Bedbugs: How can you avoid it?

Bedbugs: How can you avoid it?

Need advice to prevent and cure bedbug contamination during a trek or other situation? You’re in the right place.

Bedbugs are a bit of a talking point this autumn 2023. While we’re talking about them more and more (mainly since the 1990s), it’s largely down to the increase in international travel and second-hand commerce (but this is no excuse to ignore it😉), as well as the growing resistance of these little creatures to insecticides.

If you’re an outdoors type, or in the process of becoming one, with a little hiking experience or not, you’ve probably already heard about it. If they’re getting a lot of attention "within the community", it's because bedbugs are quite fond of hikers' beds and backpacks. We'll explain why a little further down, but above all, we'll share with you in this article our tips for avoiding and getting rid of them.

Bedbugs: don't panic, we'll explain it all!

First of all, you should know that the development of a bedbug nest doesn’t necessarily mean that the infested location is dirty or in poor condition. These insects can be found almost everywhere around the world, in homes, buildings or even whole neighbourhoods.

Bedbugs also develop in places frequented by a large number of people such as hotels, huts, lodges, retirement homes, hospitals, schools and nurseries, aeroplanes, etc. When we go trekking and hiking, huts, hostels and lodges are generally what we turn to for a good night's sleep... So that explains it.

In short, anyone can be affected by bedbugs.

How do bedbugs happen?

Bedbugs can’t fly, jump, let alone climb on smooth surfaces. They themselves move by walking, attracted by smell and body heat, as well as by the release of carbon dioxide, mainly at night.

But these little creatures also hide in clothes, backpacks, sleeping bags or even suitcases, etc., which helps them spread. That’s why they’re quite familiar among hikers who stay in huts and lodges with a lot of through traffic. Most often, they’re transported from one hut to another by their backpacks and sleeping bags. Very resistant, they can survive several months hidden without food... In the bottom of a rucksack, for example.

Often, people living in a contaminated area become aware of the presence of bedbugs a month after being contaminated. However, it’s important to be on the look-out, because an infestation grows quite quickly.

How do you know and check if you have bedbugs?

Visually, a bedbug looks like a small oval-shaped insect about 5 to 7mm long when empty. Yes, that’s right, on an empty stomach, because bedbugs swell after feeding. While still in the larval stage, bedbugs measure between just 1 and 2 mm. To recognise them, also bear in mind that they have no wings and are brown to dark red in colour.

Most often, they hide in dark (they hate the light) and fairly calm places. By this, we mean bedrooms or even living rooms, or rooms with a sofa. You should also know that they love to hide in skirting boards, under parquet flooring and even in the grooves of wallpaper.
Difficult to spot, here are some signs that can give them away:

👉 The appearance of bites on your skin: these look like small raised red spots that measure between 5 mm and 2 cm. You can differentiate these bites from other pimples by the bleeding red spot or blister containing a sort of clear liquid they contain in their centre.

Finally, these spots cause itching which mainly occurs in the morning.

👉 Black stains on mattresses, sheets, bed bases or even walls, which may be traces of these insects’ droppings

👉 Blood stains on your sheets which may occur by crushing the bedbugs while you’re asleep

Bedbugs: how can you avoid it?

Sting, pimple, bite, symptom and bedbugs

How do you know if you’re infested with bedbugs?

Look out for the appearance of possible traces of bites during your sleep, particularly if you’ve been to any potentially exposed places. Because bedbugs do in fact feed on human blood at night (hence the bites) and can leave small pimples on your skin, very much like mosquito bites. Once they’re full, bedbugs return to hide in the fabric.

If in doubt about an infestation, you can call on companies that specialise in their detection. However, remember to check their guarantees before any action is taken.

What are the symptoms of a bedbug bite?

Generally, the bedbug bite is painless at the time. It’s only 2 to 3 hours later you feel any itching. It’s possible that several grouped bites are noticed in the same place. Most often, these are located on the arms, legs and back, especially in places where the skin isn’t covered.

Bear in mind, however, that depending on each person's sensitivity, it’s possible that some people won’t notice any symptoms of the bedbug bite. While for others, the itching may disappear without treatment a few hours or days after the bite. It’s also possible you may develop an allergic reaction: hence the need to remain vigilant.If in doubt, contact your GP quickly.

