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Originally published Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 2:13 PM

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Don’t bring bedbugs home from a hotel

With the blood-sucking pests on the increase, travelers should inspect their hotel rooms.

Cox News Service

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Bedbugs have made a big comeback in recent years, say University of Florida urban entomologists Phil Koehler and Roberto Pereira

The tiny, blood-sucking pests are light brown, and the adults are slightly less than a quarter of an inch long. They love to make their homes in mattresses, bedding and furniture. They most often feed on people at night while their victims sleep. The bugs don’t transmit disease, but their bites leave itchy white and red welts. They’re also adept at hitching rides in clothing and suitcases.

Koehler said he first heard about the problem in 1999 and by 2001, the pests were widespread.

“The problem is getting worse. A recent survey of pest control operators funded by the National Pest Management Association showed the problem is intensifying, especially in the South,” Koehler said.

While it’s not unheard of for a motel or hotel to shut down to fumigate, most hotels try to deal with bed bugs discreetly, for obvious reasons.

There’s really nothing available over the counter to tackle the problem because every bug has to be sprayed directly, and no pesticides are very good at killing the eggs, so reinfestation is common, Koehler said.

“I am not aware of any bedbug repellents that work on either humans or luggage. We have suggested the use of a sealed garbage bag to protect luggage when it is placed in rooms suspected of having bed bugs,” Koehler said.

To help ensure you don’t bring any home from your next stay at a hotel, follow these travel tips from Koehler and Pereira:

• Inspect your hotel room when you arrive. Check mattress seams and folds. Look for blood spots the size of a pencil point. Check behind the headboard as well. They can even lurk in a picture frame or in a popcorn ceiling.

• If you see signs of bed bugs, demand another room, and inspect that one as well.

•- In the room, keep your suitcases away from furniture and walls until you finish your inspection. Keep your suitcase closed overnight and inside tightly sealed plastic garbage bags when you’re not using them. Keep your shoes and socks inside the plastic bag while you sleep. Bedbugs are attracted to the odor of feet.

• When packing to leave, check your clothing and luggage for signs of the small insects. Check seams and folds carefully.

• Back at home, immediately wash all your laundry from the trip in hot water, then machine dry on the highest setting for at least 20 minutes. Even if you don’t wash, putting possibly infested items into the dryer on high heat will kill bed bugs. Even dry-cleanable clothing can be put in driers if you don’t wet it first.

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