How To Cope With Bed Bugs

My time in Christchurch included a much needed rest and recovery day, but for more than one reason. For the second time in 22 months on the road, I got bed bugs. I needed to take some time to deal with the problem. 

Only having fallen victim to them twice is incredibly fortunate, but maybe not entirely true. It may have happened more, but until recently I didn’t really know the symptoms. Usually bed bug bites are passed off as especially bad mosquito bites. If you happen to have “mosquito bites” in sets of 2-4 across places that should have been covered from those awful things, you might have gotten something else. 

 So you have bed bug bites- they don’t cary diseases so they are pretty harmless, just a pain. Here are your 3 next steps in no particular order. Do them all sooner than later though. 

1: Tell the people running the hostel. Even if you’ve moved on, shoot them an e-mail. Be as polite as possible, but let them know. Bad reviews can have a huge effect on hostel profits and the guys in charge definitely want to know. If they care about their hostel at all, they’ll take action to eradicate the problem right away. The bites can take up to 2 weeks to show up, so it could have happened somewhere you stayed earlier but the eggs may have wound up where you are now. 

2: Hot water launder and dry everything you own. Anything that could have come in contact with them. Kill them all. You don’t want them to follow you around. If you can’t launder or dry it (example: my big-ass backpack) try taking a hair dryer to its seams, cracks, and crevasses to cook those little shits alive. 

3: Buy a topical cream. Stop into the pharmacy and pick something up to soothe the itching. If I were to rate all nasty things that leave itchy bites on a scale out of ten, mosquitoes would only be on a 3 or 4. Bed bugs make it all the way up to 7-8, topped only by sandflies at 8-9. If anything ever itches at a 10, be concerned. Oh, and the bites usually itch for around 10 days, buy the cream and dig in. I think I paid NZ $10 for a tube. 

I’ll only touch on prevention here, since in my eyes there isn’t much you can do. There are ways to detect bedbugs but it seems difficult, and futile since unless you can show a carcass to the hostel owner I doubt you’re getting a refund. 

Always read the reviews. Dirty hostels to 5 star hotels are pretty much equally at risk. Just be wary of places that still let you use your own bedding- most don’t do this anymore for good reason. Recent reviews complaining about bedbugs might mean you should give the place a wide berth while they sort themselves out. I’ve skipped on hostels before because of bedbug reviews. I chanced it once- and got bitten. 

Bed bugs are absolutely miserable experience but you’ll be alright in the end. You’re a backpacker, you are resilient. 

I’d like to finish with a warm shout out to the HI-Banff Alpine Center, for routinely treating the rooms while I was there. The weekly evac was a pain but 7.5 months bed bug free was not.

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