Staying in a hotel, motel, hostel or rental apartment should be a home-away-from-home experience with clean, comfortable bedding. Unfortunately, bed bugs make sleeping in a public bed a risky proposition. Bed bugs infest even the cleanest and most upscale places. Your best defense is to know how to look for signs of the bugs on sheets before you settle down for the night.
Know the Bugs
Bed bugs are tiny, about 1/4 inch long. They are flat, reddish-brown and oval-shaped. The immature bugs called nymphs look like the adults but are smaller and paler. Bed bugs feast on human blood. They usually accomplish this when humans are sleeping, so nests are found in and near beds. Bed bug bites are not poisonous and do not carry disease, but their bites do itch, swell and sometimes cause pain.
Spot the Bugs
You can spot signs of bed bugs on sheets by taking the bed apart before you sleep in it. Look on the sheets as well as underneath them, and also along mattress seams and tufted buttons. The tell-tale signs of bed bugs are tiny red or brown blood stains that indicate they've been snacking on humans. If you see any of these spots, call hotel management and ask for another room on another floor, preferably on another side of the hotel.
Additional signs of bed bugs may be found in places where bed bugs like to nest. This includes areas behind head boards, behind picture frames and inside the drawers of bedside tables. Shine a light on these areas to try to spot the bugs or their tell-tale blood stains that indicate they've been eating. The bugs also nest in cracks in baseboards and in upholstered chairs, so check beneath pillows and in seams of these chairs before you sit in them.
Check Before You Go
Look at bed bug reporting sites before you check into a hotel or rental. These sites post reports of sightings and infestations across the United States and Canada. Some sites allow users to look up infestations by hotel, apartment complex, city or address. One such site, called the Bed Bug Registry has more than 20,000 reports of bed bugs. These reports are not verified by any agency. They are listed by Internet users.