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7 Signs You Might Have Bed Bugs (Plus Tips for Travelling)

A bedroom with bed, bench at the foot of the bed and hanged art above and beside the bed.

Bed bugs can be a real nuisance when they infest your home, causing itchy bites and sleepless nights. With recent outbreaks at several Las Vegas hotels and at Paris Fashion Week making headlines, it’s very clear that no one is immune to these tiny pests.


Unfortunately, identifying their presence isn’t always easy. These parasites are skilled at hiding in cracks and crevices, making them difficult to spot. It’s essential to detect the presence of bed bugs early so that you can take appropriate action and prevent a full-blown infestation. Here are seven telltale signs that you might have bed bugs in your home, plus some tips to keep in mind while travelling.

Related: 10 Beautiful Japandi Decor Pieces for Your Bedroom

A woman placing a blanket on a bed.

Bites on Your Skin

Your first clue may be small, itchy bites on your skin, specifically on areas that aren’t covered while sleeping. Bed bugs come out at night and feed on human blood, leaving behind clusters or lines of small, red welts. When a bed bug bites, it injects both an anesthetic and an anticoagulant so the person doesn’t realize they’ve been bitten. For some, the bites don’t cause any marks or itching while others may have an allergic reaction that requires treatment.

Blood Spots in Your Bed

If bed bug bites go unnoticed, another sign to look for is blood spots on your sheets or mattress. While the bugs are feeding, they can leave blood stains behind. The rust-coloured stains can also be caused by blood-engorged bugs being crushed.

Tiny Black Dots

Bed bugs leave behind dark, tarry spots in areas where they feed or rest, like bedding, mattresses, other furniture and even clothing. These tiny black dots are fecal matter — that is, poop — and usually about the size of a period.

Eggs or Eggshells

Bed bugs reproduce quickly, so it’s possible to find tiny, pale yellow or white eggs or eggshells anywhere that the insects have been living and hiding. These eggs are about the size of an apple seed, so it’s possible to see them with the naked eye.


Live Bugs

Bed bugs are reddish-brown in colour, flat and small, ranging from 1mm to 7mm in length. They can also survive for several months without feeding. Although they’re quite adept at hiding, you might see live bugs on your bedding, mattress, furniture or even a suitcase, but it’s always a good idea to check for them in seams or crevices if you suspect you may have brought some home.

Shed Skins

Like other insects, bed bugs shed their skins, or exoskeletons. When the bugs molt, those shells can be left behind in your bed or anywhere else they’ve been living. The exoskeletons look a lot like the bugs themselves.

An Unusual Smell

If you notice a sweet, musty odour around your bed or furniture, this could be a sign of bed bugs. These insects release pheromones that create this distinct smell, which some people describe as similar to that of coriander.

See also: How to Clean Your Mattress Properly

A person placing items into a suitcase.

How Can I Prevent Bringing Home Bed Bugs While Travelling?

Bed bugs can be found all around the world, and they don’t care if you’re staying at a hostel or a five-star hotel. If they want to hitch a ride home with you, they will. Although no method is foolproof, there are some precautions that you can take.

  • Don’t bring your pillow from home away with you.
  • Opt for light-coloured plastic luggage. Bed bugs are less attracted to plastic and they’re easier to spot on light versus dark colours.
  • When you arrive at your accommodations, inspect the place thoroughly before bringing in your luggage and other belongings.
  • Keep your luggage off the floor, bed, furniture and other soft surfaces. Instead, place suitcases and bags on a tiled floor or a luggage rack.
  • Consider keeping your clothing and other personal items in your suitcase for the duration of your trip, or thoroughly inspect all closets and drawers before storing anything away.
  • When you return home, place your luggage on a hard surface far from anywhere that bed bugs could hide, and inspect everything carefully. Consider unpacking outdoors if possible.
  • Wash all clothing and fabric items in hot water if possible, whether they were worn or not.

You might also like: How to Make Your Bed Feel Like It Belongs in a Hotel

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