Keep Illinois Bed Bugs from Biting Your Holiday Travel Plans

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With Christmas and New Year’s coming up, December is a big month for travel in America –  especially at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Air travel puts people in contact with plenty of potential strangers at airports and hotels all over the country. While the goal is to spread some holiday cheer, all this inadvertent contact can spread something else: bed bugs. These pests are the last thing you want to unwrap under your tree this holiday season, which is why Anderson is providing our Illinois readers with some bed bug control tips that will keep you and your family jolly all winter long.

Bed Bugs in the News

Just this October, tragedy struck for a family traveling from Vancouver to the U.K. Shortly after takeoff, the husband, wife, and their small daughter were horrified to discover that their seats were infested with bed bugs. They alerted the airline staff, but because it was a fully-booked flight, there was nothing they could do. For nine hours, this family of three had to endure the agony of knowing they were slowly being bitten by hundreds of bed bugs, yet they were powerless to stop it.

A few days later, the bites began to appear all over their bodies: their hands, waistlines, necks, and even the poor little girl’s legs were completely covered with itchy, painful bumps. But the worst part of the story was the fact that the airline couldn’t guarantee that, when the family eventually flew back home, they wouldn’t get the exact same infested airplane as before. Given how hard it is to get rid of bed bugs, and how little time is spent cleaning up airplane cabins (ever found someone else’s trash jammed into your seatback pocket?), there’s a very real chance that you could ride in a similarly infested plane this holiday season.

Protect Yourself from Bed Bugs While Traveling

Before you decide to cancel your holiday travel plans, there is one small comfort: Bed bugs like to hide in cracks and crevices, and dislike disturbance or movement. They prefer dark, quiet environments, and if you’ve ever been on a plane with a small child, you know none of that describes air travel.

However, if you do find yourself stuck on a plane with bed bugs, there’s very little you can do at the time. The only way to truly protect yourself from a holiday travel nightmare like this is to prepare beforehand, and to make sure that the infestation doesn’t come home with you.

Take the following precautions when flying to minimize your risk of bed bug attacks:

  • Cover exposed skin. Planes can get hot and stuffy, especially when fully booked, but dressing in layers can keep bed bugs off certain parts of your body. They’re too small to bite through most types of clothing thicker than pantyhose, so long sleeves and pants will keep you somewhat protected.
  • Bring your own seat cover. It’s possible to purchase disposable cloth seat covers that will fit over most types of airline seats. Even if your seat is infested, bed bugs won’t be able to penetrate the fabric, so it should help keep them from biting or hitching a ride on you.
  • Pack your own blanket and pillow. While airlines normally provide these for their passengers, it’s possible these items could be infested as well without their knowledge. It’s better to bring your own, bed bug-free blankets and pillows just in case. 
  • Wrap your luggage in plastic. This seems a bit extreme, but the stares you’ll get from other passengers will be a small price to pay compared to a suitcase full of bed bugs. Wrapping your luggage in plastic wrap or tying it up inside a trash bag is more than enough to keep bed bugs out of your luggage – whether it’s in the overhead bin or under your seat.


Keep Bed Bugs Out of Your Illinois Home

Whether you’re traveling to or from Illinois for the holidays, the last thing you want is to bring bed bugs with you. These pests are especially fond of hiding in luggage because it has so many wrinkles and folds where they can hide. Even if you flew first class, stayed in a five-star hotel, and didn’t notice a single bug during your trip, it’s still smart to inspect your luggage after traveling.

The process is simple: Either outside or in the garage, open your luggage and place everything inside into a plastic trash bag. Then it’s just a matter of checking each item for the presence of bed bugs or their droppings. Remember, bed bugs are small and flat, about as large as a poppy seed or apple seed. Don’t forget to use a flashlight to check deep in the folds of clothing and bags where they like to gather.

What If I Find Bed Bugs in My Luggage?

Bed bugs don’t carry disease or venom, so if you do spot one, don’t panic. Try to collect one in a small plastic baggie if you can, then stick it in the freezer to kill it. This specimen can then be shown to a pest control professional, who can tell you if it’s actually a bed bug or some other lookalike pest.

Any infested clothing items should be sealed in trash bags and immediately laundered to kill the bugs. Anything that can’t be washed can be stuck in a dryer on high heat. As for the suitcase itself, if it can’t be washed or dried, simply seal it in a bag and leave it for a few weeks. By then, any remaining bed bugs should die due to lack of oxygen.


Anderson Pest Gives the Gift of Bed Bug Protection in Illinois

The final – but most important – step you should take if you accidentally bring back bed bugs from your travels? Call the airline you flew on and the hotel you stayed in. Bed bug bites can take up to 48 hours to appear, so it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly when you encountered them.

You should also immediately contact your local pest professionals at Anderson. We’ll send over a technician right away to inspect your home for any signs of an infestation, and provide our industry-leading bed bug prevention service if necessary. Let Anderson put a little peace of mind underneath your tree this holiday season.

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