How do I avoid bringing bedbugs home after being exposed?(26 posts)
I fear my family has been exposed to bedbugs. We didn't see them, but we have suspicious bites everywhere. We've taken no precautions and now have to head home. I've read the great travel FAQ blogs, but want to know if anyone has more specific advise/experience with this. I can stick all the clothing in ziplock bags. I can throw away the soft suitcases. What do I do with shoes, books, electronics and toiletries? Is there anyway to find out if these bites are bedbugs? We are now in another hotel and I fear we are infecting the world. Grateful for any insight.
Suitcase Bug...First can you get all of your clothing washed..are there any laundry facilities nearby?? Hot water and a hot dryer...and then put your clothes immediately into clear plastic bags..double them up if necessary...If you can find a hardware store nearby to whereever you are, then purchase a STIFF WIRE BRUSH....take your luggage peices into the tub area and get some 91 percent alcohol and wipe/soak the luggage with it..then take the wire brush and brush all the seams...use force...get a flashlite and inspect...everything...if there is a pet store where you are traveling you might find a "flea powder" that contains some of the stuff that kills bed bug....you can litely dust the inside of your lugguage peices with a flea powder......also your shoes...brush them down..wipe them down..and bag all excess items immediately....tightly....I never saw bed bug eggs but people say they can be seen...so inspect very carefully...when you finally arrive home..put everything, including your luggage into plastic bags and then carefullly do loads of laundry on hot...even the luggage...sorry for this ..
Thanks for your expert advice. What is your opinion about dry cleaning? I have all of my family's Easter clothing with us and it can't be washed in water or dried. Also, once we get home, is there a recommendation for keeping things in bags that actually works?
You can dry clean but you must tell the dry cleaner the items may have been exposed to bed bugs and should be kept separate until treatment (take them in in a sealed bag). I guess they occasionally say no, but most probably want your business.
Just to add to Bugalina's words--make sure all washed items are sealed in NEW plastic bags, and also make sure you do not put any powders or other pesticides in your suitcase if everything in those bags is not sealed in plastic. You don't want this stuff in your clothes or other items.
Personally, I would not put flea powders in my suitcase so I'd be very cautious there. I understand Bugalina would do this (and the rest of her advice seems good) but I think it's potentially dangerous.
Some flea powders just contain talcs and herbal essences..like clove oils..etc...people douse their pets with the stuff..and then the pets sleep on their beds!! ...I think the powders sold over the counter are fairly innocuous..but might help to repel or dessicate a bed bug...since they are traveling.its just a possible thing to do...Inspection is the most important, and they a wipe down with a strong alcohol or a Murphy's Oil with citrus..you didnt mention where you are so I don't know what resources are available to you.. I don't understand what you mean by "keeping things in bags does that really works"....keeping the things in good, sealed plastic bags will contain any bugs, it won't kill them..unless you left them for at least a year and a half....so keeping them in bags will allow you some control....You can take the bags outside..and inspect...or into your tub area....As for the clothes that must be dry cleaned...Can some of them be put into a hot dryer for two hrs..maybe??? The thing is ..you must be so careful when handliing them..so that any small hard to see nymph doesn't drop down.....If you bundle them all up...its best to double up and use clear plastic bags, so that you and or the dry cleaners can see anything inside, ....take them all to a dry cleaners...and tell them like Nobugs says that they have been exposed to bed bugs....just make certain there are no holes in the bags...I usually put things into 3 clear bags, but I am extremely paranoid about bed bug contamination....
I'm in Florida. We spent one night in a cheapo motel and the next day we were covered in bites. Not just the feet and face that might be from mosquitoes. As we were driving away it occurred to me that it couldn't have been mosquitoes, but we were already far from the hotel and it never occurred to me to look. I checked the registry but it has no reports from the hotel. So I'm not sure we're infected but we did pop up with more bites today. They seem smaller and have a raised center and are on our tushes and stomachs.
I can get anything to help control this. Unfortunately, we unpacked in new hotel without realizing that we needed to contain this. Of course I don't see anything yet, but I'd love to try not to bring it home just in case and I guess I need to tell this establishment. Oh fun.
I have a lot of clothing with me that doesn't go into the dryer.
I can triple bag and bring to the cleaners.
I'll follow Bugalina's advice about alcohol and brush on shoes.
I'll throw out the bags,
I guess the question about bags was if I put books in it etc, does that mean I have wait 18 months before intorducing into my home?
Do I unpack on the sidewalk and throw out the suitcases?
Is there any way possible to find out if the bites are in fact bed bugs?
I have a neighbor (not my building) who got infected and it was thousands of dollars and untold heartache to de-bug her home and family so I'd really love to avoid it and will follow all advice.
