…and don’t let the bedbugs bite! Like I have a choice – bedbugs just love me.
Public domain image from CDC’s Public Health Image Library
My latest encounter with evil, blood-sucking bedbugs was in Vientiane, the quiet capital of Laos. I blame myself. It had been over a year since I squashed eight of those apple-seed-sized suckers in one night. But that was in far-off India, and Southeast Asia had made me lazy. I should have known better and remembered my lesson: Always check out the mattress before you check in.
When I’m on top of my game, I normally walk into the room, tear off the sheets and take a good look at the mattress while ignoring the gasps and protests of the hotel staff. Most of the time, bedbugs are not easy to spot but there are other signs to look for such as bedbug droppings. The little black dots along the edges of the mattress tell you everything you need to know.
Avoid mattresses like these
And then there are other hotel guests. Do they have red welts on their necks and arms? Do they scratch a lot? If the answer is yes, I involve them in a leisurely conversation. Are you having a pleasant stay? Nice room? Are these grotesque bites on your neck from here? If the hotel turns out to be infested, I’m out of there. Forget the bacon and egg breakfast that is included.
As a traveler, flash-packer or tourist, you will encounter bedbugs at some point or another. If you are lucky, you may not even know it. Some people have little or no reaction to the bites or they travel with someone who is a bedbug magnet, like myself. Tony is always perplexed as to why only I get bitten. Apparently it has to do with body heat and the presence of carbon dioxide. That’s what I get for being a hot German.
Seventy bites on one leg in one night!
If you have no interest in the developing world, you may not care about bedbugs. But you probably should. In the last ten years, pesticide resistant bedbugs have made a comeback in the United States, Australia and Western Europe. From five-star hotels to sleeper trains to trashy dormitories, bedbugs choose indiscriminately. With this in mind, don’t sleep too tight on your next business trip to New York.