When staying at hotels these days, we’re used to the idea of taking measures to protect against COVID-19 and other potential infections. But there’s another hotel room threat worth staving off: bed bugs.

“Bed bugs can be present in any hotel no matter how expensive the rooms may be. In fact, we just had a pest control company mention to us the other day that all the calls they are seeing right now are in your higher-priced properties,” said Jeff White, chief product officer at the pest control manufacturer SenSci.

“That said, bed bugs definitely tend to be a bigger issue in lower-socioeconomic settings for an assortment of reasons,” he added. “Roadside hotels and motels where you have a higher incidence of extended-stay residents anecdotally can have a higher incidence of issues compared to some of your higher-end hotels, but honestly, it can all vary dramatically from property to property.”

If you’ve ever dealt with a bed bug infestation, you know it’s not an experience you’d wish on your worst enemy. So it’s worth it to be mindful while traveling.

“Bed bugs affect people in different ways, but for the majority of people, it can cause extreme anxiety, panic, and worry,” said Matt Kelley, president of Prodigy Pest Solutions. “This, in turn, can drastically interfere with a person’s regular sleep cycle. Additionally, bed bugs are a challenging pest to treat. Finding an infestation in a hotel before bringing bed bugs home with you will therefore save you money and anxiety in the long run.”

While you may never be able to fully guarantee a bedbug-free existence, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of being exposed or bringing them back home with you. We asked Kelley, White, and other experts to share the best ways to check for bed bugs in hotels and other protective measures travelers can take.

Know the signs

“There is no way to 100% prevent bringing bed bugs into a home because they are tiny and cryptic creatures, hiding deep in cracks and crevices which can make them incredibly difficult to detect,” said Brittany Campbell, an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association.

“However, it’s worth doing an inspection for bed bugs when traveling and staying in a new place if you know the signs to look for ― live bed bugs, fecal staining, cast skins, and eggs ― to hopefully catch them early before they have time to get into your belongings and hitchhike back in your luggage, purse or backpack home with you,” she added.

Although bed bugs are tiny and often hidden away during the day, they are still generally large enough to be visible to the naked eye. Kelley noted that this is true during all stages of the bed bug life cycle.

“In addition to live bugs, bed bugs leave behind distinct evidence including droppings (looks as if someone took a ballpoint pen or marker and made marks or dots), cast skins (empty shell of a bed bug), and eggs (they appear like tiny grains of white rice in clusters),” he explained.

Inspect the bed

As their name suggests, bed bugs are often found lurking in and around beds, so that’s the first place you should check.

“I typically recommend checking the obvious areas such as the edges of the mattress and box spring as well as any area you can see on the headboard without moving everything around,” White said.

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