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Originally published Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 7:00 PM

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Nervously checking hotel rooms for bedbugs

How to avoid bringing home a nasty souvenir — bedbugs — from a trip.

Seattle Times NWTraveler editor

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I confess. I’m one of those people who has become neurotic about bedbugs while traveling. I check every hotel room to make sure I’m not sharing it with unwanted insect guests who will hitchhike home on my suitcase or clothing and raise havoc.

Like many travelers, I’ve been vaguely worried about bedbugs over the last few years when reports started circulating of the insects’ resurgence. But I got seriously worried after some friends’ home was infested when their daughter returned home after staying in a building with bedbugs; the critters likely traveled along on her suitcase.

My friends called in the pesticide people and were in upheaval for days, with extensive spraying and endless washing and high-heat drying (heat can kill bedbugs). While bedbugs don’t appear to carry disease, their bites can cause itching and skin rashes. And then there’s the big yuck factor, of knowing that you’re sleeping with bugs who suck your blood.

So now when I first enter my hotel room I put my suitcase on a hard surface (bedbugs like the softer stuff) and pull back the sheets and mattress pad. Specks of dried blood, from previous guests that bedbugs have bitten, are what I’m looking for, or the tiny bugs themselves.

So far, I’ve found no sign of bedbugs in any of the places I’ve stayed — but both luxury hotels and cheap motels do get bedbugs. I occasionally have checked the online Bedbug Registry (, which list guests’ complaints of bedbugs at hotels throughout North America. But the website doesn’t verify or check any of the reports (and hotels strongly dispute some of the reports), so it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s a disgruntled or malicious person posting a fake bedbug report.

Dozens of Seattle hotels are listed on the Bedbug Registry, but again there’s no way to know what’s real or current (and no hotel wants to admit that it’s had a bedbug problem).

For now, if you’re worried about bedbugs in a hotel room, the best thing to do is check the room carefully.

Here’s advice from some Florida urban entomologists, Phil Koehler and Roberto Pereira, from a Cox News Service article. They advise far more safeguards than I use, but they know these critters well:

• “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 bedbugs, 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 bedbugs. Even dry-cleanable clothing can be put in driers if you don’t wet it.”

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