Is the Bedbug Threat Real?
Is the Bedbug Threat Real?
Feel like snuggling up to a bedbug or two? Sightings are on the rise nationwide at homes, schools, and -- holiday travelers take note -- hotels and motels.
But are the tiny bloodsuckers as big a threat as media coverage suggests? The answer seems to be yes -- and no.
In early November, a
The uncertainty concerning the scope of the problem, however, is due to the absence of a central agency that tracks and verifies hotel bedbug reports. The story is told largely through anecdotes. But in a July survey of nearly 1,000 pest-management services, 70 percent said they had identified and exterminated bedbugs in a hotel during the previous year.
The bedbug-hotel issue has even caught the attention of lawmakers. In November, Reps.
When the bill was introduced to
The "gross factor" is high, and travelers are clearly uneasy. Twenty percent of 3,000 travelers surveyed by the website TripAdvisor ranked bedbugs as their top traveling concern. The site, which permits travelers to post reviews, also reported an 11 percent jump in comments referencing bedbugs between January and August of 2009, compared to that same period in 2010.
A just-launched iPhone application called Bed Bug Alert
Such anonymous posts can have considerable impact, despite being unverified and possibly false, says
"This kind of posting can be tremendously expensive," Mount says.
Perhaps contrary to intuition, luxury hotels aren't exempt from the bedbug threat. Reports of sightings spring forth at four-star hotels just as they do at budget motels.
"These are socially transmitted pests" whose presence is unrelated to poor hygiene, Gangloff-Kaufmann says. "People are bringing in a bedbug here and there every day. Hotels are particularly vulnerable because there's so much turnover, and there's no way to screen people or prevent the bugs from coming in."
Bedbugs, rust-colored insects the size of an apple seed, are themselves travelers, hitching rides on clothing, backpacks, and luggage. They hide in cracks, crevices, seams, and folds of material, and emerge at night to feast on human blood. They don't spread disease and their bites are painless, says
While there's no reason to panic or cancel vacation plans, travelers can take steps to protect themselves, starting with a thorough once-over of the hotel room. Flood the room with light and strip the sheets from the bed, and then scan the mattress, box spring, and bed frame for bedbug droppings -- dark stains that are actually drips of digested blood.
A travel-size flashlight is helpful for peering into crevices. Some travelers even remove wall-mounted headboards, Gangloff-Kaufmann says. While she doesn't take her own inspection to such an extent, she recalls several friends who've indeed spotted bedbugs hiding behind headboards. And consider bringing along drawer liner encasements, similar to large Ziploc bags, or hanging clothing in the closet rather than using hotel furniture.
As a precaution, keep luggage in a plastic trash bag, but don't set it on the floor. The top of the dresser is a smarter choice, as is the bathroom floor, since bedbugs dislike linoleum and tile.
If a bedbug is spotted, report it to the front desk immediately A room change should be automatic -- but not to a room above, below, or adjacent to the one that is suspect, since the pests tend to spread to the closest areas. And don't try to resolve the problem alone.
"This isn't a do-it-yourself pest," Henriksen says. "You can certainly squash one with your finger -- and that will kill one bedbug, but it won't eliminate the problem."
And remain cautious when returning home. Even if you dodged hotel bedbugs, the pests can also fester in taxi cab trunks and airplane cargo holds, crawling among luggage. Wash and dry all clothing in hot water, and vacuum suitcases to kill any "unwanted souvenirs," Henriksen says.
"Everyone has equal opportunity to have these bugs come into their lives," she says. "They're impossible to totally prevent -- the problem is real, it's pervasive, and it's growing. But there's no reason to be paranoid. Be vigilant, but enjoy your travels."
Available at Amazon.com:
- Enjoy the Holidays Without Piling on the Pounds
- The Benefits of Indulgence
- The Best Way to Kill Germs
- Best Cold-buster Strategies
- Gift Giving Made Healthy
- Managing Dental Phobia
- Is the Bedbug Threat Real?
