How to keep hotel bedbugs from biting

The People's Pharmacy

I have to travel in a couple of weeks and stay in a hotel for several days. I have been reading and hearing a lot about the bedbug epidemic in New York, Washington and Baltimore. Do you know of any way I can make sure I do not pick up any bedbugs while I am traveling and bring them home with me?

We don’t have any tips that are completely foolproof, but you can stack the odds in your favor. Before you leave, check the online ratings of the hotel where you plan to stay. People who have found bedbugs in a hotel room usually complain about them.

When you arrive at the hotel, leave your luggage at the door and take five or 10 minutes to inspect the room. Pull back the sheets and look at the mattress and the box spring. Look in the seams of any upholstered furniture, and check the drawers of the nightstand. If you do find bugs or droppings (smaller than poppy seeds), ask the hotel clerk to move you to a room with no history of bedbugs.


Don’t set your luggage on the floor, the bed or upholstered furniture. Use the luggage rack, and pull it away from the wall. Don’t unpack into the drawers if you can avoid it. Keep your suitcase closed.

When you pack to go home, inspect your luggage and your clothing. If you are not sure about an item, seal it in a plastic bag so that it can be washed in hot water or run through a hot dryer. Things that can’t be washed should be dry-cleaned. A homemade bedbug detector developed by scientists at Rutgers University is described on our website (

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition.