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How To Avoid Bed Bugs This Summer Vacation

If you're worried about picking up bed bugs on your summer travels, you're not alone. Nearly 80 percent of Americans are more concerned about encountering bed bugs at hotels than anywhere else, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association.
And there is good reason for the fear. Getting rid of bed bugs is expensive, time-consuming and extraordinarily difficult. And there is no question there is a bed bug epidemic. Pest management businesses have seen a 71 percent increase in bed bug infestations in the U.S. since 2001.

A couple safety precautions, however, can help:

1. Think rural.

It doesn't matter whether you say in an upscale resort or a hostel--you're at equal risk. But bed bugs are more prevalent in urban and suburban areas. Your risk is far less in less populated areas.

2. Pack carefully. Consider Frommer's packing advice:

A hard-shelled suitcase has fewer folds and seams where bedbugs can hide. Pack your belongings -- clothes, toiletries, shoes -- in sealable plastic bags, and open only when accessing the items. Alternatively, consider wrapping your entire pack in a trash bag to stave off potential infestations during your travels.
3. Check the hotels' reputation.
The Bed Bug Registry is a free, public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the U.S. and Canada.
4. Be cautious while flying
There were a few cases of being bitten on airplanes, but it's not a huge concern, yet. Check out fellow BNET blogger Peter Greenburg's advice on how not to pick up bedbugs in the air.
5. Once at the hotel, investigate.
The pest management association recommends you pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly the corners, for brownish or reddish spots. Bedbugs are reddish brown and range in size from 1 to 7 millimeters. Don't put your luggage on the bed and after you pack put your suitcase in a large plastic bag.
6. Switch Rooms
If you find bedbugs, call the management. If you decide to stay at the hotel, be sure your new room is not adjacent to or right above or below the infested room.
7. Home Sweet (uninfested) Home
When you return home, inspect and vacuum your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Wash all your clothes - whether worn or not - in hot water.
It can be somewhat of a hassle to go through all these steps. Do you take these measures when you travel?
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites. Follow her on twitter.