- 10 Ways to Stay Healthy During Holiday Travel
- Junk Food Addiction Is All Too Real
- Cranberries: Our Holiday Season's Sparkling Gem
- Foods that Fuel the Immune System
- Powerful Nutrition for Strong Bones
- Bone Up On Bone Health
- Music Only Path to Movement for Some People With Motor Disorders
- Counterfeit Medicines: Health and Harm
- FDA Cracks Down on Caffeine-Charged Alcoholic Drinks
- Fruit and Vegetables: Americans Fall Short
- How to Properly Eat Your Veggies
- Healthy Eating Tips for a Busy Lifestyle
- Top 10 Surprising Facts About Smiling
- Bad Habits That Are Good for You
- How to Decipher Product Labels
- New Applications Turning Cell Phones Into Medical Devices
- The Virtual Therapist Will See You Now
- New Findings Turning Coffee Into A 'Health Food'
- Food Allergies: When Food Bites Back
- Healthy Hot Drinks Avoid Caffeine and Sugar
- Have Glowing Skin for All Seasons
- Best Health Advice I Ever Got
- The Serious Hazards of Soda
- How to Turn Setbacks into Bounce-backs
- Stay Healthy When Everyone Else Is Sick
- How Personality Affects Your Health
- A Sensitive Issue: Salt Restriction
- Would Your Kitchen Pass a Restaurant Inspection?
- Should I Stop Taking B12 Supplements?
- Tap Water Toxins: Fact or Fiction?
- Love Your Liver: Natural Liver Support
- Healthy Eating Guide to Cereal
- Load Up On Vitamin C
- Vitamins That Keep Your Brain Young
- 5 Superfoods You're Not Eating
- Boost Dental Health with Honey and Agave Syrup
- Oral Health Sweet Shocker
- Screening Tests That Can Save Your Life
- Eat Fiber and Feel Better
- The Worst and Best Sweets for Your Teeth
- The Truth About Extreme Smile Makeovers
- A Smart Guide to Dietary Supplements
- Beat the Bedbug Epidemic
- Healthy Eating All Day
- Recreational Drugs Go Straight
- Normal Weight Obesity - A Growing Concern
- Is the Bedbug Threat Real?
- Hybrid Fruit: The New Super-food
- Is Indian Cuisine Healthy Cuisine?
- Is 'Ethnic' Cuisine Healthier?
- Is the H1N1 Flu Pandemic Over?
- 5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
- Surviving Cold Season: How Not to Get Sick
- 7 Healthy Habits in 7 Weeks
- Sleep More and Live Longer
- 4 Dangerous Health Emergencies: What to Do
- Heartburn-friendly Diet with Your Favorite Foods
- Put Brakes on Inflammation Through Diet and Lifestyle Strategies
- The Vibrant and Healthy Flavors of an Authentic Latin Diet
- Is It Hunger or Just Appetite?
- Stay Healthy the Easy Way
- The Importance of Dreams
- Boost Your Energy: Hour by Hour
- Stop Information Overload
- Breathe Like a Baby
- 5 Healthy Foods That Wreck Your Teeth
- Are You Falling for Dental Myths?
- Is Heart Attack Going Out of Style?
- Flu Season
- Preventive Care & Electronic Medical Records Guidelines Set
- Stone Age Diet Surprisingly Good For a Healthy Life Today
- New Tools Fuel Progress on Development of Genetically Engineered Farm Animals
- Beat Your Afternoon Energy Slump
- Small Healthy Habits With Big Health Benefits
- Relieve Stress and Uplift Spirits with Aromatherapy
- New Things To Try That Lift Your Spirits and Relieve Stress
- 5 Fast Breakfasts That Boost Your Health
- Much to Consider When Looking for a Primary Care Physician
- Apples Are the New Fish
- Watermelon: Summer's Antioxidant
- Prescription for Better Health: Go Alfresco?
- Are All Omega-3 Fats The Same?
- Sample a Semi-Vegetarian Lifestyle With a Flexitarian Diet
- Milk: When the First Food May Be the Best Food
- Foraging is Green Eating at Its Purest
- How to Lose Weight Safely
- Colleges Joining Effort to Turn Around Skyrocketing Obesity Rates
- Medical Claims for Marijauna - Just Blowing Smoke?
- The Hidden Health Benefits of Adult Braces
- 5 Things Your Dental Insurance Will Not Cover
- 4 Effortless Steps to Whiter Teeth
- 5 First-aid Tricks You Need to Know
- Heat Can Beat the Heart
- Eating for Your Blood Type -- Truth or Fiction?
