How to Check for Bed Bugs and What to Do if You Find Them

by | Last updated Mar 24, 2024 | Beauty, Fitness & Health

Ewwww, I hear ya! Bed bugs, who wants to talk about bed bugs. Well, I do! Travelling the world as I do, I sleep in beds that have been slept in by hundreds, maybe thousands before me. Some beds have been so clean and wonderful to sleep in while others have left me wondering how clean it is! And a couple of times after waking up with a rash I’ve left accommodation early because I’ve discovered bed bugs. Ewwww, yeah, that’s right. So now I always check for bed bugs. And if you are wondering how to check for bed bugs and what to do if you find them, read on.

Bed bugs are just one of those things we encounter while living and working abroad and travelling the world. For me, they rank up there with Bali Belly, another issue that can effect our health and travel enjoyment.

In this post we look at how to check for them, what to do if you find any, and what to do if one hops into your bag for a holiday with you.


What are Bed Bugs?


Bed bugs are small oval shaped insects that can grow to about as big as an apple seed. They love to feed on humans or animals by sucking their blood. Ewwww. Bed bugs get their name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses. And yes, you can see them if they are in your bed due to their size. So one of the first things to do before you hop in to a new bed is to scan the sheets, as the little blood suckers can be seen by our eyes!

Bed bug the size of an apple seed.

this is what those cheeky buggers look like – the size of an apple seed


What Attracts Bed Bugs?


It seems bed bugs are primarily attracted to scents associated with carbon dioxide, body heat and the scent of human skin. Lucky us. And these scents are often found in beds.

It should be noted that bed bugs aren’t a sign of dirty accommodation or poor personal hygiene by guests – the bugs are usually there because they have hitchhiked in luggage and have been introduced to a place. This includes a bed that has attractions they like and that helps them thrive.

So as travellers we need to help to reduce the attractions for them. I’ve mentioned how we can do this further on in this post. And you can also only hope that your accommodation changes the bedding after every guest has left.


What do Bed Bugs Do to You?


Bed bugs can bite and some people react to their bite more than others. Their bites can cause rashes very similar to mosquito bites. Very annoying!


How to Check for Bed Bugs


  1. Before you even book accommodation, read the reviews to see if anyone has mentioned bed bugs. Also read how the owners of the accommodation responded as no accommodation wants a reputation for bed bugs and should get rid of any asap. And if they have, and there is now no problem, use your discretion as to whether you would book accommodation at this place.
  2. On arrival at your accommodation, keep your luggage away from the bed – this is because those little suckers love to hid in mattresses and bases.
  3. Check your bedding. Remove the sheets and pillows and examine the mattress. Signs of bed bugs can include brown spots which is their poo and any bugs themselves. Use your flashlight to see them.
  4. Unfortunately they don’t always reside in beds. They can make their home behind picture frames, in furniture and in cracks.


What Do You Do if you see Bed Bugs in Your Bed?


  1. Leave if you can
  2. Vacuum your bed
  3. Wash the bed sheets
  4. Travel with and use scents that repel bed bugs, such as tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil which is a natural insecticide and repellent. It works by masking the smell of carbon dioxide which is what attracts bed bugs. You can use these oils as a deterrent by spritzing them on your mattress.

As you may not be able to do any of these things, and may not even see them when you get in to bed, hopefully they will leave you alone! I wish.


How to Deal with Bed Bugs if You Find Them While Traveling


If you find bed bugs, document everything and notify management. If you say something, you may be relocated to another bed/room where no bed bugs are or be given a refund. Hopefully, the problem can be rectified.


What to do if you get bitten


If you wake up in bed and you’ve been bitten there are a couple of things you can do.

  1. Shower and wash any bite marks or rash with soap and water to stop any infection.
  2. If itchy, apply an anti-itch product or antiseptic cream to the infected area, or take an antihistamine as these help with allergic reactions. Try not to scratch any bites as you could turn them into a sore.


Preventing Bed Bugs from Coming Home with You


If you noticed bed bugs in your bed or room, take steps to deter them hopping in your bags. The best luggage to travel with is hard-cased luggage, as it is more difficult for bed bugs to attach to such materials. Also pack your clothing in re-sealable plastic bags for the same reason.


Post Travel


Bed bugs are particularly problematic to treat and hopefully, they didn’t hitch a ride to your next destination or home with you. Not good news for travellers who haven’t finished their journey. What things can you do to help get rid of bed bugs in your luggage?

  1. Sprays may kill the bed bugs but not their eggs. So what do you do?
  2. Vacuum your luggage and dispose of vacuum bags.
  3. Wash all your clothes.
  4. Use oils to mask carbon dioxide by spritzing them on your bed and other furniture where bed bugs thrive.
  5. High temperature apparently kills bed bugs. Adult bed bugs die at 48 degrees Celsius (119 degrees Fahrenheit) – so you could pump up the heating! Or perhaps put your clothes in a hot dryer.


Final Words on Bed Bugs


I know all this seems a lot to do. However, there is nothing worse than waking up with bite marks all over you. Knowledge and a few simple precautions should help you cope with bed bugs and the issues they cause. So now I’m off to check for bed bugs in my bed tonight and have a shower.

Bed Bug PIN - girl scratching her arm from being bitten by a bed bug.

Thanks for sharing!

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Sharyn McCullum Travel Writer and Founder Of Live Work Play Travel, Work Abroad, Work Online, Travel Blog Enjoying At Beer At The Coldstream Brewery In The Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to live work play travel around the world with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.


  1. Patri

    I don’t think I have ever thought about bed bugs when travelling, but I guess I will now! It’s good to know that they are attracted to carbon dioxide – like leeches – and there are natural repellents that you can use to avoid the bites.

  2. Sonia

    I hadn’t thought of bringing tea tree or eucalyptus oil along. I’ll have to try this for my upcoming travel.

  3. Tigrest

    Wow, this is super helpful! I’ve never actually seen bed bugs during my travels, will will keep this post for future just in case


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