Thanks for all the responses!
Please err on the side of caution when using the "flea powders". Read the label. If it is not recommended on the label for the use you have in mind, you could endanger your family and yourself. It is illegal in some cases to use a pesticide for a use not recommended on the label, and also to advise people to do so.
So, use caution, read the label, and follow the other excellent advice you've gotten here. You are very wise to start dealing with this proactively before you return home.
Just keep in mind, as regards to disposable items- when in doubt, throw it out. Consider the horror, expense, and time dealing with an infestation, and carefully consider what you are bringing back into the house.
Best of luck!
If the flea powder only includes herbal essences, it is NOT going to be of any help. If it has pyrethroids or other pesticides, it can cause harm. I feel a responsibility to people to not recommend things be used when I don't know what might be in the product a reader purchases. You may know to be cautious and feel it goes without saying, but it doesn't--remember the coffee cups with the "the contents are very hot?"
Suitcase, you will probably find some of the other FAQs (besides the one on travel) helpful. Cover your bed as we describe in Protect your Bed FAQs Part 1 and Part 2. FAQ button below...
Thanks to all of you for the thoughtful and detailed replies. I'll go read the other faxes. I bought a case of bags, but I'm still secretly hoping some doctor will tell me these are mosquito bites. Sigh.
Oh, I really hate to say this, but having brought BBs home from a hotel, I must. A diagnosis of mosquito bites should not prevent you from taking precautions. So sorry.
However, the good news is that if you do take precautions, the chances are excellent that you can prevent a small infestation in your travel belongings from becoming a big problem in your home. I just wish this blog and all of those FAQs that everyone worked so hard to create had been here when I returned from my trip.
Suitcase, most doctors have trouble detecting bed bug bites, so I would not rely on them if they say its something else.
Hi SuitcaseBug, please take this with several grains of salt as I'm biased, traumatized, and not an expert, but if I were you, I would quarantine all my belongings before arriving home. You really cannot see the nymphs and eggs with the naked eye in most cases. (The advice you have been given is excellent and will hopefully prevent you from infesting other hotels you stay at--but when you actually finally get home, can you really quantify the risk? I don't think so.)
If you don't want to wait 18 months to open your plastic bags, you could look into having a PCO treat them--several options are available depending on what the items are, including heat, steam, spraying with a pesticide, etc. But beware of a PCO who might guarantee 100% effective treatment of your belongings in this way if the method is spraying or steaming--not really possible to guarantee reaching every nook and cranny. Heat and Vikane fumigation are really the most effective methods available but not available everywhere and/or not appropriate with some items.
You'll probably be OK, but there is a risk and it's real and why not just do everything possible to avoid it? Bedbugs are a nightmare. Of course, like I said, my advice is tainted by bias and trauma.
Hey Suitcase, so sorry about your situation but so glad you found this site! Please feel free to ask any specific questions, no amount of detail is too small. Bedbugs are truly terrible and I sure hope we can help you to avoid bringing them home.
You said "Do I unpack on the sidewalk and throw out the suitcases?" If you are okay throwing out the suitcases, then yes, I'd throw them out. But I wouldn't even come as close as the sidewalk. You don't want them in your home, or anywhere near your home. (Unless you're sure they're contained in airtight bags, and honestly, garbage bags rip).
If garbage bags are all you have access to, then yeah, just multi-bag for now.
Wait, you are driving? So you're in a car now? Is it your car, or a rental? If you are in your own car, then your car is a potential risk for infestation as well. Cars are difficult to treat. Keep your stuff bagged in the car if you can.
I'd make a stop on your way home - in the airport, or at a gas station or Walgreens or something. Actually, if you can find a Target, they sell the XL ziplocs which are the best size for clothes and stuff. I feel confident that XL ziplocs are airtight.
Put the clothes and stuff in bags, and throw out the suitcases. Then drive home.
OK, everyone. I'm still out of town. I'm in a rental car. I have to fly home. My plan is to put my clothing in the xxl bags for laundry or drycleaning. I will scrub down with alcohol the cases I have and load them for the airplane. I will put electronics and books in separate ziplocks. I ziplock shoes, purses, wallets, etc. When I get home, I will throw out anything I can...suitcases, cd cases, extra paper, kids art supplies...but what do I do with wallets, expensive purse (even though it's 20 years old) and shoes. Do I keep them in bags for 18 months, must I throw them out...can I just wire brush them and store in bags? Also Nobugs had me read the bed care FAQ. If my home is OK now, do I wrap mattress in allergy pads as a precaution? I think I'm getting a plan, but these are the residual questions. And by the way, the motel has no reports on the registry. As I'm not _sure_ I have them, is it right to report it? Many thanks again.