- Salt Sensitivity Issue: Salt Restriction
- 5 Tips to Bulldoze a Bad Mood
- Genetically Engineered Foods Update: More Common Than You Think
- 5 Celebrity Trends That Could Harm Your Health
- Should You Travel Abroad for a Dental Procedure
- Super Foods to Boost Your Dental Health
- The Fight Escalates Against Fake Drugs
- Fermented Foods Are Making a Comeback
- Wean Yourself Off Processed Foods in 7 Steps
- An Update on Soy: It's Just So-So
- Is it OK to Take Ibuprofen P.M.?
- Colonoscopy: Is It Time to Go Virtual Colonoscopy
- Sleep Better Tonight (Fight Fatigue Tomorrow)
- Do-it-yourself Sunburn Remedies
- Take the Germ Quiz
- Healthy Mouth Equals Healthy Body
- 5 Biggest Flossing Mistakes
- Health Threat of Nitrates: Nitrites in Cured Meats
- Stop Dry Mouth Now
- Best Ways to Keep Your Teeth
- 5 Instant Ways to Stress Less and Smile More
- Be Suntan Savvy
- 4 Ways to Sneak in Sunblock
- Can Aspirin Do That, Too?
- A Natural Approach to Sweet Slumber
- Boost Your Brainpower
- Seeds of Life: Chia, Flax, Hemp and Pumpkin
- Microgreens Become Macro Trend to Follow
- Eat Your Way to a Healthy Smile
- Why and How to Get More Vitamin D
- Better Alternatives to Silver Fillings
- 5 Beach Safety Tips
- Traveling Light: Healthy Eating for Business Junketeers
- Healthy Snacks for Energy
- Shape-Shifting 'Tube Robot' Could Aid Heart Surgery
- Better Ways to Get Your Produce
- Cutting-Edge Cuisine Engages Senses Beyond Taste
- Eat for Your Eyesight
- Is It Better to Stop Smoking Abruptly or Gradually?
- Relieve Stress in 5 Minutes or Less
- Best Ways to Soothe Sensitive Teeth
- Turn a Clean Home Into a Healthy Home
- Largest Ever Cell Phone Cancer Study is Inconclusive
- Treating Early-Stage Esophageal Cancer
- TNF Inhibitors Offer Relief to Those With Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Advances in Breast Cancer Screening Helping to Fine-Tune Diagnosis
- First Aid for Summer
- The Microscopic World of Food Nanotechnology
- Screening Plays Key Role in Detecting Polyps Before They Become Cancerous
- Learn How to Read Supplement Labels
- Compression-Only CPR Can Replace Conventional CPR in Many Circumstances
- Diabetes: Could You Have Diabetes and Not Know It
- Fighting Inflammation with Food
- Bad Health Habits Rob Years From Life Span
- Beating Back Pandemics is a Cooperative Crusade
- The Importance of Decreasing Dietary Sodium
- Chocolate Reduces Inflammation Associated with Heart Disease
- Healthy Eating Tips for a Busy Lifestyle
- Olive Oil and Health
- Push for Healthier Diets Means Big Changes for the Food Industry
- How to Identify Suicide Risk Before It's Too Late
- Tips for Natural Allergy Relief
- Inflammation May Play Role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Longevity Revolution Will Restructure Life Around the World
- Maximum Fitness: CrossFit Training
- Tests to Optimize Treatment of Breast Cancer
- Enjoy the Health Benefits of Tea
- Can Your Toothbrush Make You Sick?
- Sunscreen Facts You Need to Know
- When does Knee Replacement Surgery Make Sense
- Is Hefty the New Healthy?
- Best Way to Take Heartburn Medication
- Aerobics Without Heartburn
- Stress Less: Ten Strategies That Work
- Paralyzed Limbs Revived by Hacking Into Nerves
- Take the Work Out of Workout
- Cultivate a Nutrient-Rich Approach to Eating for Life
- Treadmill Test Can Reveal Hidden Problems in Heart
- Researchers Break Through to Unconscious Patients
- Key Factors Related to Heart Attack Risk
- Type 2 Diabetes Increases Risk for Cardiovascular Problems
- Middle-Age Spread and How to Avoid It
- Fiber and Weight Loss: Learn the Secrets
- Hypochondria: The Impossible Illness
- Get the Lead Out: The Less Exposure to This Toxic Metal the Better
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sugar
- Cultivate a Healthy Brain Lifestyle As You Age
- Regular Exercise Helps Protect Aging Brains
- Surgeries Can be Combined But May Not be Necessary
Copyright © 2010 US News and World Report. All rights reserved.