Bed Bugs—small nocturnal insects that feed on human and animal blood-are a growing problem in hotels in the US and abroad, as well as in apartment houses, dormitories, sleepaway camps and other places. Unlike mosquitoes, bedbugs don't transmit disease-but their bites can cause irritation and discomfort. They do not attach themselves to people. They move from place to place via luggage, clothing and other items. To protect yourself...

When staying away from home: Pull back the bed sheets, and check the mattress seams and tufts. Look for live bugs that are about one-quarter to one-half-inch long and vary in color from reddish brown to nearly transparent. Also check for light brown, translucent molted skins...and pin-sized black spots (excrement). If possible, pull back the fabric headboard and inspect it, too. If signs are present, ask for another room.

Also: Keep your luggage in the bathroom until you have checked the bed.

When you return home: Leave luggage outside until you have inspected each item.

At home: If you find bedbugs on an article of clothing, comforters or other linens, wash them in 150°F water. You may also want to call an exterminator. Do not bring used furniture or mattresses into your home.

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