I think the best advice I can give you is, let's take this one step at a time. Try not to worry about the long-term future just yet - try to focus on the present.
Glad to hear you're in a rental car. Will you be driving home in your car from the airport? If so, I think you should do the big "throwing out" at the airport, BEFORE getting in your car, if that is possible for you.
If you must bring things into your home, make sure they are protected. But really, I'd bring home as little stuff as possible. While the chances are that you only have a few bugs (not like, hundreds or anything) you need to imagine that they could be in anything.
But wallets, purse, shoes - don't worry about these things' long-term futures. We will deal with those once you've made the transition home. Just worry about getting home, with your stuff isolated.
I'm gonna describe what I think is your ideal scenario:
You get to the airport. You open your suitcases and take everything out. You put everything into XL ziplocs. You wrap the suitcases in garbage bags, and put them in a dumpster or garbage (I know that may be hard to find, and I wouldn't want you to just leave them where others might steal them, but perhaps there is a big garbage somewhere?) Or, worst-case, they are wrapped in garbage bags and you drive them to a dumpster.
Then, you and your family carry the bags of stuff to the car. You get home. You take your own clothes off, maybe in the garage or something, and put them right into bags too. You jump in the shower.
You empty ziplocs straight into the washer, and you seal and throw them out after use. You take drycleanables to the cleaners, in the ziplocs, and instruct them to keep the bags sealed because they may have bedbugs. (My first cleaners acted like I was a total freak, so I found a new cleaners, and they are much nicer about it).
All the other stuff, you keep sealed, at least at first. You monitor your body, you make sure you've got no new bites. Then you can start dealing with your other stuff.
No, I don't think you'll need to leave things in storage for 18 months, though it is one way to be totally sure any bugs inside are gone. But there are faster ways. You might want to inspect each item, one at a time, in the bathtub or over a white sheet. You can spray everything individually with Kleen Free - it's an enzyme cleaner that kills bedbugs on contact and shouldn't damage any of your stuff (I've sprayed leather shoes, wool coats, my own skin, etc). You can steam-clean items that are hard to see inside, like a purse (my purse has an inner liner, so it's hard to see inside there). You can stick things in the dryer, like any sneakers or canvas shoes.
But don't worry about these things right now. Just worry about keeping everything isolated, and getting yourself and your stuff home without infesting your car or your house. Then we'll deal with the stuff.
You're doing so great!! Hopefully this'll be over soon!
Oh, and about the bed - while it's never a bad idea to have protective covers on your mattress and box spring, I don't know if that's essential at this point. They are great products for preventing your mattress from being infested, but I think if you can successfully get home without any bugs getting out of your bags/stuff, you *might* not need them. But it's your call. The only reason I'd say to wait, is that they are a bit expensive, like $55 for each queen-size one.
And your last question, do you report the motel - I mean, I think this is bedbugs, and everyone else here probably does too. Just because all the signs are there (travel and bites are really all the signs you need!) But maybe wait just a bit, and again, focus on yourself and getting home scot-free. I do think you should report the hotel, both by writing about it on tripadvisor AND by giving them a call (tell them what room you were in) but again, one thing at a time. Do that once you're home and things are more under control.
Maybe the stuff that can't stand the heat, maybe it can stand the cold. Do you have a freezer?
Right now we are traveling in South America and in 27 days we will be in the home of Eelco's parents.
This is our strategy:
We throw most of our stuff away so we have only small daypacks. When we come home put the clothing we have in the washing machine and dryer, we take a shower, shoes in ziplocks and in the freezer.
All the stuff that cannot be washed (mp3 player, camera, etc) we put in ziplocks and put them in the freezer too. I hope the mp3 player and camera will be fine after a week in the freezer, if not too bad we have to buy new ones. Buying new ones will be cheaper than getting a PCO for the house, and btw I don't know we have good ones in Holland.
I don't think that we have them anymore but I don't want that house of Eelco's parents getting infected.
Maybe not such a good idea. In this link it says that freezing temperatures won't kill them.
Now I don't know what to do with the things that cannot go into the washing and drying machine....
I have 27 days left to sort it out.
At least you only have to deal with as much as you took on a trip, not everything you own.
I agree with those here who say to guarantine everything first in large zip-lock bags. Do you have access to a sauna? It is the heat, not the washing and drying, that kills the bedbugs. If a sauna gets items to say 120 - 140 degrees--and remember things inside things are insulated so they won't heat up--you will kill bedbugs and eggs.
