Bed bugs cruise problems are unfortunately a problem on the rise. It is not unique to cruise ships, with bed bugs being found in hotels as well. Any type of hotel or ship can suffer from bedbugs including premium or 4 star hotels. The reason is that the presence of bed bugs has nothing to do with cleanliness. Bed bugs do not spread disease to humans, so at best they are an inconvenience to most people. Insect repellents do not work on bedbugs.
The only way for a bed bug to get on a cruise ship is to be carried onto the ship by a passenger. Often what happens is that a person stays in a bed bug infested hotel the night before the cruise. The bedbugs hide in the luggage and then hop off at their next destination. Once on the ship they can multiply and spread rapidly. Because of this, no home, apartment, hotel, airplane or ship anywhere in the world can protect itself. The best approach is to know what to look for and how to travel bed bug free.
To avoid sleeping in a room with bedbugs, be sure to inspect the room prior to bringing your luggage into the room. The easiest was to do this is to check the mattress, as studies show that 50% of the bed bugs in a room will be in around the bed. You can also ask your room attendant if the ship has had any problems and how they were treated. Many ships will super heat a room for several hours at 120 degrees to kill all bed bugs. This is a very effective method.
Bed bugs leave behind brown fecal spots on a mattress, usually near the seams or other hiding spaces. They also molt and may leave behind shells. If you see brownish or reddish spots, what looks like the skin of a bug, or any other discoloring, DO NOT bring your luggage into the room. Ask to speak to someone in charge of the rooms. Cruise ship personnel have been trained to spot bed bugs.
Bed Bugs Cruise Mattress Mattress Check
Picture of Bed Bug Brown Stains on Mattress
Picture of Bed Bug Fecal Stains
If you suspect the presence of bed bugs cruise problems, the room cannot be immediately treated, so ask for another room that is at least 100 feet away from the room you are giving up. 100 feet is the approximate distance a bed bug will walk from room to room looking for a human host.
Fabric sleep sleeves that you bring with and sleep inside, probably will not protect you from bed bugs as they can bite right through the fabric. Mattress Covers that are bed bug approved will trap any bugs that are hiding in the mattress and keep them from biting, but if this problem exists in a room, there are probably bugs outside of the mattress that will bite you anyway, but it could help cut down the chances.
Beside the bed, check the headboard and if there are any bed seams. The picture below shows common bed bug hiding places:
Picture of Bed Bugs Cruise Hiding Places
While sprays can kill bed bugs on contact, they cannot kill bedbug eggs. Unless these products are sprayed directly on the bed bugs, they are not of any use as they don't have any residual effect. Meaning, once the spray drys, there is not lasting effect that will protect you while you are sleeping. If you are concerned, you could put 2 sided tape around each leg of the bed. Any bedbugs that are not on the mattress already would not want to climb past the tape. Also, pulling the bed at least 6 inches from the wall will keep bed bugs from climbing the wall and jumping onto the bed.
If you would like to carry a spray to avoide a bed bugs cruise problem, consider products such as Pronto ($10 per can on Amazon).
Bed bugs take on a different appearance depending on where they are in their life cycle. As you can see below, they start as small white eggs which are cemented onto the surface. Eggs are visible to the eye and are the size of a pin head. A bed bug nymph is small and straw colored and are approximately 1/8 inch. An adult will grow to 1/4 inch and will take on a darker reddish brown color. Bed bugs also give off a distinct raspberry like odor, which is why bed bug sniffing dogs are often used to spot an infestation.
Picture of Bed Bugs Life cycle
The familiar red skin bumps associated with bed bug bites is actually an allergic reaction. Most people have no reaction. Others either develop a cluster of 3 red bumps.
A bed bug bite is actually a skin puncture from two rods that jut out from the head of the bedbug. The bite has a clear center with two small puncture marks. Bed bugs only bite at night and feed for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. A reaction can appear as early as an hour later or even several days later.
Pictures of Bed Bug Bites
Beyond the red bumps, the most prevalent symptoms is itch. Most bites will heal by themselves in 3 to 5 days. You can buy an over the counter itch cream or one made for bed bug bites such as All Stop. If you scratch the bites, they can become infected, and will require an antibiotic ointment or trip to the Doctor for oral antibiotics.
An allergic reaction to bed bug bites can worsen with each bed bugs cruise episode as your body becomes more hypersensitive to the proteins left behind by the bedbugs. Bite reactions tend to appear on exposed areas of the body including the legs, arms and neck. While possible, bites rarely appear on the bottoms of the feed, fingers and face. If bites are isolated to the bottoms of the feed, the problem is more likely to be scabies, which is caused by mites.
If one person experiences bed bug bites on a cruise and another in the same bed does not, it means that either the person without bites was bitten, but didn't have an allergic reaction, or the bed bugs are only hiding on one side of the bed. The bugs tend to cluster in small groups and hide in the seams of the mattress.
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