That is, until I unlocked my phone ready to put it on aeroplane only to see an itch-inducing text from my friend Nile.
‘Mate fyi. Paris has a bed bug epidemic right now,’ he wrote. ‘The Metro is fully infested.’
He wasn’t wrong. Paris has been trying to tackle its bed bug problem since the 1990s, but it has become particularly bad in recent years due to an uptick in travel and bed bugs becoming resistant to pesticides.
A survey by ANSES, a government agency which assesses health risks, found that one in 10 French households had experienced bedbugs between 2017 and 2022.
I quickly screenshotted Nile’s message and sent it to my friend Becky, who was a few rows down from me on the plane.
‘I’m scared,’ she wrote back.
‘We’re walking everywhere,’ I responded — and that we did.
We hoped that refusing to take the Metro and staying away from super crowded places would be enough to save us from what politicians are calling a ‘scourge’.
So we walked everywhere – like, 25,000 steps in 30 degree heat everywhere – ate outside and spent the majority of our time in a huge park.
Reader: I was still bitten.
How to (hopefully) avoid getting bed bugs when visiting Paris
Call your hotel ahead of your stay
If you’re planning to travel to Paris during the epidemic, it’s a good idea to call your hotel ahead of time to check if they’re having an infestation.
From there, you can decide whether to book a new hotel or reschedule your trip.
Don’t take the Metro
The thing with the Paris bed bugs is that they’re pretty much everywhere, but avoiding sitting on infested trains surrounded by hundreds of people who may also have bed bugs doesn’t sound like the worst idea, does it?
Keep your room cold
According to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), the ideal temperature for an adult bed bug to thrive is between 21-32°C.
If you think you may have bed bugs, make sure you utilise the aircon in your hotel room and keep it nice and cold, especially at night.
Perhaps arrogantly, I was convinced we’d made it out unscathed, until I woke up at 3am on my last day with two large, red and extremely itchy bites on my waist.
‘It’s in your head,’ I told myself, willing myself to go back to sleep and ignore the sensation of tiny legs crawling over my body.
It wasn’t in my head. But, thankfully for me, I wasn’t heading straight home. Instead, I was catching the 6am Eurostar to Amsterdam.
How to spot bed bugs
According to the NHS, signs of bedbugs in the home include:
- Bites – often on skin exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
- Spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
- Small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bed bug poo)
I spent the three-hour train ride trying not to scratch my new bites, which were practically glowing they were so red, and telling myself that there’s no way the bed bugs were on the clothes I was wearing and, even if they were, there’s nothing I could do about it anyway.
When I arrived in Amsterdam, I ignored my body’s need for sustenance and speedwalked straight to the nearest laundromat, where I put every single thing I owned in a dryer on high heat, including the clothes on my back.
What to do if you get bed bugs while travelling
If you have a bedbug infestation you should be calling pest control, but in the meantime here are some things you could try to keep the pests at bay.
- Wash affected bedding and clothing on a hot wash (60C) and tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes
- Put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three or four days
It’s likely this won’t eradicate them completely but it could help.
Luckily, my plan worked. I managed to escape Paris’ infestation with just two bites, and more than a week later I haven’t had any more.
But the trauma is real: I have no idea when I’ll stop feeling like I have phantom insects crawling all over me.
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