Also, everything you can totally see and inspect is fine. I'm sure at this point you are paranoid, but as you go through items one by one carefully, you'll find you might be able to visually inspect things such as a contact lens case, eyeglasses, and other things. I'd throw out or store anything you can. It's not worth saving a pair of shoes if bedbug eggs could have been laid under the lining. I found a bedbug egg under the glued-in lining of a small carrying case. I was about to throw the case out and I ripped the lining out to see if I could use it without the lining for another purpose--and there was a telltale egg. Arrgh.
I'm just worried about things that cannot stand hot water/heat (down sleaping bag, camping matress).
btw as I'm from Holland I'm used to Celsius not Farenheit. For all the others who are confused:
32 Farenheit = 0 Celsius
120 Farenheit = 50 Celsius
But we go home with as little as possible. Big backpacks are gone, tents are gone etc. We sent stuff home, all packed up in plastic, 2 3 times. Also told the parents NOT to put the package in their home but in their garden with some plastic around so it wont get wet. And when we come home the washing and drying begins. And we thought a freezer would be sufficient for things like sleepingbag and mattresses, being in the freezer for 2 weeks. But now I thing about throwing more stuff away than before.
I agree with NOBUGS that doctors don't diagnose bedbug bites. I had a confirmed bedbug infestation, went to the dermatology office, asked them what the marks on my shoulders, back and legs were--and they told me they didn't know. Even when they suspect bedbugs, they might just tell you it's "insect bites," but they usually won't confirm bedbug bites unless you show them a bedbug. I don't think doctors can prove it is a bedbug bite from the bite itself, though there are certain clues--in a pattern of 3 bites, for example. They can also due a biopsy to rule out other skin conditions or insects that might have burrowed under the skin. Also, by the time you get to the doctor's, your bites might look different. Some of them might hopefully be gone.
If I may chime in here, PLEASE consider protecting your mattress/boxspring. They are a bit expensive but you can buy the heavy duty plastic that new mattresses come in from a bag company. I bought 5 king size (I went overboard, but I needed them for taking out the old buggy mattresses) for 5 dollars each. I did give the owner my sob story so maybe he gave me a lower price. They are here in Brooklyn but I'm sure any big city has a plastic bag manufacturer. I found this one in the phone book. Better to protect now even if you don't have them. They are everywhere and it will save you in the long run. Hang in there!
suitcase: Ditto! You are lucky and smart to ship stuff home and keep it outside. Any hardware or art store can sell you painting tarps. I suggest the heaviest 3mm type for 30.00 in SF--I had enough to wrap two mattresses and a large art portfolio CANVAS bag. Oh got ever since I got bed bugs I hate canvas bags. Heavy duty duct tape ... 30.00 and if you bring stuff inside from outside--the triple rapped plastic stuff--you can soak some of it in the tub in hot hot water or contact spray it before you even unwrap the last two layers. THROW THE BAGS AWAY!
Just stay close by with a contact kill but it is hard for us to say, as we can't really see what you've got there, Parakeets said a sauna ... oh gosh that sounds nice we all need one of those!
You seem on it! you'll d
P.S>--I know your hooked on the idiea that you picked them up in travel and that is the moist likely case ... but what ig they had crawled into your bags BEFORE you left home ... Unlikley: still--don't forget to check your own house and beds well at home just in case.
See ... most of us have had to re piece together, from memory where we may have gotten the bugs ... there is the smallest chance you took them with you as many people don't notice the skin problems right away or as you guys were packing they some how had just been introduced into u home environ.
Tthis is another fairly typical skin response notoften mentioned here:first few bites really welt up. I had attributed a "stress boil like" thing on my thigh to hotel management issues I'd been having in my home.
In retrospect it was likely my first bed bug bite. And that was almost three months before I found up to 300 total counting eggs nymphs adults.
Just another thing to think about: get very bed bug free yourself and do an in house bed bug inspection as one of your top priorities ... that way, if they do wind up showing up again later you'll have a better handle on it all. I realize you likely got them while traveling--but you never know. All would agree I'm sure to be safe is best and I know you have been! I love Holland the spring! And I hope yours is bed bug free!
it's that we care and that we all have different situations and living spcaces. I've recentl yseen whatr the plastic for matresses in SF come in. That plastic is too thin and you'd need three on each matress! just some more thoughts as I/we know your traeling and that can be confusing and tiring with time changes and so on.
let us know! stay in touch!
Hi everyone. We're back from vacation. We threw out a lot of stuff. We drycleaned a lot of stuff -- our regular cleaner was totally cool about it. We have a lot of stuff in double plastic bags in the hallway. So far so good. I can't thank you all enough for your specific, thoughtful and informed advice. I will take it with me whenever I travel. And some Kleen-free. I'll keep reading the post and let you all know if we find anything.
keep a sharp eye suitcase. Plastic bags can rip as was said by S above--and, be sure to check YOUR OWN HOME TOO! Remember what I said a few posts back:)
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