Many people online are worried about sleeping tight after recent news of a bedbug infestation in Paris. But exterminators — some who have built large followings online for their pest advice — say bedbugs have been, and always will be, around.
“There’s no additional risk, because bedbugs are everywhere,” said Weston Storey, the exterminator behind the TikTok account exterminatorking.
So, there’s no reason to panic — at least not yet, according to Storey and other experts who spoke with NBC News.
Heightened bedbug fears permeated TikTok this week as U.S. influencers began flying home from Paris Fashion Week, which ended Tuesday. Videos of bedbugs on public transportation in Paris were almost inescapable on social media. Overall interest in bedbug videos on TikTok rose, with the hashtag #bedbugs amassing 6 million views in the last seven days.
People have posted videos scanning for bedbugs and sharing how they think the insects will start infesting U.S. cities because of travelers that bring them stateside. TikToker Christina Najjar, who is known by her username, Tinx, even shared a video saying that she was taking precautions against a bedbug infestation after she flew to New York City from Paris. She asked her followers for tips.
Bedbugs are “hitchhikers” that latch onto fabric and wood, which is often how they get into homes, according to Jossue Rivas, an exterminator who runs the TikTok account bedbugsdaily.
On average, it takes three months for people to notice they have an infestation, he said. Bedbug eggs and nymphs can be too small to initially notice.
The Covid pandemic slowed the spread of bedbugs because fewer people were traveling. But as more people have started traveling again, Rivas said, bedbug issues have been “exploding.”
Even so, he’s not worried about the infestations. Both he and Storey said bedbugs have always been a potential issue. Many exterminators and dermatologists have been posting bedbug awareness videos on TikTok for years.
The risk of taking bedbugs back from a vacation is dependent on the level of infestation, Rivas said. Large infestations may increase a person’s chances of bringing bedbugs home.
He said he always checks the bed for bugs when he stays in hotels, including luxury ones.
“Bedbugs like to be anywhere from three to four feet within an infested item,” Rivas said.
People should check the mattress and headboard at a new hotel, he said, noting that the first indicator of bedbugs is black feces, which appear like black spots in the fabric of the mattress. People can also look for the actual bugs or eggs themselves. Adult bedbugs are about the size of watermelon seeds, he said.
You can’t really help where you get them, you don’t know where they’re at, but you can just be cautious and just mindful of where you’re sitting and where your belongings are.
-Weston Storey, the exterminator behind the TikTok account exterminatorking
If people are skeptical about bedbugs in their hotel room, Rivas said, “leave the luggage in the bathrooms.” That’s because bedbugs don’t typically live in bathrooms or other harsh environments since there isn’t a food source to sustain them in those places.
However, he noted, bedbugs can live up to a year without eating.
If people suspect they have bedbugs on their clothing or luggage, Rivas said, they should wash their clothes immediately and put their luggage in heat, if possible. Bedbugs typically die at 125 degrees. People can also dispose of their items if they want to be extra cautious and can afford to get rid of them.
The best thing people can do is to be aware of possible contact, Storey said.
“You can’t really help where you get them, you don’t know where they’re at, but you can just be cautious and just mindful of where you’re sitting and where your belongings are,” he said.
Dr. Madalyn Nguyen, a dermatology resident who goes by madalynsmusings on TikTok, said that while not everyone has a reaction to bedbug bites, those that do might see a pattern called a “breakfast, lunch and dinner sign,” which is a cluster of three bites.
Bedbug bites can be treated like most other bug bites. People who get bitten are typically able to ease the itchiness with an antihistamine, said Nguyen, who posted a video in July about how to check for bedbugs and what bedbug bites might look like.
The most important thing that people do, she said, is to find and get rid of an infestation so that they don’t get more bites
While bites can be scary or gross to think about, Nguyen said, “the good thing about bedbugs is they don’t usually transmit disease.”