discard any cardboard boxes as they can harbor bedbugs. Vacuum the area and seal the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard it.
Checking beds for bed bugs was a common practice long ago, especially while traveling. Travelers today should consider doing the same, preferably before unpacking. This would entail examining the bed sheets and seams of the mattress and perhaps box spring for signs of bed bugs, especially along the head (pillow end) of the bed. Experts also remove and check behind headboards since this is a frequent hiding place for bed bugs in hotels. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves.
Bedbugs are small wingless insects with a flat body. Like all insects, they have six legs. Their color can range from whitish to brown, but after feeding (on blood from animals or people), they appear rusty red. Bedbugs grow to about 0.5 cm in length and can be seen by the naked eye. Their name comes from the fact that they often hide in bedding or mattresses.
While encountering bed bugs in hotels is possible, typically only a small number of rooms have problems. If bed bugs are discovered, guests can request another room, preferably in another area of the building, since problems often extend to nearby units. Should you experience itchy welts suggestive of bed bug bites during your stay, it would be prudent upon returning home to place all clothing directly into the washer and/or dryer. Inspecting or vacuuming luggage upon arrival home is less useful since it’s hard to spot bed bugs inside a suitcase. The suitcase itself can either be treated or discarded.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.