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Flying this Holiday Season? How to Avoid Bed Bugs on Planes
Picture this: You’ve decided to go home for the holidays. You’ve saved up the money for a plane ticket and scored one of the last seats on a very crowded flight. You cram all of your belongings into a carry-on to avoid checked bag fees, cross your fingers in hopes you haven’t forgotten anything, and fight your way through holiday traffic to the airport.
At the airport you inch your way through security where you forget to take off your belt and are nearly tacked by enthusiastic TSA agents. As a result, you have to sprint to catch your plane but you make it just in time! Whew!
Finally, your carry-on is stowed overhead and you can kick back the whole 2 inches your economy seat allows and enjoy the flight. As you’re waiting for your free pretzels and soda and pretending to sleep to thwart the chatterbox next to you, you feel a stinging sensation in your side. You wave it away. Probably just muscle cramps from sitting so long you tell yourself. It happens again. And again.
Hoping that stretching your legs will help, you interrupt your seat mate’s regaling tale about her fruitcake recipe and head to the lavatory. There, in the mirror, you notice angry red looking pinpricks on your side. What the heck is that?!
Guess what? It very well may be bed bugs.
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Flying at any time of the year, especially the holidays, is stressful. While airlines make more and more cuts such as reducing legroom, charging for carry-ons, and doing away with inflight meals, there’s one frequent flyer who may be getting a free ride: Bed bugs.
While bed bugs on airplanes don’t get the same media attention as bed bugs in hotel rooms, they are a real problem you may face while traveling. Bed bugs make their way onto a plane through another passenger’s luggage. They then crawl over to your luggage or take up residence in the upholstery of the seat where they will get to enjoy a free inflight meal (you).
How can you prevent being bitten by bed bugs on a plane? Follow these tips:
Being aware of your surroundings is a great way to avoid bed bugs. Obviously, on an airplane (especially a crowded one) you can’t complete an in-depth inspection of everything. However, you can be aware. Know the signs of bed bugs (for example, red or black spots on upholstery), and don’t be afraid to bring potential “symptoms” to the attention of airline staff.
Bring Your Own
Do not use the pillow (or blankets for that matter) provided by the airline. They may be infested with bedbugs. Many people bring their own pillows and blankets due to sanitary or comfort reasons so you won’t look the least out of place.
Tip: When you de-board the plane put your pillow and blanket in a sealable plastic bag in case bed bugs have hitched a ride. Don't open the bag again until you can wash and/or dry the contents on a hot setting.
Use a Seat Cover
To keep bed bugs from bitting you or latching onto your possessions, try covering your seat. You can use any kind of plastic wrap or look for specially made products like Bug Off seat covers which are made to slip over airplane seats. Yes, you’ll garner a few strange looks from your fellow passengers but it beats getting devoured by these parasites during the flight.
While these tips aren’t foolproof, they should help you avoid nasty bites while flying.
If you’re concerned about bringing bed bugs home as a souvenir, follow these tips:
Wrap Items in Plastic
To keep bed bugs from hitching a ride, put your carry-on items in a sealable plastic bag before placing them under your seat or in the overhead compartment. Again, like with covering your seat, you’ll probably be the recipient of odd looks and eye rolling but you won’t have to deal with an infestation when you get home!
Don't Assume Checked Bags are Safe
Even after exiting the airport, leave your carry-on items sealed in plastic. If you have additional items that were not protected by plastic, such as a checked bag, place those in a plastic before putting them in your car. This will help prevent spreading the infestation to your vehicle.
Don't Bring Item in the House
When you get home, don’t bring your baggage inside even if it was sealed in plastic. While you may have avoided picking up bed bugs at the airport you may have “caught” them prior to that at your hotel, in a taxi, etc. Set your luggage in the garage and leave it sealed until you are prepared to do some cleaning.
Once you’re settled at home, open your luggage and immediately wash and dry all clothing on “hot” in order to kill bed bugs. If there are items that can’t be washed but can go in the dryer, dry them on hot as well. If you aren’t sure whether or not something can be heated in the dryer, consider freezing it. According to the University of Minnesota, when freezing something “a minimum of 23°F (-5°C) must be maintained for at least 5 days" to take care of bed bugs.
If your luggage can’t be heated or frozen, store it in sealed plastic bags for approximately 2 weeks and then vacuum it thoroughly inside and out. You may also be well advised to use a stiff brush and hot soapy water to scrub out any cracks and crevices in order to dislodge eggs and dead bed bugs.
Tip: To keep handling possibly infested clothing to a minimum, while your on vacation, sort your clothing into separate plastic bags. For example, put all whites in one plastic bag and all darks in another so you can literally just dump each bag into the washer.
If you want to read more tips on avoiding bed bugs while traveling check out:
- Hidden Hotel Hazard: Keep Bed Bugs from Checking Out with You
- How to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home when Traveling
If bed bugs do manage to hitch a ride home with you, contact a professional, like those at Scherzinger Pest Control, right away before the infestation gets out of control. Tackling the problem quickly will save you time, money, and stress.
Scherzinger Termite and Pest Control is a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We've been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.
Authored By: Eric Scherzinger