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Bedbugs: How to avoid bringing them home

How to check for bedbugs

Bedbugs can cause a great deal of anxiety. To find bedbugs before they find you, follow these dermatologist tips.

How to avoid bedbugs when you travel

To reduce your chance of bringing bedbugs home, follow these dermatologist tips to check your hotel room, cabin, or other lodgings when traveling.

  1. Place your luggage in the bathroom. When you arrive, temporarily place your luggage in a tiled area, like the bathroom, while you inspect your room. There are fewer spots for bedbugs to hide in bathrooms, so you can check your room without worry.

  2. Check the furniture for bedbugs. Bedbugs often hide in upholstered areas. Carefully inspect your bedding, mattress, headboard, and any fabric-covered furniture for:

    • Rusty or reddish specks of blood.
    • Tiny, blackish dots that look like dots made by a marker — these may be bedbug feces.
    • Whitish, oval bedbug eggs the size of apple seeds.
    • Shell-like bedbug exoskeletons.
    • Live bedbugs.

  3. Examine the rest of your room. Make sure to check the seams of fabric, in dressers, behind wall hangings or wallpaper, in corners, and in between cushions. If a credit card could fit in a crack, a bedbug could fit, too — bedbugs are small.

    • After you check your room, you can bring your luggage in.
    • Place your bags on a luggage rack away from the wall.
    • If you find signs of bedbugs, request a new room.

  4. Check your luggage when you get home. After your trip, look at your belongings before unpacking to make sure no bedbugs came home with you.

    • Use a flashlight to check the contents of your bags, including the seams of your clothing. Then, look closely at your luggage to make sure no bedbugs are hiding inside.
    • If you find signs of bedbugs in your luggage, wash your clothes on high heat and use a hand steamer to clean your luggage.

If you notice any bedbug bites or experience blistering, a skin infection (bites feel tender or ooze discharge, such as pus), or an allergic reaction (red or purple swollen skin or hives), partner with a board-certified dermatologist.

How to avoid bringing bedbugs home in secondhand beds and other furniture

Bedbugs can be hard to find in secondhand beds and other furniture. If the bedbugs have not eaten for some time, you may not see signs of them. Bedbugs can live for about a year without eating.

You can prevent picking up bedbugs from secondhand furniture by not bringing secondhand furniture into your home.

Written by:
Shelby Homiston
Brooke Schleehauf

Reviewed by:
Neelam Khan, MD, MS, FAAD
Roopal Vashi Kundu, MD, FAAD
William Warren Kwan, MD, FAAD
Ata Moshiri, MD, MPH, FAAD
Sanna Ronkainen, MD, FAAD
Desmond Shipp, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 3/13/24