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Battling Bed Bugs In Hotels And Beyond

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Bed Bugs: Traveler's NightmareIt’s the creepiest, crawliest topic of the year: bed bugs.

Peter chatted with pest control expert Brian Hirsch about the surprising places where these little hitchhikers are showing up, and how you can protect yourself from being an unwitting host.

Peter Greenberg: We couldn’t get through the year without addressing a subject I’ve been trying to avoid for quite some time: bed bugs. I have to ask the stupid question…

Is it sort of like sex? Is it happening more now, or is it just being reported more?

Brian Hirsch: No, unfortunately more is just happening now. The increase has become so pervasive in the last couple of years that even small town middle-America is getting hit with them.

PG: As a traveler, one thing I know about bed bugs is that they also love to travel.

BH: They are hitchhikers by nature. In fact the only way to get them is to have the unfortunate luck of just going somewhere that has them, like a hotel room.

Hotels Not The Only Place Where Bed Bugs BreedPG: But it’s not just hotel rooms, is it? We’ve seen stories where major retail stores in Manhattan have had to close because of bed bugs. We’ve seen movie theaters have to close because of bed bugs.

BH: You have to remember people go to hotels, and once you go and visit a city you go home, you live your life. But you bring them back to your house. You put on your clothes, your boots, and your winter coats. And then you go to the stores, and you go to the movie theaters, and unfortunately they’re clinging right to you. So when you shed your clothes and sort of try on a new outfit, whoops, you just left them in the dressing room for someone else to pick up. So you really have to be quite unlucky, but it does happen.

PG: But there’s no such thing as a machine that I can carry with me as a bed bug detector. I can’t walk around waving some kind of magic wand.

BH: No, you really can’t. The only thing you can do is try to be as vigilant as you can. Watch where you put your belongings; watch what you rub up against. Be wary of going to public places. If you wear a winter coat to a movie theater, when you come home, toss it in the dryer for a half hour. At that heat it will kill any life stage. It’s just trying to be aware of what you’re doing and what you’re touching, so you don’t bring things home with you.

PG: So basically the dryer is going to take care of that?

Other ways to fight back: Bed Bugs Bite: National Bed Bug Conference To Combat Creepy Crawlers

BH: Honestly, the dryer is the single best thing you have in your house. At 30 minutes on high heat it will kill every life stage of bed bugs. Be creative. I’ve thrown everything in dryers from backpacks to shoes, to clothes, to quilts, to baseball hats and kids toys. A lot of stuff you can heat up for a half an hour and be just fine and then it’s bed bug free.

Old Luggage - Beware of Bed BugsPG: Because they’re travelers they love luggage. And what’s the one thing we all do? I’m guilty of this too, I have to admit it. I take my own bags into the room with me and what’s the first thing I do? I put the bag on the bed.

BH: Ugh, exactly. You know we all used to do it. And to be quite honest the second place where people put their luggage, which is actually almost the second-worse spot in the hotel room, is right on the luggage rack. Because before you 30 other people were using that same thing. What we typically like to see people do, and what I do personally, is stick the luggage in the  bathroom on the tile floor, and conduct a little bit of an inspection.

PG: So if you walk in the bathroom and the bed bugs are using the conditioner and the shampoo you know something is going on. I’m going to give you a statistic. According to the National Pest Management Association, they say the national bed bug problem has grown by a whopping 71 percent in the last nine years.

BH: That’s absolutely true. Now you have to understand that, that statistic can be a bit skewed in the sense that up until just about five years ago we really didn’t have a really pervasive problem. But a worse part in the last five years, it’s just grown so quickly that its moved from those big cities like New York and Vegas to cities like Cincinnati. Cincinnati is not a traditional tourist destination, and it’s probably number three or five on most bed bug registries as the worst in the country.

Encounter creepy crawlies? Travel Tip: Dealing With Bed Bugs

A Bug's Life: More Travel Than Even PeterPG: What’s number one?

BH: New York is still probably holding onto that title pretty tightly.

PG: Love that. OK, who’s got the lowest rating?

BH: Probably a little farm in the middle of nowhere.

PG: Maybe Fairbanks, Alaska?

BH: You know, actually Alaska is pretty high up there on the list.

PG: Really?

BH: They get a lot of tourists and a lot of stopovers from cruise lines. Anytime you have a lot of people moving in and out of an area, particularly mixing in international travel, the chance of getting bed bugs is going to skyrocket.

Listen to the complete interview on Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Sign up to be an Insider (the first month is free) and get on-demand access to Peter’s weekly radio show, exclusive videos and more!

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