Bed bugs have existed since the beginning of time and the advent of travel has only helped it spread around the world. They are hardy, can survive without feeding for several months and hide in hard-to-reach places. Bed bugs do not discriminate: they can be found in both budget and luxury accommodations and can affect both clean and dirty individuals. They are about the size and shape of an apple seed (4 to 5mm) and hence very hard to see. But you don’t have to actually have to see them to realize there is an infestation. While bed bugs can be found in hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara and in lodges on treks, they are quite rare on camping treks.
How to look out for bed bugs:
Stains and shells: Bed bugs leave behind tiny black or brown stain. Look for these stains on the sheets and on the mattress itself. Bed bugs usually lay their eggs in the mattress, so you could find tiny eggs and eggshells, about 1mm small. They also shed pale yellow skins as they grow larger, which will stick around on the mattress as well.
Give the mattress and bed a shake: As it is possible to see bed bugs, one of the most obvious ways to bring them out of their hiding place is to give the bed and mattress a shake.
Feel the itch?: An obvious indicator of the presence of bed bugs is when you wake up at night feeling itchy. If you this happens to you, look for bites. Bed bug bites tend to feel itchy yet tender when scratched. Also, bed bug bites follow a line and are grouped in threes.
Look for blood smears: A good early indicator of the presence of bed bugs is marks on sheets that look like red/brown marker pen on the bed. This is basically a squashed excrement comprised of blood.
Once you have confirmed the presence of bed bugs, there are two options available to you: The easiest way to do this is to take your clothes to a launderette and tumble dry at the hottest heat setting. But this is not an option while on treks in Nepal. The second option is to treat all your clothes with an anti-bug spray. Eagle watch bed bug eliminator claims to be healthy eco-friendly option. Amazon sells a bed bug travel protection kit.
The following is what my god-mother and veteran trekker, Claudine Weatherford, recommends:
Let us know what works/has worked for you so we can share with our trekkers.
Some good references for bedbugs:
Dealing with Bed Bugs when you travel by Jo Fitzsimons
5 Tips for Avoiding (and Dealing With) Bedbugs While Traveling by Meredith Rosenberg