In certain more serious cases, a bedbug infestation can also cause increased fatigue and various psychological disorders, hence the importance, once again, of contacting your healthcare professionals if in doubt.

Rest assured though that, to date, it hasn’t been proven that their bites can carry disease.

What should I do if I’ve been bitten by a bedbug?

Most often, bites disappear naturally within 10 days. So there’s generally nothing to do except be patient, clean the skin thoroughly and, finally, don’t scratch to avoid secondary infection.

Of course, if symptoms persist, you need to consult your doctor.

How to get rid of and treat bedbugs?

The big clean-up

1️⃣ Get cleaning!
Before applying any product, tidy, vacuum and deep-clean contaminated surfaces and spaces (don’t forget to throw away the closed vacuum cleaner bag afterwards). If possible, also clean the head of your vacuum cleaner with soap and water.
Start with the beds, armchairs and sofas. You can use a steam appliance at a minimum of 120° and machine wash certain fabrics (which can handle it) at a temperature of 60°, and finally, dry them in the dryer. As you might have realised, bedbugs don't really like heat.
Once clean, store your fabrics in closed plastic bags until the whole bedbug infestation is over.

2️⃣ Freeze them!
Place your laundry and any contaminated objects in the freezer for at least 48 hours. If you don't have enough space in your freezer or simply don't have one, it’s worth knowing that you can rent space in large freezers from certain companies.

3️⃣ Have a sort-out
If, despite your best efforts, the bedbug infestation persists, you need to get rid of certain contaminated items of furniture (mattresses, furniture, etc.). Of course, they mustn’t be sold or given away. To get rid of them, go directly to the tip. They must not be recoverable.

4️⃣ Make some home improvements
Finally, you can also consider doing some minor jobs at home: filling cracks, screwing down sockets, regluing wallpaper or even skirting boards.
When all these steps are done, you can also try diatomaceous earth. This natural solution is a great option. All you need to do is spray it in different places like those mentioned above: skirting boards, woodwork, as well as under the bed, for example. Feel free to ask for advice from the professionals you buy it from.

Chemical control

For this step, you need to call on the professionals. As bedbugs have developed a certain resistance to many insecticides, most of the sprays sold commercially to get rid of them are, as well as being harmful to our health and the environment, most often ineffective.

So for any insecticide application, it’s best to call on experts, but beware of scams! Contact the sanitation or hygiene services in your town or city, or people qualified as pest control specialists. In France, they must be trained and in possession of a valid Certibiocide certificate (issued and controlled by the State via the Ministry of Ecological Transition).

Then, you need to remain vigilant for at least 2 months after these various actions to get rid of bedbugs.

Stop bedbugs through prevention

Before setting off:

↪️ If you’ve bought second-hand clothing or sports equipment, wash it at over 60°, or put it in the dryer for at least 30 minutes. You can also place them in the freezer for at least 48 hours.

When travelling and during your treks and hikes:

↪️ Check there are no traces of bedbugs on your bedding (mattress, seams, padding, headboard...), before unfolding and storing away your belongings.
↪️ Same thing for your luggage: backpack or suitcase. Check regularly that all these surfaces are clean.
↪️ You can also check the walls and any furniture present in your sleeping area.
↪️ Finally, keep your belongings away from beds and armchairs to prevent contamination.

Back home:

↪️ Check one last time that your belongings aren’t contaminated by bedbugs before unfolding them on your beds, armchairs or even sofa.
↪️ Wash your clothes and textile items in hot water (ideally at 60° if the materials allow), or freeze them for at least 48 hours. You can also heat certain non-washable materials in your dryer for about 30 minutes at the highest temperature possible.
↪️ Vacuum your luggage and throw the bag in the rubbish, closing it properly first.

You should now be fully prepared against bedbugs! With a few precautions, you should be able to enjoy your trek or hike stress-free. And once again, if bedbugs ever come into your home, feel free to turn to qualified professionals to get rid of them.

Bedbugs: how can you avoid it?


Journalist & sports writer

A runner at heart, I'm always up for trying out new sports with you!
My objective? To pass on my tips and my passion for sport through my content.

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