08/14/2014 08:51 EDT | Updated 10/14/2014 05:12 EDT

Sticky Situation: Talking to a Traveller Friend About Bed Bugs

FILE - This undated file photo provided by Orkin LLC shows bed bugs. Despite the itchy rise to prominence of bedbugs around New York City, officials have long been limited in what they could do to get negligent landlords to address the spread of the minuscule critters. On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, city officials announced a policy change that could leave landlords facing harsher penalties. (AP Photo/Orkin LLC, File)


Sticky situation:

I have a friend from Europe, coming to visit next week. She is staying overnight at my house and then for a few more days at my parents' home.

Before coming to stay with us, she is making a pit stop in the Big Apple.

After agreeing to host her, I started to think and panic. She is staying in a New York City hotel. Their rooms have a high turnover of travellers, and that means a high probability of...bed bugs!

My girlfriend is expected in just a few days and I am struggling with how to address my concerns with her.

Personally, when I return home from any hotel stay, I have a three-step ritual to remove any unwanted insects from entering my home.

• First, I even take open the door to our house, I always unpack my suitcase in the garage.

• Then, I launder every item of clothing, worn or unworn.

• Lastly, I vacuum and wash my suitcase, inside and out. So far, this preventive protection has kept any unwanted "hitchhikers" from getting cozy in our beds.

I am unsure of what to do or say. Should I say nothing and pray that we don't get infested? I could offer to do some of her laundry, so she has some fresh items to wear for the rest of her trip. Or, can I be blunt and ask her to leave her suitcase in the garage?

I have a newborn son and fear that she may come with unwanted travelling buddies that will bite him.

I am so torn about this. Please help!


With the rising international bed bug infestations, especially during the summer vacation period, your question is relevant and your concerns are real.

Everyone wants to have a good night and nobody wants to let the bed bugs bite, including this etiquette expert. As I am writing this blog post I am itchy all over...I am scratching...typing and scratching again...I completely empathize with you.

Saying nothing and praying will leave you anxious and may contaminate your home.

Although the pesky little bloodsuckers do not travel from human to human, they do hitchhike on clothes, bags, furniture and electronics. They have no socio-economic status, so it does not matter if she stayed at the Ritz or the Y.

This pest peril is globally growing and it is a time consuming annoyance that can be very costly when you require the help of extermination professionals.

I suggest that you present your friend with your preferred preventive method to ensure that your home, little one and belongings remain parasite free.

To validate your concerns you could even quote this article.

It shows evidence of bed bugs on New York subway cars . If they can survive on those trains they can certainly "hitch a ride" to Canada and your home, in her suitcase!

Like with all sticky situation conversations, I recommend that you approach your conversation with sincerity and authenticity.

After understanding how bothersome these bugs are and that they can live for up to 10 months, I am certain that your friend will be glad that you have freed her of the possibility of an itchy, scratchy vacation.

And if, in turn, with the best of protection while travelling, should you realize that you were bitten by bed bugs and may be carrying them from a hotel, en route to making memories in a loved ones' home, do inform them.

Make it direct and to the point.

Offer to leave your luggage in the garage or outside, in a garbage bag and then to apply the protocol that you have mastered by washing, vacuum and laundering clothing and bags.

Sleep tight and know that the bed bugs won't bite you, your baby and your friend.

And it is off to a hot shower for me!

You have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter or order Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities.


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